To Plein Air or Not to Plein Air

OK, I do know that “plein air” is not a verb. “Plein air” refers to the process of painting a landscape outdoors, from nature, as opposed to painting a scene from memory, or from fantasy, or from a photograph. Today I offer for comparison two paintings inspired by the same spot. One I painted on/at the spot, “en plein air”. But I took a photograph of the scene and later, in my studio, I painted another version, this time from the photograph. One reason I did this was my dissatisfaction with the original. What had inspired me was more faithfully depicted in that photograph. But that is not a common occurrence. Usually the plein air painting does satisfy my vision better than any photo I may have taken of the same scene.

The advantage of a photo is its ability to confine the vision to the scene framed by the photo. Without that confinement, my eye tends to wander around, and my hand tries to capture little items of interest even as my brain struggles to restrict it. The disadvantage of a photo is the temptation it offers to the artist of over-inclusion of details contained within that frame. In both cases, the artist has to fend off a tendency to include too much in the painting, which distracts from the main inspiration.

So here for your comment is the photo, the painting from the photo, and the plein air painting. What think you?

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