Spark & Glow

I feel I do my best work en plein air. There is a sense of urgency so I tend to be less fussy. I am more uncomfortable and want to be done with it. I am not using a photo and the light is changing. When I look at photos of the same subject later, they seem more drab. Of course I can use the photo and create my own composition, but I tend to want to do more of that in field, when the inspiration is fresh. Often the photo will lose the sense of depth, and more things will be in a dark value silhouette than they actually are - the error of the camera. With my eye, I can bring that distant flag into focus and MAKE it my focus, which the camera may pick up like a toothpick. When I am wandering around looking for where to set up en plein air, I stop when I am inspired. I can modify the values and create my depth of field, modify the values and blur my edges to create my focus, and manipulate the composition to lead the eye there. In that moment of inspiration, all that theory comes easier than looking at a photo later and trying to be inspired by it in the same way.
I am still learning about water/paint ratio. All this time, I've been doing the reverse of the common error in watercolor. They say watercolor dries lighter, so go darker than you think. "If it looks right, it's wrong!" In my case, I've been going heavier with the pigment and killing the whites. Often when I look at my work later, past the point of subjectivity. I find the areas that look the best and draw my eye have a glow to them - the white of the paper shines through because the water/pigment ratio was just right. I didn't kill it by over-pigmenting.
These paintings en plein air at Alviso Slough last week came out well. They have the glow of the paper, and the paint/water ratio is just right.


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