April 14, 2016

Field Sketch vs. Photo Reference

Spring Overflow 36"X24" Oil

This is a studio painting rendered with the help of a field sketch and a photo reference.

Both the field sketch and the photo reference have their purpose.  And both present challenges.

The field sketch pros:  a sense of place is experienced that helps inform the studio painting; the water movement, the feeling in the air, the energy, the entire experience of standing in front of a waterfall for an hour or two with the light spray, the sound, the vibration.  In addition, the ability to use my eyes and record subtle temperature changes in the areas of extreme light and dark is invaluable.  The camera just can't do the same job.

cons:  the water just keeps moving....very hard to paint shapes accurately when they are constantly changing.  This was a narrow gorge and the light changed very quickly also, so no time to really finish rendering all that needed rendering. Also, I was getting cold.  brrrrr........

The photo reference pros:
A chance to really study the beautiful shapes that tumbling water creates.  Also, I have time to drink my coffee while painting and listening to music.  No changing light....

cons:  the tendency to paint a moment "frozen" in time....the temptation to paint a "frozen" waterfall - meaning hard edges where soft edges should appear to indicate rapid movement.  It would be doing this fine waterfall a disservice for sure if I were to paint it that way. Things that are in constant motion often look like they are painted from a photo reference when the photo reference is the only reference used.  Artists sometimes succumb to the temptation to put in waaaay more detail than is needed, just because they can.   It does take some experience and skill to avoid that look to your paintings.

I hope you will take some time now that spring is here to do some painting on location.

In service of shortening your learning curve, let me tell you what I have on the horizon workshop wise:

For info on any or all of these CLICK HERE

Plein Air Essentials, four days in the lower mainland in July
Painting the Landscape in Croatia, ten days in Croatia on the island of Korcula,  this Sept 13-22
Painting the Landscape in Oils (using photo reference), August in  Gibsons, BC

Also check out the Opus Art Supplies website for a talk and demo on plein air that I will be giving, coming up mid-May.

All the best, and happy painting.  Hope to see you out there - somewhere!

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