Plein air in Newport Beach, California

Pavillion board walk Balboa pierII Balboa pier

The two images on the right show the same subject matter in very different light. The method of painting them is also very different. When the subject is backlit, we hardly have to paint around shapes.  When we paint with the sun behind us, it’s a different story! The building on top of the pier happens to be white, so if it’s sun-lit we mustn’t touch the shape with the sky wash!
Many artists use masking fluid for this. For me, it does not work. Especially in a plein air setting, there’s no time to apply it. In order to catch the mood and feel of the scene, it is imperative to get to the painting as quickly as possible, without rushing of course. Therefore, the preliminary drawing shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes.
It is remarkable how two scenes of the same subject, painted in the same afternoon, can have such a different feel to it! If we didn’t recognize the shape of the building on the pier, it almost feels like a different scene altogether!
For that reason, it really pays off to stay in the same area when painting outside. You never know how many versions you’ll get at the end of the day! You also get more familiar with the subject if you paint it more than once. The first one might be a bit frantic, by the second painting you have settled into a nice routine. One of the things to always remember is to never, ever worry about how they turn out! Even if things go great halfway through, try to avoid thinking ‘oh, this looks great’ — as they say in this country: It’s never over until the fat lady sings!


2 thoughts on “Plein air in Newport Beach, California

  1. cathy belleville

    Great post Frank–I love seeing multiple images from the same outing. The control you have in your dry brush work is so lovely. The confidence of your brush work give the two Pier scenes a very Seargent-esque feel. I particularly identify with your comments about how the progress of the painting impacts our mental state–for some reason it’s easier to keep focused when it’s in the “this can only get better” phase versus the “this looks better than I’d hoped” phase. This forum is very inspirational–thank you for doing it.

    1. frankeber Post author

      What a great comment. I can’t thank you enough! Yes, you are so right and it actually feels good to hear you confirm my comments in my post! These are really just random thoughts that I put out there, hoping someone will benefit from it in their work. In the end, there’s no science, no is still art and that’s the way it is. Thank you for this insightful comment, Cathy. To me life is about giving and sharing… we already get relentless self promotion in all the ‘other places’

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