For long I have been saying that I dont consider myself an impressionist. And I also feel that the rebellion of impressionism is long past its ' best before' date.
But it is still a somewhat relevant in terms of landscape painting.
En plein air has its own charms. The ardent followers impressionists even today will swear by the rules of catching colour and light etc. Some others, who are evolved into other serious art forms, consider it as a study to go back to sometimes.
I have said all this many times. But I too, go quite frequently to paint on locale in Himalayas and all the way down to hill stations in Niligiri mountains. And I often get asked that if I am soagainst tradition , then why I want to paint on location at all! The normal answer in such cases, by many who are not traditionalists or those who paint landscape as study, is somewhat on the lines of, helping improving the 'serious' studio work. And I too agree with that.
Having said that, for me personally, especially in last couple of years, there is another need behind this effort. The effort and stress behind all this travelling has one aspect; that of memories, which for me, is more important than study or fun. The on location painting in my case is seldom at par with my studio work. The large chunk of my on location body of work seems rather unfinished or hurried. The size too is limited in terms of carrying capacity of my body and luggage. In studio, the size limit of artwork, is seldom so small.
Still last couple of years and maybe bit earlier than that I started moving away from reality, in terms of not just minimalist approach but in terms of existence of a place. Many of my viewers recently have seen, that not only my subjects and themes of landscapes are veering away from reality, the places in those are not real either. They are reminders of some places I visited and maybe even dreamt. And in studio with or without reference photos, I just paint that imagery which comes to my mind.
On location painting, seldom affords you the freedom to paint dreams :-).
Photos you started to work with as reference, can be kept away half way through the painting, but you cannot move away the mountains in front. But then I don't think that not being able to move the mountains and river is a problem. Rather sometimes it acts as a grounding factor, so my work remains in the realm of reality and doesn't go too surrealistic! The imagined landscapes gives one a freedom, to concentrate on composition a lot more that a realistic depiction or impressionist derivative of the scene in front. While with photos it is easier to just leave the source behind, it also might make the painted scene look improbable to exist.
That problem is not there, when you paint imagined landscape on location. And I am not saying this like some traditional painters who say about 'taking what you want' from the scene and leave what is 'not needed'. That is quite a cliche.
My attempt is to paint a composition which is somewhat like the scene I am sitting in front of. The composition may have been already lingering for days and the location was a perfect fit! View it only a base and paint whatever composition you wish to. It may seem like some abstract painter who claims nature as her inspiration. But it is not. The basic framework of the composition is similar to that scene. The colour palate too, may depend on that location.
But I paint what I will paint. The scene is not ' a reality inspiring' me to paint an impression. But just a ground on which I have to keep my feet before flying and keep coming back in between . To rest maybe and more to.....keep my landscape grounded on the land!