Or Reworking the Waterbird Paintings
In the last few years I have changed my focus to painting looser, faster, and honing my observation skills. Painting en Plein Air has been very helpful in that regard. It forces you to observe more deeply and make quick decisions before the light changes. Noticing the reflections in water is something I really wanted to be better at. Painting readable water in general was a key goal.
Looking back at some waterbird paintings I had done, it was obvious I made-up the backgrounds to quickly complete the paintings after meticulously painting the birds. I have never been happy with these two paintings.
One ambitious afternoon I decided to fix these painting. I dug through all my reference photographs of river scenes from canoe adventures and found some dark, foresty ones that would make a nice high-contrast to the birds. I set to work and almost immediately saw a huge improvement.
Looking at a few more of my recent works, I can see my observations skill has improved. I often seemed to forget the advice I always gave my children, and that was to draw (or paint) what you see, and not what you think you know. For example, water is not blue, people do not look like sticks, smoke is not a coil coming out of a chimney. Observe, observe, observe.
Art is subjective and open to the Artist’s interpretation, however for me, I want it to be believable. Artists’ also engage skills and theory we have learned such as atmospheric perspective, but observation/interpreting has been my big revelation. I think is just comes along with painting a lot. And I have been painting a lot!!