Chasing Effects

As a follow up to the ‘into and out of effects’ post below, here is a short video of a plein air landscape sketch from this week. It was painting as the light moved from late afternoon into sunset into evening.

(Apologies for the quality, I need to upgrade the slow-as-molasses-in-winter netbook I do all this with while traveling).

The great thing about working from life, be it in landscapes or portraits, is that as effects or expressions change you can either add them or leave them. Many painters coming to landscapes from studio work find the changing effects challenging. In their studios everything is controlled. The trick is to see the constant mutations in nature as a blessing. Leave what was better before, add what improves.

I find this especially true in portraiture, where working from life allows you to capture fleeting effects such as the moment the sitter’s face lights up when a loved one enters the room. You also end up with a likeness that expresses a number of different facets of the sitter’s personality, as witnessed over the week of sittings.

In the painting video above, the final work becomes a montage of the best effects from the various changing light and cloud positions over the two hour session.

(Here is the final image):

Santa Maria Novella. 30 x 40, oil on panel.


  1. Nice one Marc. You’ve summed up how I feel about painting from life. I like to think of the plein air painting process as similar to a time-lapse film that the painter edits as he goes along, adding, as you say, those elements that improve the painting and ignoring or removing those that detract.
    The finished painting is a record of the hour or however long it took to paint not just a reproduction of the 1/125th of a second that it took to take a photograph.

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