Sunday, May 27, 2012

How do you work?

There are 2 plein air tips that I want to share because they seem to be at opposite poles of working approaches. 

#1 Stapleton Kearns has a wonderful piece in his blog about premixing your lightest light color. The color you think is actually in the light of your painting. Go here to read in its entirety. Now I absolutely LOVE Stape's blog. He makes you think and he is passionate about plein air and oil painting in general He's an authority in my mind. His comments are typically acidic New England in flavor, but he is a fountain of information and thoughts about why and how to paint plein air. He is what I would call an EXTREME plein air painter. I mean anyone who lists polar boots as a necessity for outdoor painting, does it year round. And how can you not love a guy who puts on a woman's wig and smokes a cigar to take his avatar picture??? Stape is not your average run-of-the-mill milk-toast artist. His advice has rung true in many instances for me, and his knowledge is phenomenal. Stape premixes his light color, the better to use it in all highlighted areas of the painting, producing a well-orchestrated sense of unity throughout the painting.

#2 is Matt Smith, the desert painting guru of Tucson. Matt is wicked skilled, personable, homey, smart, experienced, and generous to a fault about helping other artists better their skills. He has produced two really fantastic DVDs about plein air painting the desert. His advice is wonderful, easy to understand and full of explanation. I have painted the absolute best desert plein air I have ever painted after watching his DVDs. I told him so at the convention in Las Vegas. In fact, its on my Facebook personal page as my banner image. Matt advocates leaving your sky until the very last, so that you key the value of it correctly to what you have already painted. I tried it and for me it worked. That sky was really RIGHT. I valued that piece of advise for painting the Sonoran desert. Other ideas as well, but this one in particular worked for me.
Sabino Canyon, Tucson
So here you have two authorities who both advocate differing approaches to a painting agenda. I hesitate to say system, because both of these men are smart enough to know there are no hard and fast rules about painting other than that fat over lean thing. And to be fair, both of these highly skilled artists paint in entirely different ecosystems, which can necessitate entirely different palettes. I have yet to try Stape's way of working with a premixed color of the dominating light tone. It's definitely on my list of things to try real soon.

Now has anyone else tried both of these working methods? Do you intend to? Or are you in favor of one over the other?


  1. I love Stape! And I MUST find the Tucson guy as that's where I live! I found you on the limited palette page on fb and you inspired me to also join. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  2. Thanks Sharon. The more the merrier. I am hoping that the smoke is better tomorrow so I can go try the second piece in the challenge. Do look up Matt Smith, the man is wonderful. And a truly gifted teacher. And if you can't do a workshop, beg borrow or steal one of his DVDs. Better yet, both of them.

  3. Hi Louise - love Stape too. I was in a workshop with Matt quite a few years ago and it is neat to see how great his work has become. True what they say...miles on the brush! I also have found the men give more attention to the other men and help them along. They have a strong support system for each other.
    Thanks for the info.
    Wish you had a place where i could subscribe and automatically get your blog posting