Full disclosure: I grew up in Michigan. I know what it means to be cold. I know what it means to shovel snow. I know what it feels like when you breath in and your nose hairs freeze and it burns in the back of your throat. And while I may know what cold feels like, it doesn’t mean I ever liked it. I honestly don’t understand folks who want to see snow. I really don’t get it.
Moving from Michigan we lived in Florida for a couple of years. I used to laugh at the folks in West Palm Beach wearing furs on a 50 degree day but now I get it. Fast forward to living here in beautiful middle-Tennessee. Beautiful until it drops below 50 degrees (my new “definition” for cold). It’s then that I find myself safely ensconced in the studio painting either still lifes or from photographs.
I thought I’d share how I paint from a photograph to give it that plein air feel. As you can see from my “action” studio photo I use several resources to make a studio painting. Let me introduce them to you:
A. iPad Pro A recent addition to my studio. The iPad offers excellent clean views of the photo. With the new screen resolution it is very close to looking at the field itself. One nice advantage is when I want to zoom in on a particular area of the screen I expand it so I can study it before attempting it in the painting. I can “squint down” on the photo as if I’m in the field, it’s very close to being outside but without the bugs.
Another useful feature is that I can expand the photograph thus changing its composition. This is useful when you’ve taken a photo but really only part of it is what you want for that particular painting. True, I could photoshop the picture into two but on cold winter days, call me lazy.
B. Notan sketch I’ve started being more disciplined in my approach and that includes doing a notan value sketch for each painting. A notan helps me stay and not stray as I paint. For me, I like labeling my values 1-5 so I have a feel for where they appear in the painting. It’s at this stage I can also adjust the composition. (Hey, if Carlson can move a tree, why not thee?)
C. Past plein air paintings These lovable chaps are my personal cheering section. They bring a sense of what colors were used when I was outside painting on location. They help me judge my studio colors more than anything else.
D. My window (not shown) Luckily for me I have a nice window in my studio that allows me to look outside. I have painted clouds from direct observation into my paintings as well as using the colors found in my very tall cedar tree just outside my window. I guess that means my studio piece is partly a plein air piece.
E. The coffee and music (not shown) Where would I be without my jazz and my drink of choice?
Hope you enjoyed a little walk around in the studio. Stay warm. Stay safe. Stay dry.
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