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Plein Air Painting Top Tip 1


The Number 1 not to be undervalued, never to be forgotten technique!
If you are at a stage where terms like Value, Tone and Notan are confusing my number one tip is to SQUINT.

Why Squint?

Because this reduces the complexity of what you are looking at.
In Plein Air work you will observe shifting colours and tones.
You can get distracted chasing shadows as the light constantly changes.
Its the basic layout of dark versus light that is the backbone of your painting and will help determine its success. Keep it simple so squint to see the simple version.

Now STOP for AT LEAST 5mins or more

5 mins may surprise you its actually quite a long period… particularly if you are used to rushing into a painting!
During this minimum of 5 minutes (I prefer about 10mins I may do a tonal sketch during this time. to help me work out what I am looking at and what I want as the main point of interest in the painting – the focal point, the place I wish to draw the eye to).
Squint and look – where is the darkest dark? Where is the lightest light?
What element jumps out at you? …maybe this is why you chose this view… the element probably jumps out because it contrasts with elements around it.
See the contrast by squinting.
Is this going to make a good painting?
You will find out from the squint, it should reveal defined blocks of dark and light in an interesting shape and remove distracting detail

If you are’nt happy with the scene after squinting don’t continue have a squint in a different direction!.

So where do you go from here?

I have reduced the “squint” image above to just black tone as a guide to how the under painting of your canvas should look. n.b. don’t underpaint the fine detail like the rigging just the main masses of boat hulls and land.

Set up your canvas, add just the Ultramarine and Burnt Umber to your palette (for acrylic and oil painters, watercolour artists tend to work from light to dark so you need to preserve you white areas which, depending on how you work – may be a case of using masking fluid or even wax crayon).
Then loosely apply the ultramarine mixed with varying amounts of burnt umber in a very thin layer to re-create the darks that you see. This is then the framework for your painting. Keep the sketch thin so it will dry fast and you can layer paint over it.

good luck

Amanda Barrett offers visiting tuition to your Artclub or Society if interested please contact me now