This is a typical beginner dilemma En Plein Air and from life or from a reference photo. Beginners convince themselves that reference photo is as good as painting from life. After all cameras these days are as good as human eye and reference photos are great way to create a wonderful painting
Why then go through the trouble of setting up a mini studio outside , figure out what to paint .And why is everyone passing by looking at me !!! ?
When I first started doing plein air I was shocked to find out how easily human eye defeats the best of the camera. Your eye can see what a camera is not able to see.
In the photo above , I was at a beach in Maine and my camera was hardly capturing any thing besides 3 bigs shapes namely – Beach , Ocean and Sky . But my eye was seeing way more and is reflecting in the painting.
Plein air is challenging because building visual literacy is slow process that takes lots of practice. But it is amazing joy to be do plein air painting.You learn to simplify the subject. you learn to modify the subject and you learn to create the mood.
But plein air is function of lots of factors so you are dependent on weather a lot.
My paintings changed a lot once I started doing plein air. At times when I unable to do a plein air I take lots of pictures of the place and try to remember as much I can and then paint indoors.
Plein air is great a way to improve your painting skills,build visual literacy,learn composition , learn how to paint fast and work in changing light conditions . All these things push you to become a better artist.