Adding Figures to Plein Air Paintings

Painting of Bicycle Riders at Stop Sign by Artist Troy Kilgore
Morning Ride 11x14 oil/linen

Once in a while I run into people who are Plein Air Purists who insist that if the object was not in front of you the entire time you're painting, then it's not a Plein Air painting.

Dogs, horses, cows, vehicles, people, even clouds move away while you're painting.

Does that mean we're not supposed to paint them?

Hell, even the light changes (so technically the scene has changed). . .better pack up that painting!. . .LOL

Maybe I am just getting old, but it’s starting to “P” me off. Our job as artists is to make ART. . . not churn out door mats!

I am not going to curb my inspiration for any rules that over-achievers want to levy on the rest of us. You want to make 8 paintings in a day? Go ahead. . . I'm gonna do just one. . . one good painting. . . that’s all I want.

Painting is difficult.

Plein air painting is more difficult.

We do need to rely on visual memory, but in case that fails, take a picture of those moving objects if you need it. . .

Just to have reference. . . I make sketches before I start.

Pencil Sketch of Bicycle Riders

And for the objects in motion, I "Frankenstein" them together from parts of other objects that pass in and out of my scene.

I have come to realize that doing very fast sketches of moving objects is better than a photo in three ways:

1. I have to paint it anyway, so I am rationalizing the construction before I get to canvas.

2. I find that the camera freezes moving objects too much and I don’t feel the fluidness of them anymore.

3. I have to draw it! . . . Draw it! . . . D-R-A-W I-T !

So, within in a few minutes I compile sketches, I look at photos (if I have them) and then I paint.

For this particular painting I set up on the sidewalk, blocked in the scene, and left a dark spot for riders who were not even there yet.

As I was blocking in, I had my sketch book under my arm and a sharp pencil on the palette.

They rode by and as they did, I set down my brush and just observed them. Staring at them with a long unbroken gaze.

And when I had fixed that into my memory, I sketched it down.

Pencil Sketch of Bicycle Riders Pencil Sketch of Bicycle Riders

Some were wearing different colored clothing and I needed lighter colors, so I waited for that. . .

I even used clothing colors from people who were walking and not on bikes at all!

But I can tell you, none of these moving objects were in my line of sight for more than a few seconds.

That will never stop me from painting them in anyway.

Posted on Sept 16, 2018

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