Choosing a Plein Air Subject

Dear Reader,

I had the opportunity to take my family to a corn maze over the weekend. I had worked hard that morning and was tired, so I found a nice shady spot and painted an interesting barn. I sat there looking at the scene before me for a while, looking for a good composition, and thinking of how I would paint this or that. What items I wanted to include and leave out. using my view finders to block out most of the scene. Finally I found my “Master Piece” LOL. I did a quick notan, that I liked, It was just a 2 value notan. I quickly drew my outline on the 8×10″ panel and proceeded to paint. The painting was coming along nicely…. until I came to the barn. In Barry Jon Raybold’s “Art Academy Masters Course” I learned that before painting you should pick THREE words to discribe what your painting. That way you don’t forget and you get focused. The 3 words I should have chosen are “Lights and Shadows.” I really liked the notan I did, the diagonal way the darks of the barn splashed across the light yellow ochre corn field behind it, and the pretty blue sky. This barn was missing the South wall, it was open all along it. Being able to see inside the barn, you could see all the structure, and stuff being stored in the barn. That was a LOT of stuff. After sitting there painting for 2 hours I still wasn’t through, but my family was, so I had to abandon my attempt and go home. I didn’t get the painting finished because I got hung up in the barn, painting all the different values of the barn wood, some were in dark shadow, some in sun, some had reflected lights, then there was the hay, and the body of an old jeep. Just the support structure was so intricate, like a spider web mostly in shadow and part in light.

So, I learned something from this little adventure. When painting plein air, choose subjects that don’t have a LOT of detail. Actually, you can paint something with a lot of detail, you just have to ignore it, and focus on the shapes, values and colors, then suggest the details. I got bogged down trying to get each board perfect, in the right place and the right color / value.

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Have a great day,
Don

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