Monday, June 9, 2014

On Location and in the Studio

Frederick Church, Ridges in the Blue Mountain, 1865

I came across this oil sketch by Frederick Church. It accomplishes what a plein air sketch should - it observes. The actual scene was probably more complicated, but the artist used one receding hill to record the color of the mountain from foreground, to mid-ground to background and to record the color of the mountain at the top in light and the bottom in shadow. He also records the color of the mountain in both sunlight and cloud cover. The sketch has everything the artist needs as reference to paint a larger, more detailed painting of the mountain range in the studio. So, I went looking for the studio painting. I may have found it.

Frederick Church, Scene in the Blue Mountains

I don't know if the studio painting was painted by Church from this particular plein air sketch, but it was certainly painted from the knowledge and reference gained from other on location sketches. The plein air sketch has an immediacy that the studio painting lacks, but the larger painting has more detail that the limited time on location doesn't permit. The studio painting wouldn't be possible without the study. I found several other paintings by Church of the same mountain.

Frederic Church, Blue Mountains, graphite and oil

This oil and graphite sketch looks like an on location drawing of the geology of the mountain range. Church studied the subject carefully. He knows how the planes of the mountain work. This informs the studio paintings.

Frederick Church, In the Blue Mountains

"In the Blue Mountains" is a studio painting of the same mountain on a day when the color of the light and the atmosphere were very different. I didn't find it, but I am sure there is an on location sketch that recorded the color in this situation.

Working from life, on location, and taking the time to do color and drawing studies leads to good studio works. Beginning painters often overlook the study and practice that painting requires. They jump straight to the masterpiece without enough information about the color or structure of the subject.

Here is another set of paintings by Jim Wodark that I am guessing are the on location sketch and the studio painting. Both paintings have a real sense of the the light and the location. I love the immediacy and accuracy of painting on location. It is rare to recapture that onsite accuracy in the studio piece. But back in the studio, the artist can put time into design, composition and detail which creates an equally valuable result.

Jim Wodark, Evening Eucalyptus,  8 x 8"

Jim Wodark, Eucalyptus Evening, 20 x 24"

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