It's been a little crazy at my house as of late, so I'm grateful to have such wonderful artists willing to share their art tips with me. Today's tip is from a wonderful California painter, Kim VanDerHoek. Kim is an avid plein air painter & she has some great tips for “How to Nail Down Things That Move When Plein Air Painting”. Thanks, Kim and Happy Painting.
"Quiet Day at the Cove"
When painting outdoors everything is in a constant state of change and it’s part of your job as an artist to capture the essence of what is there while doing your best to create a successful painting.
It’s challenging trying to paint a view that changes every 15 minutes; here are some tips to help you overcome that challenge.
- Observe the scene when you are setting up your easel. Often artists are drawn to a view because of a beautiful light condition, a shadow pattern, a bold color note or other dramatic element. By the time your easel is set up and you have a brush in your hand the element that initially caught your eye might have already moved or lost some of its drama. Paying attention to the scene, thinking about how you want to paint it, carefully observing it before you get started will help you remember what that fleeting element looked like when it first grabbed your attention and before it started changing.
- Have a plan of attack. If there is an element or lighting condition, like a shadow, reflection, cloud, etc., in your painting that will move as you are working it’s a good idea to draw that element onto your canvas as part of your sketch or, if there is time, create a thumbnail value sketch on paper before you begin mixing color. That way you have a guide that will help keep you on track even as the view changes.
- Paint it right now. Don’t wait until you are 3/4 of the way through your painting to start working on that fleeting element. Paint it in while it is still fresh in your mind and before it’s changed so much that you’ve forgotten why you wanted to include it in your painting in the first place. This is especially important for things that are key elements in your painting that are a focal point. How devastating would it be if you had a boat as the focal point in your painting and you spent most of your working time painting in the water under the boat only to have the boat owner hop in and sail your focal point away before you could get around to painting it?
- 4. Don’t chase the light. Highlights and shadows are elements that always change in plein air landscape painting. For example, if you’ve been working for several hours the shadow underneath a tree could move from one side of the tree to the other during that time. Be mindful of where the highlight needs to be on the tree casting the shadow in relation to it. It’s your job to make sure the light is consistent in your painting. If a tree has a shadow on one side, then the highlight needs to be on the other. Don’t get caught up painting in every changing lighting condition you see or you might end up with a tree that has a highlight and shadow on the same side, which won’t make visual sense to anyone viewing your painting.
"Have a Seat"
For more about Kim & her work:
Kim lives in Orange, California with her husband and two children. She has a BFA in
Illustration from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, California. She began
painting en plein air because it combined her love of being outside and creating art. "I
enjoy the challenges plein air painting poses. Dealing with the weather, changing light
and the other hurdles of outdoor painting has forced me to learn to make decisions
quickly, to paint with commitment and above all, to have a plan for each painting." Kim
feels that her plein air work has, in turn, strengthened her studio paintings.
Kim’s website – www.KimVanDerHoek.com
Kim’s Blog - http://vanderhoekart.blogspot.com