Watercolor 15 x 22 inches
"The Big Lump"
After spending hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of hours
painting outdoors, en plein air, I have come to know the traps.
The biggest trap is the distractions, of course. Huh?
What do you mean, Mike?
Notice the photo.
This photo seems rather pedestrian in terms of a ‘beautiful scene’
already set to paint. I just is NOT one
of those scenes.
This is what I saw when I first came onto the beach
yesterday. . . . . And noticed,
immediately, the blast of light between the two “Lumps.” Of course, I decided to explore the area
more to try to find that perfect
to paint. I walked all over the area,
spent a good 45 minutes trying to find that perfect spot, with the perfect
point of view of the big rock that has a tunnel through it.
No matter where I went, I wasn’t enthralled with what I was
seeing. That “lump,” as I call it, was
nothing more than a lump with a hole through it. It wasn’t a nice shape, it had no character,
it just wasn’t what anyone would call inspiring or spectacular.
So, having exhausted the possibilities, I decided to go near
where I had entered the beach and where I had seen that blast of light. I could
make a painting that emphasized that wonderful light and not worry about
finding the ideal scene. But then . . .
. .look at all the pelicans on the rock!! (lump! ) . . . .what if I painted the
pelicans? . . . . .and look at that shadow being cast on the sand and into the
water . . . . .Oh! There’s a wave
crashing against the “lump” and making a spectacular slash of white foam . . .
. and what if I painted the sky orange . . . .could I make a sunset scene? So many possibilities came to distract me
from my one idea of the blaring light between the two big rocks.
I was being tempted by the biggest trap of all: All the other possibilities. And, I must say, some of those possibilities
were very alluring. But I have learned
. . . . .oh, yes! My lessons have been
hard won by sooooo many painting failures . . . .all of which failed because I
didn’t focus on ONE IDEA. I have made
so many paintings in which there was too much included.
So . . . . .I set up my gear slowly, while I contemplated
what I was going to do with this painting.
Then after the equipment was in place, out came my sketch book and
pencil. I made four different value
sketches to determine how I was going to achieve my goal of telling the story
of that light between the rocks. Oh! I almost forgot to mention that the first
sketches immediately showed poor compostition.
I needed to find the right layout . . . . .the right positioning on the
paper for that big shape of the land
jutting onto the beach. What’s more, I
realized that making an active water painting, or including exciting splashes
and waves would be another distraction from my singular idea: The light between the rocks.
Obviously, dear reader, you get the idea here. The trick to making a lot of successful
paintings in plein air is to ignore the distractions and stubbornly stick to
your single idea that you want to emphasize.
It seems so simple!!
Doesn’t it? How could anything
be more simple???
Well, I am here to tell you . . . . . . .it ain’t! But it is terrific advice for ALL
paintings. Make up your mind about what
you are going to paint (that is the idea, not the all encompassing subject) and
don’t be dissuaded from it. Stick to
your plan. Commit to your plan. Ignore the distractions . . . or save them
for other paintings.