Friday, November 23, 2007

From Plein Air Sketch to Studio Painting

Many times I will use a plein air painting as the starting point for a larger studio piece.

"San Miguel Viejo Sketch", 6" x 8" oil on board, 2006
$500. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

That is the case with this series of a man plowing a corn field by an old church here in San Miguel. I go to this location to paint a lot. It is close to my house and there is always something interesting to paint there whether it be the church, workers in a field or a few animals grazing nearby.
On this occasion I was painting a small sketch of the chapel while this gentleman plowed his field. He would pass into my view and I kept thinking what a great painting that image would make. I snapped a few photos as he plowed and later worked up some ideas for a larger studio painting.
In the 6" x 8" study I was just trying to get the simple value pattern down with some fairly accurate color.

"Man Plowing", 11" x 14" oil on board, 2006
$950. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

Later, in the studio, I used my plein air sketch and some photos to come up with an interesting composition for a larger piece. I'll often work out my idea on a small scale before committing the idea to a large canvas. Once I worked out the placement of the man and his team of horses I was ready to move on to the larger painting.

"Man Plowing Field", 30" x 40" oil on canvas, 2007
$4,700. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

Once I have worked out my plan, I can attack the larger piece with more confidence. The focus of the large painting is the team of horses. That is where most of my attention is focused. The chapel is softened so it will take it's place in the background. I liked the way that the tree branches worked in the middle painting so I used that in the large painting as well. It kind of lets you know where I am standing. It clarifies the shadow in the foreground and balances all of the action in the lower half of the painting.


Ambera said...

What a beautiful piece! I also like the dangling branches, I think they really add to the atmosphere of the painting. It's certainly a difficult subject to approach, but you've pulled it off, there's so much movement and liveliness in this painting, I love it!

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks for your comment Ambera. I'm glad to hear that you think the branches work. If you cover them with your hand the composition seems lacking I think.