Finishing a Plein Air Painting


Artists run the risk of losing mood and excitement when revisiting a scene to complete an outdoor painting. Like many creatives, artists have an ability to evoke emotions they feel through their work. Although sometimes raw and without fine details, original paintings often summon like feelings with those who take the time to experience them.

Nothing is ever the same the second time around. Emotions and moods change from one day to the next. When painting outdoors, lighting and atmospheric conditions can vary drastically. For this reason, I strive to revisit the scene as soon as possible while my memory is still fresh and vital.

Some painters prefer to complete an outdoor painting from photographs back in the studio. This rarely works for me unless I am near finish. I find images taken from cameras far too impersonal for a number of reasons. First, the lens and capacity of a camera is far too limiting. The convex lens of a camera distorts the perspective of shapes along the outer edges. Natural color, and value differences are not how they actually appear from life. Different model cameras are programmed under limited color and value ranges. Instead, I use a camera’s image strictly to jog my memory and to correct shapes I may have missed or didn’t have time to record while on location.

I painted three days later. Usually, three days is too late to capture similar lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the lighting had changed! But the change was close enough to expand on my original experience with the scene. I continued the painting. The painting made a slight shift from my original sketch three days earlier. But in spite of things, I believe I was able to maintain much of the content I was hoping to capture the first time around.

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