I’ve been clearing out a lot of junk from one of our attics lately. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were taking several large bags to the dump one morning. A big storm was moving in from the west so we put the rush on to get it delivered before the skies opened.
The dark clouds were rolling up behind us. As I was hustling along the road, I made a note of how beautiful the early morning skies were, especially the dramatic contrast between the rising sun and the storm clouds. I wished I could take some photos but kept my hands on the steering wheel. I decided to use an old trick which I haven’t practiced in quite some time. This is to memorize the scene.
Landscape and plein air painters often use this device. That is, to set their easels up facing away from the scene, then study the scene for a bit and try to commit it to memory. The point is to try not to capture every detail, but to make note of the key aspects. Then turn around and, facing your easel, begin to paint what you remember. It sounds difficult but you get better as you practice.
We made our deposit at the dump and scurried home. By this time, the skies had opened and a torrential rain was beating the car.
As soon as I got home, I went to my studio and did two quick pencil studies of what I had seen. Of course, I couldn’t remember every detail, but I think I got the jist of it. Noting the main colors which had attracted me in the first place, plus some primary shapes. I fired up these two small paintings (8 x 10) and am pretty pleased with the results.
I think the best part about using this technique is that it forces the artist to focus on the main shapes and not get lost in the weeds of details. Certainly worth a try if you have never done so before.