by Beth Cole
If I’m going to stick with something, I need to have a good reason. You, too? After all, why should we drag around all this painting gear, circle the countryside looking for painting spots, battle the wind and the sun and the bugs? I have to constantly remind myself of the benefits, and there are many. Here are some that I see, I would love to hear yours, too.
Seeing color. When I first started painting, dirt looked like dirt and grass looked like grass. I wasn’t able to see warm and cool color variations with the earth and the foliage. The more I painted, the more I began to see, and being outside is one of the best ways to really see the colors of nature.
Simplifying your composition. One rule of thumb for composing a scene is to keep it to four or five shapes of various sizes. The landscape is vast and complicated, so learning how to eliminate and simplify in choosing the elements to include in your painting is a definite bonus.
Mixing color. This relates to seeing color. It’s one thing to be able to mix green, but there are hundreds of variations of green, right? So seeing something up close helps you make decisions about temperature, chroma and value. So much to think about with color!
Minimizing brushstrokes. We usually paint on smaller canvases when we’re outside, so it is good practice for being intentional with each brushstroke and making each one count.
Painting faster. I am a slow painter so practicing outside with shifting light and shadows has helped me learn to paint a wee bit faster. Not much. But a tinsch.
Making decisions. Painting outside helps me compare values and make decisions about what to do next. All values are relative so starting with the lightest light or darkest dark helps me know how much lighter or darker the next shape should be. It’s all connected.
Gaining experience. Not all of my plein air pieces turn out, in fact, most of them don’t. But I gain valuable experience every time I lug those paints out into the field and after I’m done I am always glad I did. For me it’s worth the hassle because of the experience I have gained.
Improving. I will never “arrive” as a painter. There is always room for improvement and that’s one of the best motivators for me to get on out there and start painting.
These are some of the reasons I drag my paints around. What motivates you?
Thanks for reading!
Soli Deo Gloria
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