Sunday, October 30, 2011

A nod is as good as wink to a blind horse.

Quick studies and oil sketches are about expressing the essential features of a subject without getting hung up in the details; it is concerned with building observational abilities and information gathering.  I've driven this route many times and always liked the lay of the land, but on this day I was inspired by the patterns in the sky against the curve of the road.

 The Valley Tree Oil on panel 5 x 7 in
This work is available – click here for purchase information

Sketching with a Pochade is a very personal act; it is in connection with developing a good visual memory in front of nature through observation, experience and study. This is another location I've observed numerous times, the rolling pastures and lone group of trees has become part of my visual library.

 Cedar Lake Dutch Ridge Oil on panel 7 x 9 in
This work is available – click here for purchase information

I don’t think it is important to attempt finished looking work when field sketching because it is not about a “masterpiece” but has more to do with a learning experience and honing my skills.
Often just capturing color and form and leaving the details to suggestion is enough to convey the spirit of the landscape. I've spent countless hours on Cedar Lake in a kayak, but am always amazed at how different the interaction of sky and water can be, unlike history the landscape never repeats herself.

I think that many plein air groups today are missing this idea and more concerned with the “plein air persona” and producing finish work than honest painting. And that is why so many plein air paintings look so homogenized. 

  Art is not a group activity.

  First Fall Oil on panel 8 x 10 in

Anyway back to the oil sketches, a good oil study may stand on its own merit or becomes a reference for a large scale studio painting. But the best studio landscapes are composed from the combination of those field studies and personal observations relying on, to a large extent, visual memory. Working on location will help train those painting muscles by forcing you to see simply and commit to memory deeply, your response to the subject. Either way it will build your personal connection and understanding of the character of the landscape.

 Which brings me to the title of this post, 

"A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse."

Meaning: A very small hint is enough to convey our meaning. It is not always necessary to say what we want explicitly.

I look at the sublime simplification within a Sargeant, the ambiguity of a Turner, the strength of design in a Payne, the light and movement in a Constable or that sense of space and emotional drama in a Duran.

And I say, they knew what Leonardo da Vinci meant when he stated,

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 

“An artist must be curious.”   

 -- Leonardo  da Vinci