Musings and teaching of Edgar Payne

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Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) was born in Missouri but was raised in Arkansas. At the age of 26 he went to California, discovering and falling in love with Laguna Beach…later to settle there for a time with his wife, Elsie. He met Elsie in San Francisco during that first California visit and later in Chicago where she was a commercial artist. They were married in 1912. As the story goes, on the day of the wedding, the morning light in Chicago was so beautiful that Edgar wanted the ceremony delayed until later in the day so he would have time to capture that light in paint.


In 1918 the couple moved to Laguna Beach, becoming influential in the community. Edgar was instrumental in forming the Laguna Beach Art Association and became its first president.

His favorite subject, the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, are represented in some of his most famous paintings. The Sierra’s also inspired his very popular book, which was published in 1941…“Composition of Outdoor Painting”. It’s a comprehensive and instructive book on composition and composition forms. The book also explains landscape painting techniques, color, repetition, rhythm, and value.


Here are a few insightful musing from this great painter and some excellent advice about painting:



“Learning the art of painting is not an easy task. It takes a great deal of intelligence, keen analysis, study and practice.

“The study of art is a lifetime matter. The best any artist can do is to accumulate all the knowledge possible of art and its principles, study nature often and then practice continually.

“The artist should always be the student.”

Edgar Payne – “Eucalyptus”


Departure from the literal aspect, rather than mechanical exactness, is the code of the true artist. However, departures are the result of studied intent rather than inability.


“Knowledge is undoubtedly the keynote to individual thought and originality in painting.

“All creative endeavor is toward a definite purpose. Therefore, it is imperative that we have a definite conception of this purpose as well as a clear understanding of the means to accomplish it.

“The first thing in the study of art is sound, extensive knowledge. The next is knowing how to apply it.”


Plein Air Painting

“Nature must not be forgotten. The habit of continually painting outdoor motifs from imagination will eventually produce only ‘studio pictures’ without the feeling of real outdoor qualities.”


A pictorial representation is always a translation. Nature suggests ideas for interpretation, the artist supplies ideas of how the interpretation is to be made.


“In painting outdoors, the first consideration should be does the view present a worthy motif? Is there quality that exhilarates and lifts the mind beyond the mere making of a picture?”

Edgar Payne – “Pack Train in the High Sierra”

Edgar Payne – “Hills of Altadena”


“When approaching nature for depiction, the primary consideration is the station point which will give the best translation of the motif. To get a proper view and idea of any subject, one should study it from several angles. The idea is to locate the easel at a point which will reveal desirable variations, not only of the size of masses but quality in line, values and color.”

Want the book? Here’s the link.

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I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

For those that have purchased the book, I invite you to join our new Facebook Group – “Limited Palette Unlimited Color”. If you qualify, I hope you’ll join us. Check us out on Facebook. HERE is the link.


Want to take your painting to the next level? I can help. Click HERE to learn about my critique/mentoring programs.


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


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