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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Admit Defeat

This is the painting I painted yesterday for the Rome iteration of the Worldwide Paint Out. Actually, I abandoned two paintings, wiping them down to start again today. Plein air is not automatic, or if it is you're not doing it right. It is a bit of a high wire act, and what I got wrong yesterday were two bad choices at the Ponte Sant' Angelo--the first working on the upstream side too late in the afternoon, when not only the bridge but most of the Castel went into shade--and if you're not painting light you're not painting. By the time I went to the downstream side and started again I realized I had a better late afternoon subject, but again had gotten too late a start. Better to admit defeat and start over than "finish" a badly begun  (or nato male, as the Italians would say) painting.


  1. As a beginner Plein Air painter but not new to art, I would have loved to have seen what you call your unsuccessful paintings. I imagine not wanting the images out here on the web has it's merits but it limits us newbies and the experience of learning. Your work is so beautiful, it's hard to imagine an unsuccessful work from you. I myself was painting in southwest VA at the Peaks of Otter for the paint out. Having many difficulties finding a great view with the light and time to portray it's beauty. But struggling thru it reminds me of hoe much I have to learn and develop en Plein Air.

  2. Dear Gloria,

    How nice to hear from you! It may be a flaw of mine, but I didn't show my two failed attempts because I wiped them out on site before packing up--I couldn't bear to truck back home with two boards which for me, at that point, were only valuable as supports for my next paintings. I prefer to work on a toned ground, usually some version of reddish/ochre/burnt sienna, and in wiping off the Prussian Blue sky it gave one of the boards an almost mauvish cast, which actually proved really useful as an undertone when I went back. So good things come out of bad.

    Again, maybe a fault, but my agenda every time I go out is to paint a beautiful painting; some would argue that plein air should be more experimental, and I do try to push myself to try new things, but I really want to come back with something good. One of the things I've learned in both doing it and teaching drawing and watercolor is that (no matter what), within the two hour window you have to edit--you'll never make a photograph, so you have to develop a sense of what it is that you (and everyone is different) can capture well in that time: based on your eye, your hand or brushstroke, your sense of composition, etc. Knowing how and what to edit is, for me, absolutely the key to a successful plein air painting.

  3. Wow,that's a huge painting with alot in it for just 2 hours. Your speed at rendering all in it amazes me. Of course I have much yet to practice besides the speed in plein air.

    It is not a fault, so don't apologize. I suppose the learning aspect is where I come from. No one wants to come home with an inferior painting. Unfortunately I think Plein air makes that an easier reality for us beginners. Thanks for your reply.