Plein Air Painting Demo – Simple Sketch Technique

Plein Air Painting Demo – Simple Sketch Technique


I wanted to show how I sketch. So I’m looking at my subject, and first I put my fingers around my subject and I try to locate the exact middle. And for me the middle of this image is right between those two
center reeds. So I know that’s where I’m going to be here. And then I’m going to look over to see “Where’s my edge?” and I find that my edge is just on the right side of that right reed, so I know that’s where that is—the middle right edge. And then I find the midpoint between those two points. And that is right in the middle of those far two right reeds. And that’s how I can start start. Until I know those locations, I can’t
figure out how to start—where I am. So now that I’ve got an idea of my right
side, now I’m going to look back at my middle again and find the point on the left
that ends just past those crumpled reeds, and then I’m going to find the midpoint between those two points, right here. And then I know where those two reeds are going to be, on either side of that point. So now I’m kind of set. Now I can just sort of fill in. I might
look at: what’s the midpoint between these two points, and
then fill in here. This may seem exacting and overly particular, but if I
can’t find these spots, then I’m going to be thinking about “What’s where?” the
entire time I’m painting. And sometimes I get everything “perfect” or whatever— or not perfect, but close to
where everything is—and then it’s just not happening with the arrangement, so I
just let it all go. And sometimes I’ll completely wipe down, and just start over,
and in a very loose way come up with approximations of where everything is. But this is how I start. And I guess it gives me— maybe it’s sort of like a comfort blanket or something like that—it gives me a scaffolding to sort of start thinking
about the image, and what’s where and why, how it gives its particular feeling. And in
this case I’m looking for this feeling of this graceful dance that the reeds are doing. And in my mind, at least, if I don’t get that right, then the feeling of the
painting—the feeling that I see when I first look at this image—is not going to show up in my finished painting. So I start off pretty slow, as I said—I don’t know what I’m doing right away. And
here I’m just sort of trying to get in the real light—sometimes I
start with my darkest colors, and other times I start with my brightest, my lightest
colors—and in this case I’m starting with the lightest colors because they are what will form the structure. So I need to get them down so I know where everything else is. And I kind of
want them to really sing loudly in this painting. So even if I get them down and then I later kind of obscure them, I’ll come back and brighten them up
again, because I really need them to be loud and clear. But again, the faster I can force myself to
move, the more glancing my marks will be, and the more they’ll feel like half-thoughts rather than fully formed thoughts. And that’s the look I really like,
that half-thought look. It’s not always easy to achieve, in part because on the
one hand you’re trying to paint what you see. So you can you can get in the
way of that lovely free look you can get if
you’re not paying too much attention. I should note, maybe, that there are so many different tones in here. There are these slightly richer, more colorful, golden tones; there are the darker orange tones, like
here and here; and then there are those medium golden tones here; and
then there are the really bright white tones; and there are highlights along here that are really bright white. Above all, don’t give up on your white tones, don’t make them lower than they are, because you
really need them to pop out to make your painting have that dramatic effect, that wonderful
dramatic effect. And I should note, too, that I’m using
three brushes here: one for the real high lights, one for the middle tones, and a thick one that I’m kind of going back and forth tone-wise
with, sometimes with more white and other times with gold. So I’ve got some nice thin marks, which you
need, and then I’ve got also some parts I’m doing with the thick brush which signal that there’s not a lot of detail in those sections. And here I’m going to use an even thicker brush—not sure if this is going to work the way I want it to—to handle these even broader sections down here in the reeds. And as the colors become sort of mixed— not only is there orange in here, there’s also blue in here in these the broader sections of color. But I’m going to start with putting down orange, and then I’ll come back and add some blue.

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