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First attempt at plein air, need feedback

Ok, this technically is not plein air, but I am attempting to attain this style.

I found myself torn between DMP and plein air.

I just can't seem to get it.

This is oil on canvas 16" × 20"



  • I like it!

    Did you work from a photo or from life?
  • photo...snow just melted here. nothing to paint.
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    That's a beautiful color palette.  The sun on the trees is warm and very appealing, and it fits well with the flowers.  The trunks/branches are highlighted just right.  Nice work.  This is the stage where I'd like to go in with a tiny brush and fiddle.

    The field on the right has a far edge that's a bit sharp.  What are you not content with, or "not getting"?
  • Yes, what style do you want to paint in? What do you want it to look like? :)
  • Plein air tends toward tonalism, where blocks of light and color are focused on, detail work it more of a portrayal rather than an strict adherence to realism, sharp lines are avoided (Thanks @paulb... I need to do something with that back field and tree line)
  • Something like this style @Richard_P

    Related image
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    @Renoir, it looks like you're already there, painting in this style.  Your farm & silo painting was very similar too.
  • I think my proportions are all off on this painting. I really struggle with that if I am not very focused on planning out my painting. So that tells me I need to have a 'relaxed' painting style for this, but I should still pay close attention to perspective. 

    I also need to get some distance from it and look at it in a few days. Thanks for your feedback @PaulB!

  • I think the trees in the far field could be lesser value to add a little more appeal to the composition. One theory I came across was to have about 1/6 of you painting your darkest value, 1/3 your lightest value and the rest halftones, light and dark values are unequal. Thus it creates an interesting tension 
  • Thank you @Bixby. That is invaluable insight. 
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    @Renoir ; You are doing great for a beginner at plein air.  From my view, you just need to see and add the colors of lavender, more blues, purples, and earth colors and you'll be fine.  Summer
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    @Renoir ; Have you ever had your eyes tested for color vision?  There might be a program or two online that would let you know how you see color in the world.  I tested mine about ten years ago.  Summer
  • @Summer great feedback! 

    I developed eye problems a year ago so that part of the vision in my right eye is covered by large black spots. I know color perception is different in each eye.
  • Hey @Summer lovely painting, I agree with Paul for me u are also arrived to a style which is yours. For what concern different colours perception is not a problem at all but in my opinion for what concern Art but it adds something because when I see a possible difference is like making an inverse process and being in your "brain" for a moment. 
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    I agree that often our differences in our color vision become our unique style.  But in this case, Renoir is still exploring and reaching out by showing us the paintings of other artists.    
  • Renoir

    Pick a few of MJS’s videos to inspire your landscape painting.

    His methods and materials are easy and accessible.

    You can de tune the realism with lost edges and fog if preferred.


  • @Renoir Does that mean you have to close one eye to select which colors to paint then check the perspective using both eyes?  Can you elaborate at what you have to do with your eyes to paint?  Amazing what you have been able to achieve with the painting that you have shown us here.  I see your unique style in the making.  Summer   
  • @summer
    Believe it or not, I've done those online color perception tests (like they do at the optometrists) and I do very well. 

    I'm not sure I can explain it, but my eye sight varies, as it does for many, when I am tired or it is late, or if the light has been to strong. I have the most difficulty with lighting. I have a difficult time driving at night. So sometimes, the colors are more bluish in one eye than the other. I have not been able to determine what or how exactly. Like I said, my perception is off. The black spots in one eye also makes the perception as though I'm looking through a glass covered in Vaseline in most parts. And, lucky me!, I've been near-sided since I was 8 years old. So....

    So I can paint one day and come back to the painting the next day and the colors seem all off. I have found that I perceive colors the best in daylight. I know that's not the DMP way, but it's what works for me so far. 

  • dencal said:

    Pick a few of MJS’s videos to inspire your landscape painting.

    His methods and materials are easy and accessible.

    You can de tune the realism with lost edges and fog if preferred.


    Thank you @Dencal! I believe we can do best by learning realism first and then going for a different style, so employing his techniques would be quite helpful. I have entered myself into a Plein Air painting contest this summer even though I have never done it, so now I am 'practicing'. 
  • @Renoir ; I believe that you have made an excellent choice in becoming a plein air painter now that I know a little more about your eyes and how they function for you.  I see a painter with a unique style in the making because of your uniquely different eyesight.  Good luck to you while you are having a great time in the process.  Summer
  • Well, thank you @Summer! Those are very encouraging words  <3
  • I think your painting is fine. I think your color vision is fine too but I understand changes in light and fatigue make a big difference. My eyes react that way too. My question is about tonalism, and plein air vs DMP. I thought plein air meant going outdoors and painting what you see, paint quickly to keep light and shadows before the sun moves too far and tonalism was a method that helped getting it done quickly. My impression was that DMP/alaprima and SDM don't work well for plein air and that water colors or acrylics suited the genre more.
  • @BOB73 You are more correct than I am. I know very little about either technique. And I should have started with a small canvas rather than such a large one. I had something far more suited to plein air (remember, I am not able to do plein air because of our snow/clouds/rain/gray weather. So I have to 'fake' it with a photo. Probably watercolors/acrylics work well for plein air but I know many who use oils. I'll have to stumble through to see what works best for me.
  • There is already a lot of discussion above. So, I don't know if anything adds value in me commenting much later.
    I have to say that there is no style for plein air painting. It is about painting quickly. You can do this from perfect photos or painting from life. Plein air is nothing but a version of painting from life. Since the stage or scope is amazingly large and the conditions change frequently, people observe minutely and paint fast.  This is reflected in their final output.

