There's just something about a loose, sketchy painting. You know the kind I'm talking about. Bold brush strokes, strong abstract design, calligraphic marks. The best of them honestly convey a scene with a minimal amount of strokes. They appear carefree and quickly rendered, when often the artist spent quite a bit of time on them.
Having studied quite a bit with Scott Christensen, I've had the pleasure of watching him paint in the field. He mixes several puddles of paint on his palette to achieve the right values and temperatures. And then in what seems like a flash he crafts these amazing studies. Loose yet accurate and true. His studio work is off the charts impressive, but the honesty and expressiveness of his field sketches is inspirational.
There are plenty of highly detailed, photo-realistic painters out there whose work I admire. But whenever I'm in galleries or plein air events, it's often the loosely painted pieces that capture my attention. Trying to explain to my non-artist friends why I prefer these sketchy studies over more refined work is difficult. A lot of folks gauge the success of a painting by how realistic it looks. For me, I enjoy the impression of the scene as rendered through the artist's vision.
One plein air artist I discovered recently who has wonderful, loose work is Roos Schuring. Roos is a Dutch painter with a fearless attitude, bold brushwork and great use of natural colors. She paints outdoors year round and has clearly mastered a wonderful, loose style. Here are a few examples from her website.
Learning to loosen up your work can be a lot of fun and also help you be more productive in the field. By studying other artists with a loose or sketchy style you can learn how they simplify scenes. So, the next time you venture out into the elements, try to loosen up your work and see what happens.