I love the spontaneity of certain paintings, but some times an error occurs and you have to go back and fix something. A lot of times my paintings come easily for me and I don't sweat them too much, but once in a while I have to put my proverbial blood, sweat and tears into a work.
I recently painted a painting of my dad sitting outside and I loved the overall light and feeling I was able to capture. The painting took a little over an hour and I photographed it and called it finished. A lot of the painting is impressionistic and even my dad's face looks unfinished, but the thing is that that was on purpose and not in error. But I later realized that I forgot to put in the upper portion of the chair behind my dad on the left side of the painting (as indicated in the image below with the red arrow). I want my paintings to be intentional and in control even if they appear less finished.
I'm a purest when it comes to painting alla prima and I believe in capturing the transient moment and then called it finished in order to leave the spontaneity and not overwork it. The problem was that I was losing sleep about that missing chair part. My style is fairly impressionistic so a lot of people probably wouldn't notice, but I noticed and it was bothering me. I knew it was an error.
So what I did was I set up the chair back outside under roughly the same lighting conditions and I fixed it. It only took a few minutes and now I finally feel the sense of relief that I get when I do something right. It's a hard thing to judge, but I knew I had to fix it in my gut and I always trust what my gut tells me.
Just put the final touches on this painting. I am really proud of myself for pulling the trigger with this painting and finishing it. I always looked at our clock and thought it would be fun to paint, but I was dragging my feet and not painting it. But now I've painted it and I'm really happy I did. It was a quick painting (only took 2 days) and I painted the entire thing from life. I've learned that nothing will ever replace painting from life and I'm going to paint from life as often as I can. The colors from life cannot be reproduced in any photograph.
I also added a sliver of light along the right side of the canvas which shows that there's another room to the right of the clock. That room, in reality, is a hallway that has more sunlight in it. With painting, just like anything else, to get results it's necessary to commit to the project. This principle applies to everything in life. Being able to commit is the most important quality.
There is a certain kind of magic that happens when a work is drawn or painted from life. I'm not sure if I ever could fully put it into words, but I'll try and write a little about it here. It's not always possible to work from life, but as digital photography advances, then I feel artists rely too heavily on them.
Photography is an excellent tool in certain ways. And I think it's a great tool for capturing animals especially. But I feel strongly that great paintings are not just copies of photographs.
I've also been trying to figure out what changes when I work from life versus when I work from photographs. One of the major differences is that photos overwhelm the eye and have way too much information in them. The eye perceives much less detail in the real world even though it may seem that the real world has much more information than a photo. Although life is constantly shifting between colors, values and focuses, a photo freezes a single moment and can easily trick the artist into painting too much detail.
I love sketching from life and often times these sketches are my biggest inspiration when I begin a final painting. I also use photos as compositional references and for placement, but I really avoid taking my color and detail from photos. It's also way too easy to get bogged down in all the detail of a photo so I also highly recommend squinting while you work from photos (squinting while you work from life is also a good tip).
I've included some sketches I did tonight from a seafood restaurant. The lobsters caught my eye so I did a few little sketches of them from life. If I were to do a painting of those lobsters I would use these sketches along with some color studies and photos to create a finished painting. Of course, each artist has their own methods and can find their own balance between sources. That's the fun part of building a personal artistic process!
I thought that I was done with this commission, but the bowling pin in the background didn't have the correct highlight on the top. It was a small thing that I had to correct, but it always troubles me until it feels right. The funny thing is that no one will ever even know that I made that small change. It's a never-ending quest and it doesn't end until I have the feeling like it's good enough.