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Friday, February 11, 2011

Learning to See, Learning Not to See

Besides being out in the fresh air and getting some sun, what's the point in painting en plein air?  Well, it's all about learning to see.  The more you paint outdoors, the more you'll begin to see.  You'll start noticing subtle color shifts in the cliff shadows, complex patterns of light and dark in a forest and, if you're really observant, Brownian motion in air molecules.

You shouldn't, of course, fit all of this on your canvas.  If you did, there'd be no focus to the painting.  By exercising creative control and omitting things that don't contribute to the overall effect you wish to create, you'll provide your viewer with a more satisfying experience.

In a phrase, plein air is all about learning to see - and then learning not to see so much.

Learning what to leave out is a key skill for any painter, studio or outdoors.  If an element in the scene doesn't contribute to the painting, omit it.  You should evaluate your scene for non-essential elements early in the composition stage.   Also, simplify any "busy-ness" that you see.  Intricate patterns often are better left only suggested.

There was a lot more going on in the scene depicted in "Shadow Study" than I felt was needed.  I left out quite a bit.

"Shadow Study" 5x7, oil - $60 - contact Michael