How to Capture a Good First Impression


“Alhambra” (pastel, 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)

“My favorite subjects are those with a special quality of light and strong dark values in opposition — it could be a landscape, a garden, trees. A good subject touches my heart, my soul,” says French artist Sophie Amauger. “In Alhambra, for example, I was impressed by the light in the shadows. I took the time to think about how to translate it accurately— what colors and composition would best catch the light. I didn’t paint this scene on location but I started my painting process reflection on site. In the studio I painted it very quickly on colored UART paper. I was surprised to find it was all there in my head and that the feelings I had as I worked were the same as those I experienced firsthand. 

“In general, I spend a lot of time on location looking for the best composition and taking in the feel of the area. I try to finish my plein air pieces outdoors, but if I have to take them back to my studio, I give myself a definite period of time to finish, and then do no more. Thanks to all my plein air experience, I’m able to paint in my studio with no obvious differences in my work.

“August near Catus” (pastel, 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)

“Very often I use my outdoor paintings to make larger works in my studio. If I’m in a place I would love to paint, but I’m not there to work, I take some pictures, with my painter’s eyes — better than nothing! If I can, I make a quick sketch, paying particular attention to the values. 

“Back in the studio, I look at my photos of the scene before I get started, but I don’t keep my eyes on my computer while painting to avoid detail. To include too much is often to sacrifice the painting.”

Sophie Amauger painting near Catus

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