Plein Air Study with Scott Christensen

Scott Christensen is a master painter. He gave us so much to think about, and watching him paint was inspiring! I walked away from this workshop with so much more knowledge, most importantly I realized painting is a serious undertaking. Painting is not slapping on paint, you have to study drawing, composition, color and all the thousands of techniques & materials out there.  Painting isn’t random, it’s much more deliberate than that. You want to take your viewer on a journey, which you orchestrate, every stroke is planned out. So for those out there that think this is all a spiritual, creative act, it’s a bit of that of course, it’s what defines your style, but it’s so much more.

Here are some of the important lessons I learned from Scott:

1, Every composition is a work of art…it is planned out, no boring lines, equal spacing, or similar shapes. It is the most important part of a painting…it’s what makes the painting work. A good practice to help you grow is to do 20 minutes of small composition thumbnails each day.

2. Value relationships are what make a painting mediocre to great. It’s that small shift of value between colors that define a really great painting. Next time you’re in a gallery, or museum look at paintings close up…can you see the slight shift of values, are they warm or cool, ect. Painting is all about relationships of one thing to another.,

3. Edges, very important, are they soft or hard. Soft edges recede, hard edges have impact. Hard edges, detail is usually in your focal area, which is another important thing to think about, what is your focal point? There should only be one area…not a ton!

4. The most important thing I learned is… RESERVE, it’s all about that. It’s important to save the impact for what you want to show the viewer. Having pure chroma (color) throughout your painting confuses the viewer, nothing is left for the wow! Read “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting,” there is so much to learn from this book, a beginner, or advanced painter, it has something for the artist who wants to further their painting.

5. Most important…practice. In the “Outliers” book it states you need 10,000 hours at any endeavor to be good. Go out and do cloud, tree, sky, ect. studies, and use them as reference materials. It’s not about finishing a painting when your painting in “Plein Air” its about studying the scene…seeing what’s before you, and then taking it all back to the studio and creating a painting using that study.
Visual memory is huge if you’ve put the time in, and study what you see, you have a huge resource at your disposal, and its a big part of how artists use their unique visual memory in creating a painting. What I know is that no 2 people paint the same. If you go out and paint with a group of artists the same scene, no one paints the exact same scene, and by no means are they painted alike, it’s really very fascinating.

So here is a small fraction of what I took away from this workshop, I’m still processing all that I learned. I have to say I’m motivated, I’m drawing a lot more, doing small studies of trees, looking at my paintings I had done before the workshop with a more critical eye, and actually knowing how to correct some of the mistakes. I know there is a lot of workshops out there, and it’s overwhelming trying to choose which one to do…my goal is to take from the best (Scott Christensen definitely fits that category) and to take from artist’s that I’m inspired by. So I’m signed up for Scott’s advanced class next year. That gives me a year to study and put in practice what I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to a different way of seeing.

Thanks Scott for generously sharing your expansive knowledge, one of the best 10 days I have spent, Love “Plein Air painting, & hope one day to finish off my instruction in your Master Painting Course!!



Enjoyed the Article?

Dont miss out! Be the first to hear about new courses, paintings and articles.

Share this story:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *