Vista vs. subject

Bartc

Well-known member
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520
In our plein air group I have long maintained that a "vista" doesn't always make a great subject for painting for many, me for certain. Some folks can make an appreciable painting from any view. I find that a "wow" view doesn't always translate that way for me.

In the SF Bay Area we have a lot of sweeping vistas available. Partly because of bay and ocean and mountain combos and partly because there are many many viewing points to see a broad panorama. But a panorama isn't the only thing in plein air!

Yesterday I had to swap our painting sites due to a weather front and ended up mid-Bay at Treasure Island. Vistas galore in every direction, starting with city skylines, islands and peninsulas and mountains, and even the boats and bridges if that's your thing. Most of us got lured into doing the SF skyline, and by way of confession, urban skylines are not my fave. I did it, but didn't feel inspired and it shows in the pastel of that below. But I didn't want to waste the time, so whipped out my watercolor kit and dashed off a simple but effective view of some of the islands and land masses, which did work. YMMV, of course.
San Fran skyline from Treasure Island 22.jpg
Alcatraz.jpg
 

ntl

Contributing Member
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1,250
You make a good point. Your pieces reflect it.
I prefer the second, but with serious cropping of the first, I would enjoy it, too.
 

Bartc

Well-known member
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520
NTL, of course, I'm not an urban sketcher nor do I particularly like painting modern urban structures. I can certainly paint structures, just prefer them more intimate and having "character". So that part isn't quite the fair comparison because I confessed I was wowed but not inspired by the skyline.

A local (or experienced tourist) would recognize in the latter 4 major sites/sights: Alcatraz Island, Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais and Angel Island. All were in fact in view as you see them, though I simplified the details, which were obscured by haze anyway.
 

Donna T

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1,691
Both are very nice plein air pieces, Bart, and it's great that you and your group don't let less-than-perfect weather hold you back. I know what you mean about vistas. While they are beautiful in life it seems that often paintings of them consist of bands: a band of sky, a band of distant land and a band of foreground land or water. Where I used to live I had a wonderful lake view but I could never quite get a painting of it to work because the composition wasn't very strong due to the bands and lack of strong verticals. At least in your city view you have the clouds sweeping upwards and the wonderful diagonal of the bridge, not to mention the buildings which add so much interest.
 

Bartc

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520
Both are very nice plein air pieces, Bart, and it's great that you and your group don't let less-than-perfect weather hold you back. I know what you mean about vistas. While they are beautiful in life it seems that often paintings of them consist of bands: a band of sky, a band of distant land and a band of foreground land or water. Where I used to live I had a wonderful lake view but I could never quite get a painting of it to work because the composition wasn't very strong due to the bands and lack of strong verticals. At least in your city view you have the clouds sweeping upwards and the wonderful diagonal of the bridge, not to mention the buildings which add so much interest.
Thanks, Donna. BTW, what caused a last minute change in venue was actually an extreme heat condition in the inland area we were scheduled to paint. In the middle of the Bay the wind and some fog moderated the temps. Nobody really wants to paint when the temps hit 90F!

On our last trip to Italy late June/early July, the temps were 94 - 104F in the shade every day. Fortunately, I arise very early and can paint as soon as there's light, so early AMs were OK, but mid-day you could forget about altogether.

I have a thing about "postcard views". If a locale has basically that Swiss Alps postcard view type vista, but not much else, I'm not interested in going. I can look at that in travel photos. On the other hand, some small out of the way places are simply loaded with atmosphere, character, and good lines and subjects to paint in large or small scale. Those are what I travel miles to see, then to paint if time allows. Or simply to wander and look and enjoy. Just my personal preference.

But as to vistas, I try to tell especially our newer painters not to fuss about panoramic statements, because they may well miss the best compositions.
 

classic

Well-known member
Messages
131
I love this kind of abstraction. Any details are suppressed, only few elements stay that are able to describe the essential of the scene !
:)
 

Jo Castillo

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1,795
I like both. I bet after the pastel sits a bit you will be happier with it. It is hard to pick when there are so many grand views. Well done!
 
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