I could not wait to tell you this! I discovered that field studies, those little on sight paintings you do to gather color notes for a big studio painting--these are a hugh waste of time for an experienced painter. So is painting from the live model. Here is what I do. I copy my digital photograph onto my canvas using grids--then I paint the thing using the info on my flat sceen. If I need color info--I just go to a copy of a master work by Sargent, Zorn, Sorolla, Levitan or one of their buddies that I have archived over the years in posters, books, or photos I shot at museums. I then study their color harmonies, and import them into my painting! This really works, and don't tell me that you can't get EVERYTHING you need this way. One can develop tremendous color knowledge this way. This boloney that you have to study nature for the truth is dead wrong. The great masters knew this. Let me explain.
Chase once said to a student who was complaining: "...if I could only see it (nature), then, I could paint it..." Chase wisely replied: "No! If you can see what you paint, then you will solve your problems..." THE TRUTH IS IN THE PAINT--NOT IN OBSERVATION OF NATURE!
Embedded in Chases' reply is my point. We are not copying nature. We are putting what we know about painting on the canvas. In other words--we are letting nature trigger our painting smarts so that we may display them on canvas. Do you see the difference? Experienced painters always use their little tricks, formulas, recipies, methods, templates that they have gathered over the years to explain what they want the viewer to see. Nature is a POINT OF DEPARTURE--not the "truth"! The truth is what you know and can put down on your canvas. Great artists NEVER paint nature. They instead spill out their experience on canvas to convice us of THEIR reality, to show us their skill, to capture our imagination, to take us on a journey to their goal.
I have always suspected this, but now I am convinced of it. The reason contemporary artists can't approach the works of 100 years ago is that they spend their careers reinventing the wheel--in looking for little nuances that they think are out there under the open sky or in the arm pit of their studio model. Sargent did not learn a damn thing after he left Duran. In forty years of work he really never surpassed El Jaleo or his graduation portrait of Duran--he just went about painting this and that using the certainties that he acquuired. He got everything in Paris by 20 years of age and just went on to become rich and famous by flattering the elite. The knowledge he needed had been systematized, codified, organized and served to him and his contemporaries on a platter by Duran. He distingushed himself by his design sense, his ability to edit the form, and by great ideas and selection. He was just smarter and loved the process more than the rest. Today we are misled by so called master teachers whose can't paint worth a lick and who are not the smartest people on the block. So--we go from workshop to workshop seeking help knowing all the time that something is missing.
Publishers, galleries, gurus, agents, and wealthy artists exist today for sure--not because they are any good--but because of the proliferation of wealth throughout the culture and the robust economy that feeds the suckers--you and me! The phrase: "..more bucks that brains.." applies here. You may want to read Robert Hughs' essay "Art and Money" in his book "Nothing if Not Critical".
O yes painting from life is fun. It helps some to add new tid bits to their lexicon of color for future use. But what usually happens is that every difficult problem on the canvas is solved by some formula acquired from the past that is half assed. Therefore the body of work we produce looks the same--repititions of past "successes".
OK--so what, Hatfield? What's your point? The point is what you make it. If your work sucks--and we all know that it does if we are honest--then shift your paradigm. Feed on the great legacy of paintings that is available to you. Relax, think, put two and two together--read Henri, Hawthorne, McCaw, Loomis, Nicholaides--but most of all stare at great work. Don't give me the "devirative" crap! Our whole existence is derivative--what do you have that was not given to you by God through all of the means of His grace?
Don't stop painting from life, don't stop going to descent workshops. But go about it critically. Don't worship any of the cotemporary masters so-called--just understand that you are watching their tricks and formulas. Develop your own sense of things based on your own great taste. If you have no taste then join the club. But what's to stop you and I from trusting our instincts and using our brains. The same brains that have made us successful in other life endeavors--parenting, working, sports, existing, loving in realms other than painting. Don't go blank when it comes to oil painting--know that all of the answers are out there, or in here--knowledge has never been so available--so go get some.
How do ya like me now? Who loves ya--Don