How to Evaluate Your Outdoor Painting

26 Nov 2013

Thomas Van Stein's student stepped back, with the help of her instructor, to evaluate her work.

Thomas Van Stein's student stepped back,
with the help of her instructor, to evaluate her work.

Adapted from an article by Allison Malafronte.

Amidst all the sights, sounds, and smells that swirl around you when plein air painting, you have to remember to step back and assess your work and give a thought to how the painting is progressing. Plein air painters are at their best when they step back, figuratively and sometimes literally, and see what is going on with their work in comparison to the scene in front of them. En plein air, the atmosphere is always changing, and if you chase those transient moments sometimes it results in piece of great plein air art, but sometimes you can overwork it, too.

Thomas Van Stein, a plein air painter from Carpinteria, California, is aware of this tendency when he is creating an outdoor painting, and when he is conducting plein air workshops. At a recent workshop, he helped a student, whose work is shown here, to step back and reassess her work by making these points:

-You are pushing the color, which is great. But try for a little more variation around the warm masses to break it up.

-Use a bigger brush and more paint in the foreground to bring that primary area into focus and create a bit of atmospheric perspective.

-The horizon line is a little hard; soften it slightly so it is a visual suggestion.

These kind of crucial insights can only take a moment to realize if we will only step back and visually evaluate what we are doing. For more moments of plein-air clarity, consider our latest eMag by Richard McKinley on Painting Pastels en Plein Air. Enjoy!

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