When you notice how much the light has changed over the course of doing the painting do you go back and try to adjust what you did earlier?
I was noticing this most when I'd paint a scene early in the morning that had water. The sky would be very pale when I started but by the time I got down to the bottom of the painting the color of the sky reflected in the water would be very different. In these situations should I try to go back and fix the sky or leave it?
Hank, given enough experience you will learn to work the entire canvas at once. You will learn to predict the lighting effects and establish these values as they become evident. Myself I am generally drawn to a subject by the light and shadow relationship so I establish this to begin with and work on that which is the most fleeting. Above all do not allow your self to chase the light it is a vicious circle. Establish your shadow and light pattern and stick to it. Wm. F. Reese
Exactly what William said, and I'll add that it helps to limit the time you spend on a painting. If it's bright and sunny, 3 hours is the maximum, and 2 hours is better. When the time is up and the light has shifted, start another painting.
A rule of thumb: the sun moves 15 degrees per hour, so that's a 45 degree shift if you paint for three hours. This little tidbit helps me remember why I keep my painting sessions short!
I totally agree with that - though sometimes with the light changing by the minute here - I will highlight a field that is suddenly lit by a shaft of light and looks fantastic, or a flash of sea that sparkles for a few moments.
If working at a 10 -15 inch scale I prefer, if possible, to finish in an hour as, not only the light, but the tide changes everything after that.
One thing I was told.....if there was anything that could move, such as livestock,wildlife, etc. get it in first, then I establish the lights, then the darks, last the details. Paint small until you can paint fast.
Always keep in mind the change is more radical at either end of the day, of course that is the when we have the most interesting light! I like to try and stay at about an hour if I can but sometimes it is hard to do. Like everyone has said get the light patterns in early and stick with them.
I painted a waterfall in a canyon. I got there early am and got the basics down as fast as I could as I was anticipating the moment the sun would rise over the rim to hit the water. When the sun hit the water....POW...splash on the highlights, and I high tailed it to the next location down the road to catch the long am shadows and am light bouncing off a barn. I was in a workshop, and we were hitting four locations that day. The goal was to spend no more than an hour or two at each location aiming to "capture the moment". One of the locations we had a panorama of great views. We would paint for an hour, turn our easels, and paint the new scene. This helped me to learn to focus on what attracts me to the scenery, and to capture that...in the moment. ***Carol
I like William's assessment because it is well true...but often not a welcome consideration that one cannot avoid that time and one's dues must be paid. In time...you anticipate. Because you anticipate, you understand nature and the light.
Chasing light...is a fundamental problem. It is important to learn to work the whole of the painting rather than some novices that sorta start from one end and go to the other.
One way to do that is by focusing in one a particular characteristic of the setting. For example...start by painting all the darker values you see with eyes squinted. Or...if you have a neutral darker ground...squint the eyes and register where you see all the stronger light. In other words, get the pattern down of what the light is doing. Instead of painting things...come to see yourself as responding to and painting light. Let the viewer be content to see "things" because you have captured so well what the light is doing, their sense of reason is convinced.
Painting is not simply a process of developing what happens on canvas, but what painting and seeing more deeply does to you. YOUR development. You are fine tuning your aesthetic sensibilities, and learning to hone in on what trips your trigger (so to speak)...or grabs YOU by the jugular.
It helps to realize that there are always a half-dozen paintings that could be done on any one spot that so trips your trigger...but honing in on the "what(?)" and the "why(?)" of it with essential brevity is what will most excite the viewer to feel they have been allowed to touch your artistic soul.
If you become more aware of what NOT to paint when you begin...nailing that moment comes even quicker.
As you pick up greater efficiency, you come to see the finished painting in your mind's eye before you even begin...sorta like a snapshot the mind holds. Quickly getting the indications of the light down, or the darker shadow elements and from that point on nature has become merely a model in a studio you have before you as a convenient reference. Doesn't matter if light changes after that.
The other thing that I have found separates and eases the panic mode when light changes is if you simply have a lot of pigment out on your palette and mix color as you see it on the fly...or if you have a palette strategy.
On the fly is technically called "optical color"...seeing, mixing, putting it down.
If you sense a mood in the light...hinted at by a particular color, and understand it bathes everything...you can create a mother color (or what Edgar Payne called "pigment soup") and choosing a more limited palette can pull a bit of that mother color into each color.
What that does is forces a color harmony into everything you are painting...and having alleviated that aspect of concern you are not so worried about the changes of color light produces thru the development of your painting. You have a palette "strategy" that you have committed to.
Now...lest you think such is extremely limiting...I have taken ONE color mixed up at random, then mixed it to a limited palette...plus tints and shade. Take a look at this link from my blog and you can see demonstrated just how many colors/values can be produce from ONE random color using a mother color idea-