I've been listening to lots of podcasts from artists who love painting en plein air like I do - the interesting thing is, I come from the school of painting what should be there but most of the artists I've been listening to seem very focussed on determining the exact shade of colour (temp and hue) and the exact value of each shape and finding the right scene/subject.
When I discover a scene/subject to paint, I can guarantee you I will feel the need, rightly or wrongly, to shift some things around (lamp posts are never in the right place), and change colours and values to suit my idea. I have 2 thoughts about this, firstly, I am NEVER going to find the perfect scene so I might as well get down and dirty right now. Secondly, I am an artist, it's my job to make whatever it is beautiful and meaningful and tell my story through paint.
Imagine how many hours I would lose just by simply wandering around looking for the right scene/subject? Most often I have 2-3 hours to paint on location, I better make it snappy. Don't get me wrong I deliberately go to places that I know will please me (crusty, rusty and horrible are the key words here) and I do like it when someone chooses for me and gives me a challenge - its all too easy to fall into the trap of painting the same things over and over.
Back to WHAT SHOULD BE THERE. So what should be there? well that's up to you to develop your skills of observation and your sense of good taste and design. While in Raglan NZ recently, I went to paint the orange dinghy - how disappointing ... i could barely tell it was orange ... back in the day it positively glowed and reflected into the bay, not only that, the fab building behind it doesn't exist!! My biggest problem is I believe my own press ... I really remember the house being an architectural wonder but I think i painted it that way many years ago and the painting is stuck in my memory!! So I decided to paint the old Dairy Factory behind the nasty building, it's obscured from every vantage point so I'm going to have to make it up, there will be ladders and brooms and mops and buckets, maybe a bloke walking by with a fishing rod. What i really need to consider is how important is the Dairy Factory and if i decide it's very important then i will have to decide what elements I will need to help me communicate "Dairy Factory" without getting naff or kitsch!!
The secret message today is, use the scene/subject/photo as your inspiration, not something to be copied faithfully, just because it's there doesn't make it right for a work of art, if they brought back bell bottoms would you wear them? Give your artistic license a whirl!!
ciao i miei belli amici!!
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Amanda Brett Watercolour Artist
Paintbox Tips, thoughts, scribblings and doodles on art, my life as an artist, travels and musings!! www.amandabrett.net