Saturday, June 16, 2012

Painting Intuitively- "Lake Path", plein air, 9x12, right brain, alla prima

"Lake Path", 9x12, oil on canvas.

I have been reading the book, "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" and doing the exercises in the book so that I can better see "Like an artist".

I know all about the right brain/left brain phenomenon and indeed an art teacher did her doctorate paper on our family back in the 1980's, deeming  that myself, my husband and three sons are all extremely right brained.  It certainly explains why none of us can put a toy or appliance together by reading the directions!

Yesterday, after painting "A Familiar Path" I decided to go home and use that plein air painting as a study for a more 'accomplished' painting in my studio. I believed I could improve upon it tremendously, since after all, I wouldn't be chasing the light, swatting mosquitoes, sweating like a hog-wart in the 90 degree heat and humidity, and fending off the red ants in the grass at my feet.

So I went home with my painting and used the same identical palette of color, the same identical support of the same size, and then proceeded to work on it for three and a half hours.

Since it took me only an hour and 15 minutes to paint "A familiar Path", one would think that the new painting would be clearly superior, right?

Well, I'll let you decide:
The painting on the left was the one done outdoors in  about an hour and 15 minutes. The one on the right was done in over three hours, working from the photo I'd taken of the scene as well as my plein air reference painting. Here's the photo of the scene:
So what did I learn from this little experiment?

I think I realized that painting outdoors is much more intuitive than analytical and for the most part requires a deep connection to the right brain lobe. When painting en plein air in full sunshine one has no time to think in depth about color selections, mixing, values or brushwork, it all just becomes an intuitive exercise in laying down the collective knowledge that you have accumulated throughout your years of painting and drawing.

The studio piece for me, was much more of an analytical exercise. Back home, I had the luxury of time to think about values, color mixing, underpainting, temperature and even whether I should use a brush or palette knife on a certain passage.

Was the outcome  of the second painting much different from the first even in light of the fact I was not dogged by heat or bugs?

Well, I don't think so. My husband actually told me he liked the plein air painting better than the studio piece. He felt it more accurately depicted the scene which he knows well.

In addition, as I worked on the studio painting I could see subtle changes that I could not correct in spite of the advantage I had in the studio. For example, I knew I had nailed the color of the path when I was out there in the field, yet back in the studio I just could not quite get it right because it was no longer there in front of me for me to mimic.

I am enjoying the book "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" and it has given me some insight into the way I learn and some of the problems I have encountered in my 6 years of painting. Hopefully, by the time I have finished reading it and doing the exercises, I'll at least "see like an artist".

Thanks for reading!

No comments: