What Do Painters Really Do?

27 Mar 2014

Do you know how frustrating it is to love something, but not necessarily know everything about it? That's sometimes the way I feel about color. I have such a visual lust for color--learning new colors, discovering new paint mixes, figuring out how different light sources effect hue--but I have so many holes in my body of knowledge.

One way I've learned a lot about the dramatically different uses of color is by studying plein air painting. Because "light as color" is practically the mantra of plein air artists, discussions with these painters about their plein air art or studying their outdoor painting offerings yields pearls of wisdom about what painters really do that are virtually priceless.

Ebb Tide, Otter Point by Marcia Burtt, acrylic painting, 18 x 30.
Ebb Tide, Otter Point by Marcia Burtt, acrylic painting, 18 x 30.

In Ebb Tide, Otter Point by Marcia Burtt, I see how powerful counterchange can be, where you place light shapes against dark to create dynamism out of what is a fairly simple composition of water and rocks. It doesn't sound too romantic, but when you look at the dark craggy edges of the rocks shot through with rivulets of rich blue water and white spumes of sea foam--it's pretty incredible. I looked at this painting for a good ten minutes alone, just going with the implied movement of the sea.

Marc Dalessio's Canal in Maastricht is a plein air painting with a much more tonal effect. The mood of the painting is fairly quiet and a bit somber, but the charm comes from the same quietude, and the artist keeps the snore factor well away with the smattering of greens and yellows underneath the bridge. 

Canal in Maastricht by Marc Dalessio, 35 x 25 cm, oil painting on panel.
Canal in Maastricht by Marc Dalessio,
35 x 25 cm, oil painting on panel.

If you are hungry to learn more about the colors you love and about utilizing them in paintings of the landscapes you love, be sure to check out the latest Painting in Plein Air resources--and right now you can save 20% on select products with code PLEINAIR. As we learn more about how wide and varied color creation can be (in whatever media we work with), our works will take on an elegance and clarity of color and light that will be present no matter what we decide to paint. At least, that's my own dearest hope for you! Enjoy!


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