Today’s snowy weather would not have kept Edward Redfield, the renowned New Hope impressionist dedicated to plein air painting, indoors. He was known to stand for hours outside to paint his iconic wintry scenes. In advance of Plein Air Plus on March 10, we presented a quote by Redfield and asked for their perspectives.
Edward Redfield said: “What I wanted to do was go outdoors and capture the look of a scene, whether it was a barn or a bridge, but how it looked on a certain day. So I trained myself to set down what I saw all in one day, working sometimes eight hours or more. I never painted over a canvas again; I think it ruins them. Either you’ve got it the first time or you haven’t.”
Do you agree? What are your thoughts?
I agree. Once I’ve finished the painting in plein air, it’s impossible to go back to try to capture the same essence on a different day, even if the time of day and weather are the same. The feeling that I have and the connection that I have to the painting on a particular day is unique and therefore, it can’t be recreated.
Actually, I like to rework my paintings. Oil is forgiving. What I layer on top can bring out new details that I missed the first time.
I love the process and end result of plein air painting. I rarely rework a plein air painting. You’re immersed in a landscape and develop a response to the site and light at that time. It can be difficult to recreate the same response later.
Edward Redfield was certainly an outstanding painter, but how you paint, how long, where and when is at the pleasure of the artist. Whether it takes an hour or a year, plein air or studio, the final painting should reflect, not just the scene, but the artist’s reason for painting it in the first place.
I agree with Redfield. It is usually something fleeting which captures my eye when I decide to paint a scene and it is never the same twice. The more I paint outdoors, the more I can eliminate everything but the essentials elements of what I’m trying to interpret…it is very intuitive on some level. The more spontaneous, the better, once I’ve got everything quickly blocked in.
For me, yes. I paint alla prima meaning paintings are done in usually one sitting. The paint is applied to the canvas wet into wet. Most of the mixing of colors is done on my palette and canvas. After the first sitting I will go back a second day for fine edits. It is a very spontaneous way to work.
I used to agree with that thought, but now I’m freeing myself to be open to many ways of painting. I have recently painted over old paintings that I felt were no good, and I felt it quite liberating. Sometimes I gesso over them and start again or sometimes I just paint a new painting right on top, letting some of the old show through. The texture of the painting underneath can be a fun effect to work with. I do however agree with not fussing over a painting and trying to complete a painting in one day to stay with the same intention you set out with in the beginning. Depending on the size of the work of course. But I’m very deliberate when I put down brushstrokes, so I can capture feeling and movement.
I don’t like to go back into my work once I have abandoned it and will set it aside until I can look at it again with a fresh eye. With watercolor you can turn your paper and work again on the reverse side but adding too many layers of color will dullen the work and lose the intensity of the color.
I prefer a sunny outdoor scene with great shadows which allow the merging of colors in watercolor. Historic buildings, street scenes, covered bridges and landscapes are plentiful in the Lambertville area.
Plein air painting is an exciting and inspiring process. It challenges the artist to work towards spontaneity. However, I believe studio work to be just as valid. Neither is superior and both practices enhance the other process.
More of these artists’ comments will follow in a subsequent post.