Plein Air or Computer Monitor

Ok, here is something for all of us to think about. Last night while waiting to go get Martha from work I watched a DVD from a contemporary alla prima artist. Absolutely beautiful painter no doubt about it. But, I was not convinced on all his conclusions. But, that is what makes art great.  We all paint various conclusions.  He said he feels that plein air painting allows you to better capture the colors of the subject, but he paints many times from a digital image on a computer monitor for ease.

Now, I am a practical artist. I have painted plein air many times. I don’t see the fascination in it at all, but I do enjoy going outside for some fresh air. I feel I can see lovely colors on a computer monitor, especially if I broadcast that image to my beautiful large monitors and paint from that. Here is why…

In college I studied chemistry and physics. The human eye can see 100 levels of various colors R, G, B, Y and 1000 levels of light and dark. This means the human eye can see on a good day 10 million color possibilities. If conditions are perfect. A simple computer monitor running simple…. I mean simple 8 bit color can make 16 million colors. Most today make over 32 million. Far more than the human eye can even see.

In the old days artists went outside to make quick sketches to capture shapes and color notes because we didn’t have great cameras. They could read the colors better in that light. Today we can capture those imagines digitally with instruments that can make more color variations than what our eye can see.

I paint plein air…. why?   It is fun. It is different. I like using a monitor better. I like monitors a hundred times more than photos.   I can blow up images and see better details which is great, especially as my eyes get older.   Then I think you know, Rembrandt, Van Aelst, Vermeer painted mostly indoors controlling the light.

Which is better? I truly feel it is more what you like. Everyone can create beautiful paintings using both plein air and computer monitors for inspiration and assistance.   For me it is the feeling of the experience. Painting outside changes your mood, which changes your painting. Sometimes not for the good as you swat all those bugs that want to join your painting.

So this amazing artist painted this painting using multiple images on a computer monitor. Showed how he added bushes from one image to the foreground and trees from another image to the background. Lovely effect and awesome painting. But you can do that with digital images. They can help build your idea. For me, that is an advantage. Both situations can make you create differently, but for an artist to say “I paint outside because I get better colors….”  well, I am not convinced of that yet. I maybe wrong.  Since I see so many awesome movies these days created with CGI and the digital effects that monitors can bring, hmm, they look pretty good as well. There is no doubt though that monitors can create more colors than we can see. They can’t however bring the true experience of outside.   I see both sides of the question.

3 Replies to “Plein Air or Computer Monitor”

  1. When I am painting something from an image on the computer, I can view it zoomed in for details, I can change it to a black and white image. I can move objects around to get different perspectives.
    Personally I don’t like the idea of painting outside. The time changes the shadows, clouds change the lighting and there are no constant values.
    Of course I have not learned the concept of painting quickly and I don’t know how to paint what I see without making a lot of changes to it; so plein air painting would not be very enjoyable for me!

  2. Plein Air Painting is a lot of fun, I agree….It is also a lot of work ! But fun work. This is what I know about the subject thus far in my explorations.
    It has made my painting much faster, complete in 3 to 4 hours. Admitted 11x 14 is small, but sometimes it is a large space to fill up. The need for patterns has left….you don’t get a pattern ! LOL The desire to become a looser Artist is coming true. I just completed a 14 x 18 scene in 3 hours. Painting for me has become a journey to be educated, yet always moving forward.
    I do a lot of Studio paintings too, knowing I would not be a total Plein Air Artist.

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