Thursday, January 23, 2014

learning from the plein air line up

Here are all of the "Times of Day" paintings from my time in California, painting plein air at the beach. Now that I am back in the studio, I have pinned all of these paintings to a corkboard, where I can see them all together. The line up teaches me a lot. Actually, the line up just sits there and waits for me to figure out what there is for me to learn. 

In the first piece, "9:00," I was full of excitement about being out painting plein air. I was stimulated by everything: the sky with the dynamic clouds, the shape of Santa Cruz Island out in the water, the reflections in the water, and the varied colors and shapes in the sand. This piece has no focus because I had no focus when I was painting it. The painting is an accurate depiction of my enthusiastic visual jumping all over the scene.

The second piece, "11:00," shows a little more restraint. The sand is simplified and rests at the bottom of the picture plane as do the reflections on the water. Santa Cruz Island, slightly obscured by hazy fog, is less firmly stated. In this piece, the sky takes center stage, well-deserved for its variety and value range. I can see how I settled down for this painting and I painted what interested me most about this scene.

The third piece, "1:00," is nearly an abstraction. Fog completely hid the island and formed a pinkish gray band of separation between the mid-day sky and the reflective sea. I left off the sand because it seemed less important. The cirrus clouds break up the dark blue sky expanse and the small fog band and sea bands balance out this piece. 

I was excited by the abstraction of the third piece and pushed it harder in the fourth, "2:00." I deepened the intensity of the sky as it was the heat of the day and a flatter, grayer fog hid Santa Cruz Island. I had a difficult time capturing the shimmering violets on the water surface and felt frustrated by this piece. 

The final piece, "4:00," was a challenge as all pieces are when the sun is directly in your painting view. I looked at the sky and tried to memorize what I saw and then when I looked down into my pastel box, everything was dark and nearly monochrome. My eyes were dilated by the light and not quick to respond to looking down to a shadowed box. Because I could not see well, I painted this by feeling it. I reached into my pastel box, organized by value and hue, and pulled out sticks and used them because they were where I thought the right one should be. Back and forth, chasing the sinking sun. Looking at it now, I think it is my favorite of the group. It smells of salt spray and sounds like gulls and surf.

January 2014, California beach at Rincon parkway.
It's good to be home. I am reflecting on what I learned from the above series and thinking about how I might create some new plein air situations for myself for more learning opportunities. 


Casey Klahn said...

#5 is my favorite, too. Possibly the use of line is pure, and does not compete with the elements of form and space.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Thanks, Casey. I felt disappointed by this one while I was doing it since the color choices were challenged. But, the day I opened my portfolio to look at these pieces at home, well, #5 is the most successful. Thanks for your comment. K.