If you haven't guessed by now, I am becoming quite the advocate for using a timer in the studio! I thought I'd share an example of my using it to start a painting. With only 30 minutes to get as much in as I can, my brush moves quicker, I mix paint faster and more intuitively, and use more of it. It stretches my observation skills.
This is a 12x16 panel* and in the first 15 minutes you see my drawing set and the bones in place.
Then in the next 15, the whole panel is covered with masses blocked in. Now all I have to do is model my forms and play with highlights/shadows. I can also decide at this point if its going to work. The colors and composition are balanced. The focal point - the figures - are in an interesting spot and from the viewer's point of view, we are going to meet in the crosswalk.
Now, I'm working from a photo in this case. But I've been doing it when painting the model from life. And I think it would be an ideal way to approach plein air landscape painting. Think how fast you could get in your masses and determine the sun/shadow before it changes.
Granted, this doesn't appeal to everyone. Its not for the realist or the person who likes to render objects. My buildings will be left as masses of obscure shapes, for instance. But it works very well for the impressionist. Try it!!
(and wish me good luck not messing up from here!)
* note: the diagonal lines through my panel help me locate objects in my sketch. While I am being loose and gestural, I do want my figures to be the right size relative to their environment, and I want the right perspective. This is a trick I learned from Jeanette Le Grue (great painter!) and I do it both with photos and from life.