Bob Baker — A Fifteen-Minute “Pochade” Painting

9 Apr

Bob Baker, The Shed (Pochade) (2012)

Note: click on image to enlarge

Hello, all!  Here’s my latest little experiment in oil painting.  As I’ve probably said before on this blog, I’m very interested in spontaneity in my own art, but that’s not always easy to come by.  One of the best ways to discover (or re-discover) that spontaneity is to start a habit of doing pochade paintings.

The term pochade derives from the French word pocher — to poach, as in poached egg — and refers to a very quick, rough way of composing a painting.  Sort of a sketch in oil paint.  19th Century landscape painters often used a crude pochade as the model for a more detailed painting to be completed later in the studio.  Yet, in many cases, the pochade wound up being even more interesting than the finished studio work.  For example, art historians are captivated by the simple landscape studies created by John Constable.  With their leanness, simplicity and focus on quickly capturing light, they anticipated Impressionism.

The idea of pochade painting is to severely compress the time in which the painting gets made so that only the broad idea of the subject — form, value and color — takes shape on the painting surface.  Generally a pochade is done in a very small format using a limited color palette, large brushes, and maybe a palette knife.

For this one I used a small, 6″ x 8″ linen-covered board as medium and the following colors: Lamp Black, Titanium White, French Ultramarine, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Yellow.  It took me around 5 minutes to mix the colors and another 10 minutes to complete the painting.  I used only two large brushes, one smaller brush and a palette knife.  When 15 minutes were up I dropped my tools and declared it done.  It was perfect timing, because at that moment my wife called me inside for Easter dinner!  The subject of my pochade is homespun: my backyard tool shed.

I’m new to pochade painting but was pleased with how my little experiment turned out.   I can think of ways to improve in the future — I’ll further limit the palette and brushes and I’ll probably pre-tone my 6″ x 8″ boards in Burnt Sienna (something I do on nearly all my regular landscape paintings).  It’s crude alright, but it has that spontaneity I was looking for.  I plan to continue with pochade painting and will post the results.

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