Painting en plein air simply means painting out “in open air”. When the weather permits many artists like to grab their painting supplies and head into the great outdoors. It’s not a new practice. Plein air painting became fashionable in the latter part of the 1800’s when oil paint first became available in tubes. Before this artists made their own paints. Once liberated from the laborious process of making paint by mixing pigments, which first had to be ground into a powder, with linseed oil; artists happily packed up the newly invented tubes of paint and headed for the hills.
Find a group to join
The tradition continues to this day. If you are intimidated about being out there on your own, it isn’t hard to find a group to paint with as clubs, associations and informal groups of artists, both recreational and professional, meet regularly for group expeditions into the wild (or tame) “plein air”.
Painting en plein air challenges
For those of you who sometimes feel bound up and tight and are a bit too focused on perfect painting technique, plein air practice affords the opportunity to be less technique oriented and encourages a more observation driven approach to the world that surrounds. Paul Klee once wrote, “Art does not reproduce the visible; it makes things visible.”
My dream painting en plein air environment.
Painting in the outdoors creates a sense of urgency for artists, who must make choices about where to focus while at the same time deciding what is essential and what is secondary in the visual splendor in front of their canvas. The French landscape artist Eugene Boudin, 1824 -1898, understood this well and expressed it beautifully when he wrote:
“Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vivacity of touch which one cannot recover in the studio… three strokes of a brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of work at the easel.”
Do you paint en plein air? If so please share your favourite places.