The most inspirational painters are those who manage not only to depict the world but who seem to absorb nature and then re-create it according to some sort of distillation, vision or imagination. In my opinion it is not enough to copy ‘a view’ and far less ‘a photo’ accurately, in the way that a camera simply captures a mass of information without an organising vision or emotion of its own.
I would far rather have a painting done by someone who had stood in front of the landscape and painted what is seen. Then at least the felt sensations of sun or wind on the face and the sound of birds or insects may contribute to the life of such a painting, along with the sense of transience, of having to get an impression down fairly quickly. It is less likely that the result will have a ‘copied from a photo’ feel.
So I definitely respect alla- prima painting. I paint outside quite a bit because it’s a discipline that puts an artist in touch with many of the subtleties of sensation, tone, atmosphere and colour, that very often do not survive into a photograph. So working directly in front of the subject is very valuable in fine-tuning sensibilities.
Slavishly copying photographs may be the far enemy, but trying slavishly to copy nature can be the near enemy. Why? Because somewhere in the equation an artist needs to see something worth enshrining, worth emphasizing about the subject and to understand that other parts need to be reduced in terms of detail or prominence. This is where the artist’s imagination is actively selecting and organising. The work of art is not an attempt to passively reproduce details in the hope that enough of this will somehow create a masterpiece. It is this active organising or visionary dimension that helps to create the work of art and it has to be an important part of the equation.