Every month, I organize and attend a paint out for the meetup group, Plein Air Round Rock. In October, we met up on a chilly morning at Round Rock West Park, a small neighborhood park featuring a pond, distant bluff and surrounding trees. As I walked around the pond in search of something interesting, a small tree which was backlit by the early morning sun caught me eye.
The sun was rising behind the tree, creating a halo of light at the outer edges of the tree's leaves. The bank at the base of the tree was in cool shadow, with areas of dappling sun spots scattered over it. Because the sun was rising and changing with every minute, I had to work fairly fast to capture the light's effect.
The painting took me about two and half hours. I was happy with the tree and felt it was a good representation of the light on the outer leaves. Although, there was something I was not quite happy with, but I could not quite put my finger on it. When I got home, I took a photo of the painting. Sometimes, when I look at a photo, instead of the real thing, I can see quickly what is working and what is not. It was the tree I had painted in to the right of the main subject, which was too overpowering. I needed to darken the area to the right of the tree, pushing the background further back and therefore, drawing more attention to the bright yellow sunlit leaves. After tweaking the plein air piece in the studio, I feel it is more successful.
It is easy to get carried away when you are out on location, with painting in too much detail. Don't forget to make the focal point the most detailed thing in the artwork and let the other things around it fade back a bit.