Small on-site sketches…or….little paintings!

I know that Jeremy Lipking and Scott Christensen teach the importance of making small on-site sketches whenever possible. I even heard that in Scott’s plein air workshops, students only get 45 minutes to finish a painting on each location visited! When some of the best painters have great advice, it certainly is a good idea to consider it!

The advantages are obvious and multi-fold:

  • It may be less intimidating to start a small sketch than a bigger painting.
  • Despite the relatively small size (only 5″x6″ or so), the painting process is the same. You still  need to work out values, color, drawing and edge just like in a bigger piece!
  • You’re going home with 3–6 paintings instead of just one (that you may or may not like).
  • Last but not least, you have multiple on-site sketches from which you can do a bigger studio piece from!

Oh, and here’s another one: often there isn’t enough time to finish before the light changes too much, but it’s almost always possible to finish a 5″x6″ piece. These sketches should really take no longer than 30–45 minutes each, no matter what medium you’re painting in.

I don’t even bother with an underpainting when doing these in oils. Since I am a watercolor guy, I just jot down a few lines with pencil and paint ‘alla prima’ (direct painting). The basic principle for Alla Prima painting is to observe, mix and put down the right amount of paint in the right place with the right value. If possible with little or no adjusting, changing etc.

Easier said than done! Practice, practice, practice!

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6 thoughts on “Small on-site sketches…or….little paintings!

  1. Linda

    I love them all! Thanks for the insight. I think it may also increase my chance of feeling successful .

    1. frankeber Post author

      They are just as hard as a real painting but it feels you’re less invested. If one doesn’t work out, there’s always another rectangle next to it!

  2. thenaughtybun

    That’s great advice, that can be used on several areas. Sometimes a project can seem too big, it’s too much to chew off, doing a few minis is a great way to get the creativity flowing. I must remember this.

  3. Cheri Isgreen

    Love this advice. Thank you. I noticed you have been following my dressage training with my Lipizzan. If you are in Colorado, feel free to drop in. I’ll take you to the barns, or even to a training if you like. You can paint… My husband and I are both professional artists. We’d love to meet you.

    1. frankeber Post author

      How nice of you! Thank you for the offer. I love horses and love painting them so I enjoy looking at your pictures even though I know nothing about them..
      I will let you know when I am in CO next! thanks again!

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