I Waffle . . . .

"Rim Light"
oil on canvas panel-12 x 16 inches

I must confess my childlike excitement and enthusiasm for plein air painting.  In particular, painting along our spectacular coastline here in Northern California.

What to paint with?   Watercolor or Oil?   That is always the question I must resolve before going out with my painting buddies.   Those guys paint in oil.   I feel like I am the main attraction of the local freak show when I paint watercolor paintings out there (it is still my first love!).   And I have this inner voice that begs me to get better at painting oils.  And so I waffle, back and forth, between oil and watercolor.

While that argument goes on, there is the very same process of working out a design before putting brush to paint.  It only takes a few moments to take the sketch book out of my bag of tools and set about making value sketches.   Sometimes, it only takes one for me because I have been doing it for so long, I have a sense of composition when I look at a scene.   Yet, in spite of experience, it is essential to make a value sketch of the intended composition.   Why, You ask?   It is simple:   The light changes fast!   Faster than anyone realizes.   When the light changes, so do the shadows . . . . .which upsets what the pattern of value looks like within 15 to 20 minutes of beginning to paint.   With a carefully constructed and deliberately shaded value sketch, the artist is armed with a solid record of what to follow, no matter if the light changes 100 times.    

Along with assigning the values, light, dark and medium, the artist gets to see how big each mass of value is inside of the rectangular format . . . .and how they compare in size.   As well, the artist should be looking at the overall shape of the masses of light and the masses of dark.   This last seemingly unimportant idea is actually the BIG idea on which every painting composition is based.  Believe me, it matters!

Watercolor or Oil?   While I waffle, it really doesn't matter which medium in which I chose to work on any particular day.   What does matter is whether or not I take the time to boil down value patterns so that the masses scream out from the canvas or paper to the viewer and yells "Come see this!!"