When I am out plein air painting I consider myself a "hunter gatherer". I am looking for bits of information, value relationships, light, color etc.. I "hunt" these things and I "gather" them.
In this post I will talk about gathering of values.
These images are from a painting trip to Maine that I took with some friends. I actually got a lot of painting done which is good, because I don't like to leave my family and travel thousands of miles to come home empty handed. It was my first time painting in Maine and it really took me out of my comfort zone of painting blue sky and things that, for the most part, don't move. Some days I got up to six paintings done. Other days did not yield as many, but I feel that even on the frustrating days I came away with something useful.
I will try not to ramble on here, I hope that these sketches speak for themselves, but I will try and give brief descriptions of why I am choosing these particular sketches to share with you.
"Misty Maine Sketch", 11" x 14" oil on linen, 2006
The weather was changing constantly it seemed. In this painting all I had time to get down were the basic value relationships of the main shapes. Then the sun came out and completely changed everything. By going for the important stuff first and not getting caught up in the details right off I got some solid relationships down and even though it is an "unfinished" painting I think that it stands on its own and is actually a nice piece. It gives a little insight into how I start a painting.
Since the light changed drastically, I set this one aside and started on another painting. To keep working on a painting when the light has changed so much would be a mistake.
Two of the most frustrating things about this trip turned out to be two of the best learning experiences of the trip. Here is what I mean.
#1 Boats move. Even when they are moored the turn and shift, especially on windy days.
#2 Maine lobster boats have a unique shape, their lines are not the same as other boats, and I needed to learn this.
Pencil Sketch #1
I don't do that many pencil sketches before I start a plein air painting. I am usually too caught up in the moment and want to get right to it. However, these boats were giving me trouble. Boats turning on their moorings and the changing light of partly cloudy days was getting me frustrated. At times I just had to take a step back and do some pencil sketches. I was trying to capture the lines of these boats in simple sketches of three or four values. On the left are three views of the same boat turning. On the right are also three views of one work skiff. I drew what I could and when the profile changed I moved on to the next sketch. These were just a few seconds each. I tried to get the basic shape down and added some values when I had time.
Pencil Sketch #2
Here are some more drawings done very quickly. In a few of them you can see how I adjusted my original lines. There was a man who rowed a boat out to the work skiff to turn on the water pump. In the drawing in the middle you can see the boat alongside the skiff. In the drawing on the right he is talking on his cell phone. These are just quick gestures, but valuable nuggets of information for future paintings.
Pencil Sketch #3
Here are some more examples of working quickly and hunting and gathering of values. It is not the details that were important to me but the relationship of a value compared to the values around it. Most of these have just been three or four values. The white of the paper being one, then a light gray, a medium and a dark. Look at the sketch at the top left. There is not a lot of "drawing" of the boat. It is really just a collection of shapes of different values. When these spots are put together in the right place it reads as the little boat against the dock.
I hope that some of you found this interesting. I'll talk about other things that I hunt and gather when I am out plein air painting in a future post.