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Pryce Studios Newsletter Archive

Pryce Studios Newsletter
February 02, 2012 - No. 25  

The Big Picture


Jennifer from Ottawa submitted some very important questions in the "Ask John" section of my web site. One question is of particular interest to most plein-air painters:


"John; Do you ever use your plein air works as references for larger scale studio paintings, and if so, what advice can you offer about turning a small sketch into a larger format painting? Also, if you are painting a larger piece in your studio that you cannot finish in one session, how do you achieve a feeling of spontaneous, wet-into-wet brushwork? How do you get that plein air feeling on an easel painting?"


Those are good questions Jennifer. I always use the original plein-air painting as reference for the larger studio painting.  That does not exclude the use of a photo to preserve some subject matter, such as the special character of a tree, texture or colour of a field to help retain the attraction to that subject in the first place. The risk of solely using photo reference, is the temptation to get involved with detail in the first part of a studio painting - this is because of the overwhelming amount of detail that a photo normally contains. It can be detrimental to the final work if you want to retain that "loose and spontaneous" quality of the original plein-air painting.  
Here are some photos of one of my larger paintings derived from a smaller plein-air painting.  


Original Plein Air Painting
Original 12" x 16" plein-air oil painting
Studio Setup
Studio set up
Initial Stages
Close up of brushwork in initial stages.
I tried to retain the loose brushwork of the original small painting.
Finished Painting
The finished painting:  36" x 48"
With some compositional changes and a water lily for interest
Many artists use a grid system to duplicate the small painting composition, but I find that in most cases I can simply draw the basic shapes directly onto the large canvas.  Then I proceed with the same block-in method as I would in the plein-air painting, with the main difference being the use of larger brushes and more pigment. I am still challenged to duplicate the "spontaneity" in a large studio painting that is so natural in a plein-air painting. I have to believe the speed at which we have to make decisions while painting en-plein-air contributes to that wonderful free-flow look that is so attractive. Just go for it and let those wonderful accidents happen.
My background in commercial art and the inherent pressure has proven to me that a deadline  is a simple way of speeding up the decision-making process. Too much time on a section of a painting (or simply picking up that smaller brush too soon) can destroy that creative flow. Try giving yourself a time limit and have a number of projects planned as if you had a show to prepare for and see what happens. Say more with less. 

Until next time, keep those brushes clean and ready to go!


 Best Regards,



Quote for today:
"Never leave a painting mediocre; it's better to take a chance with it."  

Guy Corriero

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