In painting this plein air painting of the Beachcomber bar down at Crystal Cove, I was faced with a dizzying array of information. In the foreground we have bar stools, bar benches and bar tables all in the same honey-toned wood and to make matters worse, a complex railing in front of it all blocking most of my view (I eliminated). The entire bar was built of the same wood. Add a thatched roof (brown too). Then there was everything behind the bar: glasses, cash registers, bottles and all other bar paraphernalia, plus a bartender.
What drew me to the scene was the contrast of the bright cream umbrella against the darker wood tones. I thought that would make a nice focus. So, how do we approach everything else? It's the suggestion of elements that's the key. I took my time and hinted at everything that was unimportant in the painting. By not fully defining the bottles, benches and misc. stuff, your eye does not dwell on those elements. This allows you to keep coming back to the umbrella and secondary focuses of the bartender, and a couple of glasses here and there. I suggested plane changes in the stools and tables, kept my contrasts down in this area and in the areas behind the bar. The viewers imagination will fill in those details, but in the painting they'll pull together as large unifying shapes.
This 9x16 was painted in two sessions on the same day, morning and afternoon (I broke for lunch at the cafe there in-between ... burgers and coffee are essential to good plein air painting!) This was probably completed in about 4 hours. All of the time was spent on the nuisances, the focal areas only took about 20 minutes. Enjoy!