    So if you feel that you want your paintings to look spontaneous, then maintain a timeline to finish a painting. This is followed in drawing too e.g. 30 second drawing, 1 minute drawing, 2 minute drawing then higher to allow more time to observe. You capture the impression of the subject and be done with it. If my suggestion means anything pick-up daily objects and paint within 1-2 hrs. All the 'great' plein air artists are amazing still life painters as well.
  • @Kaustav - I should have messaged you first since you have significant experience with plein air painting!  Those are all excellent suggestions. I think I'm so accustomed to taking a long time doing a painting, it's hard to break that habit. Once warmer weather arrives, I hope to get actually get outside in the elements which would likely force a time limit upon me as I seem helpless to force time limits upon myself.
  • I would like to give you feedback from the perspective of someone who does not know how to paint.  so no suggestions, just observations.  I really like the flowers in the right foreground, but like the flowers in the left foreground less.  The right foreground flowers to me look crisper like I might expect of something in the foreground, but the left ones seem mildly "out of focus."  I really like the trunks of the trees in that next row back, the light browns really create an impression of diffused sunlight on trunks. My eyes can't quite "know" if the tan on the right of the tree's is tall brownish grass or a field somewhat lower.  I think if that was somehow more visually obvious it would have a more realism quality.  wherever it is it looks like a great not overly hot warm day, that would benefit from ham cheese french bread and some crisp white wine.
  • From the photos you posted of other artists work that you like the look of it seems to me that their brushstrokes are more different angles and curves than yours, showing the shapes and textures of the forms. Your strokes seem more to be blocking in large forms without showing the direction of the leaves and grasses with your strokes.

    Hope that makes sense and helps! :)
  • Yes it does make sense, @Richard_P, that provides insight I did not have. Thank you!
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    And don't forget the wider range of colors that you like in their paintings as well.  Just saying.  ;)
  • edited April 2018
    Hey @Renoir ; - I think you might like this book.  A teacher of mine suggested it many years ago and I still treasure it.
  • "The more you learn....". I've seen or heard that quote many times and no matter what the subject was in reference to, the quote was always true. Thanks for reminding me @Julianna
  • @Kaustav - I hope you don't mind my coming back to you, but this is my first real attempt at plein air, the trees in my backyard. This is as far as I got after about 2 hours of setting up, drawing, and painting. It's very imprecise, which I gather is somewhat ok with this approach. I think I need to be more creative with color? I'm not sure I"m going to be able to do a real plein air in just 2 hours though! I'll keep on practising. In the meantime, I want to finish this one up.

  • Keep going, I like it!

    Also, you could use a smaller canvas and get more done if you only have 2 hours. :)
  • edited April 2018
    @Renoir thanks for asking for my opinion. I am flattered a little.  B) this is certainly not bad considering you are doing it for the first time. So if you continue doing it everyday then I'm sure you will discover something. You paid attention to light and shade but temperatures in light and shadow are a little vague. Everything looks cool. It has to be warm against cool and cool against warm just like light against dark and dark against light. Also, if you could focus on one area and build the other things around that it would lead to a better painting i.e. Tree trunk is lit and other areas ofor the tree are cool. Rest are just fillers as they are not the main subject. 

    Don't be so worried about two hrs etc. If you can't finish it within a time frame then use the next day same time under similar lighting conditions.
    People are doing two hour paintings and producing not so important work. 
    My goal has always been to produce better paintings than yesterday's. 
  • Some thoughts 
    For plein air your initial sketch, memory painting, lesser materials and initial and later decisions about composition are going to be crucial. 
    Light changes every seven minutes Monet said. Within 20 minutes the whole effect may change. 
    1.First find a scene and watch it very carefully about what you are going to paint and how you'll set up the composition. This may take some time. Don't just start right away.
    2.focus on value-shape drawing with paint and start putting keynotes everywhere which is going to remind you how things were.
    3.Start with the farthest corners and then gradually come forward in a scene. Recognize value differences in the painting. 
    4. Memory painting on the basis of your initial drawing will be crucial after 15-20 minutes. There might be no need to look at the source except perhaps shapes.
  • @Kaustav I am very much appreciative of your time helping me! You've given me invaluable tips and I will try to start implementing them. I have to look at color differently too! Painting now :-)
  • @Renoir   I really like this!!!  If you get a chance, look at some of David Hockney's youtube videos of him painting the same tree scene - it is fascinating.
  • be careful to not let the branches get thicker than the tree trunks. Also, you don't have to paint in every  branch.
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