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Plein air Painting: Common Problems & Solutions

I loved painting this painting at Good Friday Hill, at Sandy Balls Holiday Village, near Fordingbridge in the New Forest. The view is breath-taking and I could hear the wind blowing softly through the pines, and the birds singing …..Bliss! It is a little spot of heaven on earth.

But, as always,  I feel that I could improve it – so here is my breakdown of what I have done and how to improve on it back in the studio.

1                    Untitled

Please click on the images for a larger thumbnail

When I got back home I felt the painting was a bit flat: and so I sat down with cup of tea and gave a long hard look at it. Usually I complete a ‘Plein  air’ on site, but sometimes I will dabble little just to bring the best out of my work.


Problem 1
Tonal Values are all too similar. It’s a chalky looking painting and all very saturated: yes, it was bright sun so I am not too far off here, but the colours seem a bit too similar and lacking lustre

Make sure the easel and panting are not painting in the glare of bright sunshine. Paint with your support in the shade as the tonal values are skewed


Problem 2
I felt that there is not enough ‘depth’ – the foreground feels lacklustre and is not differentiated enough, as a block of shapes, from the clump of trees just above it. How do I pull the foreground forward?

Darken darks in the foreground and create distinct edges where planes meet so I can differentiate foreground from mid-ground, and make the foreground jump forward more. Add more detail in the foreground.


Problem 3
Lacking a strong Focal point or light sources

Identify the focal point(s). Then create an area of brighter, more intense colour here and observe how the objects change colour in the light source. Carry this light through the painting in a ribbon of shapes to lead the eye into the focal point.


I have illustrated these points on the next page, to make this more visual. Take a look. Have I improved on the original painting and resolved these issues.  What do you think?

Please feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading,


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1 thought on “Plein air Painting: Common Problems & Solutions

  1. Actually I like both of your versions. The first one gives the impression of a bright sun-washed landscape, but with distant hills shaded by a passing cloud – the hills are the point to which the eye is naturally drawn.
    The second one draws you into the landscape in a different way, starting with the foreground.
    Would be interesting to display both versions side-by-side.

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