Wednesday, October 21

Painting Atmosphere and Light

Central Coast
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Time marches on, and I hope I continue to learn more about painting as it does. In that context, I want to blog about the importance of painting the atmosphere in landscape or en plein air motifs. I last blogged about this subject about a year ago, (Paint Atmosphere in Your Landscapes).

We may not usually think of the  atmosphere as part of a painting, but it is. Atmosphere in my paintings isn't the makeup of physical elements that meteorologists would tell you it is. I hope not; I'm a painter, not a meteorologist. In my landscapes atmosphere is often a central character. 

Many artists and painters speak about painting the light or being a painter of light. They understand painting light as it relates to painting shadows, cast shadows, reflected light, highlights, and to its presence in their paintings.

However, in painting landscapes, especially outdoors, you are not actually seeing (or painting) "the light" unless you're looking at the sun, which you shouldn't do, ever. You are seeing the effect of the light on and around all objects.  

Similarly, you are not really seeing (or painting) "the atmosphere" either; it's invisible. Rather you are painting the effect of the atmosphere. In addition, any natural (or man-made) by-products, such as water vapor or dust, will also have an effect on the atmosphere surrounding all objects.. 

It would be a lot easier if painters just painted what they see, but I also think it helps to delve a little deeper and understand why we are seeing what we're seeing, at least to some extent.

Happy painting.

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