I don't know about you but plein air painting when the snow is flying and it's in the 20's is not my idea of fun. Frostbite and frozen paint is not a pleasant painting experience. What I rather do is collect interesting subject matter throughout the year with my digital camera, download to my iPad and lock myself in my studio with a hot cup of coffee.
How do you get around not being overwhelmed by surroundings?
Try using a 'Viewfinder.' Cut two 'L' shape pieces of mat board and clip together. This isolates your subject matter and will help with your photo reference composition. Keep a pair of these in your backpack because you will eventually use them when you start plein air painting.
What are you looking for in a good reference?
First look for contrast of value. A strong light source is important. Second, having a few large shapes balanced off with some smaller shapes.
A good reference is important not only for inspiration but structural evidence and good definition.
How do you use a reference to your best advantage?
I identify the the direction of the light source. Decide what to eliminate and focus where the center of interest will be placed.
Capturing scenes with a video camera
Capturing scenes on video with stop action will allow you to see different movements. Whether people, water or clouds, every second can change the movement in the rush of the moment.
Kakabika Falls, October, 2012
It can also be a historical record of weather conditions. In the case of Kakabika Falls the water flow is down to a trickle exposing a prehistoric beauty. We may never see this again in our lifetimes. With the video I can study the most Intimate details of nature. To view photos of the falls in years past click here and see the astounding difference.
Talk about aerial perspective
Observation into the landscape will show you about values:
- Lights get darker in the distance and darks get lighter in the distance.
- Colors are warmer in the foreground and cooler in the background as they recede. The exception - snow. It is reversed.
- Details lesson in the background.
- Intensity of colors greys down in background.
- The secret of a good painting is in the greying of the colors.
Rocks vs. water vs. leaves, etc.
A favorite destination for Bob and I and our wives is Bond Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Bob and I have been there numerous times over the last 18 years - summer and fall. It never ceases to amaze us that it's always different, ever changing whether it be light, color, temperature of colors. Every time we visit the falls I'm marveled by the different amounts of water rushing over the rocks.
Dale's take away
My advice is simple. Stop, take it all in and just soak up your surroundings. Make a mental record of sounds, smells and the sunlight on your cheek. We have a gift that most people take for granted - seeing and feeling. So get out, explore and take many, many pictures.