I’m a sucker for a nice reflection, it’s a worth while challenge and a challenge it is, especially when the tide recedes and you are left staring at mud with only memories of the gently rippling waters edge full of light and colour from just an hour or two before.
It’s a useful skill to develop, painting alla prima and the added difficulty of water is that it moves and you have to grasp the characteristics rather than slavishly copying a distilled image. I think it makes for a much fresher and more appealing result this way.
When trudging in the rugged and unforgiving terrain of ol’ Blighty, in search of a spot to paint, wild bears and poisonous snakes are always a concern especially when standing near the treacherous waters of of Galmpton Creak!…. with your back to the woods! ….
OK, I admit, my painting adventures are not really adventures at all, the quaint Dartside Quay of Galmpton in Devon is about as dangerous as a wood pigeon, but I do my best to keep things interesting.
It’s certainly not a bad thing to live in such an accommodating environment, who wants the added burden of having to learn survival skills – trying to put together a decent painting in under 3 hours is hard enough. (For the uninitiated, this is about how long it takes for the light to change completely and you are left with just memories of the view you started with.)
If, and it’s often a big if, a pleasing view can be found then it’s a good start, since many a foul painting is the result of poor selection than bad technique.
Thus a view finder is very useful for honing in on the correct composition.
The next thing is to quickly and decisively block in the main light and dark pattern of your chosen view (which, for those keen on good composition, involves painting the four edges of your selection, not just painting to the edges of your canvas). Once the light and dark arrangement has been set up and any excess removed I place the lights with it’s local colour. No time to decide on colour composition, I’m relying on instinct here. Colour theory is best reserved for the studio. I then work on the mid tones – again using the local colour, before pushing the light and dark range to the full spectrum.
There are times when a painting snaps together and comes out a real gem and there are others when things just don’t work, the painting collapses into a mess of poorly defined tonal arrangements, the colour is flat, the composition is weak. ”What is wrong with me! such childish, pathetic work! why did I even bother coming out and wasting this paint”
When this happens, the jaws of a hungry bear tightening around my melancholy head becomes a tempting fantasy. But it’s useful not to have these quick fixes so available to me.
It’s times like this when I find it better to just stop, scrape everything back, clean up the palette and either have another go or find another viewpoint or location.
If that doesn’t work there is always the muddy quagmire that sticks to these shores that would slowly yet surely engulf me.