Plein air versus studio painting

People often ask why I do not differentiate between my plein air paintings and studio work. Most of my plein air paintings are reworked in the studio and often serve as studies for larger work.  Also there are certain subjects which can only be painted in the studio because of the complex nature of the composition.

First, when I’m outdoors, there are so many  things to contend with that affect my concentration and focus, such as the weather,  the atmosphere, and either the cloudy or warm light conditions, etc.   I want to get started painting the scene before the light changes.  There are many other factors such as wind, cars or intrusive people around, basically innumerable distractions.  If a painting goes well, it’s only because those distractions were at a minimum.

The most challenging aspect of painting from life is capturing a moment in time, that is my primary objective.   When I create work in the studio, I find it more relaxing and my ability to concentrate is far better.  Much of my studio work is the result of life studies and sometimes numerous photographs depending how complex the subject is.  I use photos only as a starting point, then my knowledge in painting from nature kicks in.  I always have to adjust the colors, especially in the shadow areas.  A photo rarely captures all the nuances the human eye can readily see and photography distorts things, particularly architecture.   Another advantage of painting in the studio is that the scale of the work can be much larger.  My plein air paintings are of a smaller size, for portability, and take less time to cover the surface, so capturing the light and shadows before it changes is more easily achieved.

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