Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Painting from Field Sketches

Vardøhus festning, ca 1870

Norwegian painter, Peder Balke (November 4, 1804 – 1887), hiked around his native Norway, sketching the landscape; later using the sketches as the basis for studio oil paintings, in a romantic style.
This was the way landscape painters worked at that time. In any case, the inclemency of the Scandinavian climate would not have lent itself to completing works on site for most of the year.
Plein air painting is more the norm these days, but there are some  advantages to developing paintings from field sketches: the finished work  tends to be less literal and more 'essential'. The artist has to rely more on memory, which may infuse the painting with greater emotional depth. We tend to remember the essence of a place, rather than details. Also, it's difficult to complete large canvases on site. 


Katherine Kean said...

Good points! Many times it seems the idea put forth in a landscape painting isn't really all about the landscape.

I love these paintings - thanks for posting them!

jeronimus said...

Hi Katherine. Like many painters who produced vvid landscapes from sketches, I think he must have had a very good visual memory. My cousin has a virtually photographic memory and can look at a scene then paint it very accurately back at home the next day. But some people might find that painting on site works best for them. One landscape painting teacher I know recommends turning your back to the scene to force yourself to rely more on visual memory while doing on- site work. You soon get tired of turning around to look, and you start to train your memory to capture what is important.