Plein Air Without Aiming for a Finished Painting

What would be different about how you painted if you were not needing to end up with a “finished painting”? Less worrying about things going wrong or ruining a good bit? Not focusing on all the elements of art but only your favourite things (eg ignoring perspective or tonal contrast)? There’s no rule that says you have to aim to complete each and every painting. You won’t loose your artistic licence.

It may be easier to do when pleinair painting than in a studio because you’re on a time limit and without access to all your supplies. If it’s a location you can return to, then instead of doing everything in one go, you can focus on different aspects on each visit.

Sitting here:

I ended up with this:

Without context, I don’t think it makes much sense, merely a set of squiggly lines. But if I said “incoming waves”, then you’ve a starting point for interpreting the squiggles.

I often watch the waves in this little bay, and on this occasion I had an impulse to see if I could draw the differences in the motion and textures of waves as they approach and hit the shore. Could I convey the energy and movement in a non-fluid medium, i.e. pencil. Would water-soluble pencil (the drawing in blue) be a better choice as it gives the opportunity for fluidity as it turns to paint? Or does it merely weaken the line and I should rather combine watercolour with non-dissolving pencil, coloured or graphite?

I’d done that looking at this rugged bit of shoreline:

I like the granulating watercolour, but the pencil feels too delicate for the subject. Maybe ink line is the answer? Or a softer, darker pencil? I’ll try on another day.

Do not adjust your eyes, these are green. Probably olivine the in-house art critic wearing his geologist hat said

2 Replies to “Plein Air Without Aiming for a Finished Painting”

  1. Excellent post! It’s important to remember that it’s not always about finish or completion.

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