Recently I was painting on the coast with a friend. we both finished our paintings at the same time. My friend was so happy that she had finished in under two hours. I was so cranky that I took that long.
So the question has come up again, how long should you take when out painting plein-air? is there a time limit?
The light conditions will determine the length of time spent painting, and of course we know this, but.... I like to think of Monet and his outdoor painting of hay stacks and water lilies. He would go back each day at nearly the same time to keep painting in the same light. 'Nearly the same time' as he knew that the light changes everyday just that little bit, getting darker later and lighter earlier in summer for instance.
Monet would adjust his painting time to suit this by minutes or tens of minutes. What ever it took to get the same light and therefore the same colours, tones etc. We didn't have that luxury, we only had a short time frame and made the most we could of it.
Todays plein-air painter seems to aim to get it all over and done with in one sitting 'allaprima' style. I'm not judging or commenting, it is only an observation. I am one of these allaprima plein-air painters.
To do this though, I need to pick a window of time that suits the speed I paint. Like it's no good to me if I go out at sunrise to paint as I am to slow. A sunrise sees a fast change of light and needs a fast painter and a prepared painter. (and one who likes to get up early.... not this little black duck).
There is no right or wrong on the time it takes to paint on site.
As a guide it is said that two hours is the longest it should take. In that two hours the light will have changed, the shadows moved and the colours are affected. Painting from say 9am to 11am the sun is reasonably high in the sky in late spring and summer and early autumn. So the changes while noticeable are not unfavourable for the learner or the experienced painter.
My friend and I started at 9:30 am and finished at 11:00am. We were painting at the beach in the scanty shade with a full blown onshore wind coming at us and getting stronger. I saw the light wash out the colour on the rocks, the tide come in and the shadows move and darken. Granted the conditions deteriorated, but the light remained fairly consistent for that first hour. The last half hour was misery. I fiddled and pushed and poked at the painting trying to make it improve, make it better. Sound familiar?
Usually I allow one hour to plein-air paint with the proviso that it doesn't have to be a finished painting. This then lets me have the freedom to paint at the pace I want with out the pressure to finish. I can work with the light and if its not finished to bad. This gets back to the reason I am plein-air painting in the first place, and the is to learn. And you know what? Sometimes less is more in a painting. I'm happy with this plein-air sketch, I call it a sketch as it's an unfinished painting.
Most times I am finished in one hour and this isn't to brag, it's to show you that with practice, the length of time it takes to do a painting gets shorter.
There are some useful tips to help get to that shorter time.
So how long do you take for plein-air painting?
Today's painting was done in one hour. (see below) I concentrated on the lemons, which is the focal point and what the painting is about. I didn't get a good background or even finish it enough, to bad. I said what I wanted to say, expressed the feelings of the zesty ready lemon and its green friend and that was it.
Painting happy is my motto, do what matters to you and enjoy the process, in a shorter time!!
best wishes, Karol
12/1/2023 02:18:50 am
This is really fascinating, You’re an overly skilled blogger.
12/1/2023 02:37:58 am
What ever it took to get the same light and therefore the same colours, tones etc. We didn't have that luxury, we only had a short time frame and made the most we could of it. I’m so thankful for your helpful post!
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The Curious Artist Blog-
talks about everything and anything to do with painting.
It's my aim to share techniques, tips, tricks, adventures, products, paintings, educate, inspire and foster the appreciation of painting.
I welcome your feedback and questions and don't promise to post regularly, but to let you know when I do post .
I'l give it my best shot to answer your questions and if I can't I'll let you know. Gee I may even be able to give you the name of someone who can answer.
Either way this blog is about art, artists and everything to do with painting and drawing, being informative, heck maybe even inspiring, all aimed at making painting enjoyable. I sincerely wish you to join me on this adventure. best wishes, Karol