The Plein Air Experience

“En plein air”, or “in the open air”, describes the act of painting outdoors. The plein air experience is very different than studio painting and can be quite challenging. Besides battling insects, sun, wind, and other distractions, the plein air painter must capture fleeting light and changing atmospheric conditions while translating a macrocosm of information onto one small canvas.

Sound intimidating? It certainly can be, but the rewards far outweigh the hurdles.

Success in the field comes with practice. Sure, you’ve bought the perfect equipment and supplies, studied with your favorite instructors, and read all the art books and magazines, but the only way to truly understand plein air painting is to just do it. If you lack the time to commit to a painting, then sketch. If you simply cannot get outside, then paint still life in your studio. Work from life and your progress as a painter will grow exponentially.

Consider that the plein air experience is about more than just creating a well executed picture. Not only is it about painting what you see, but it is also about painting what you see. Your vision and passion are the real subject of your art no matter what you choose to paint.

Piering Out (8x10 oil on linen)

Anything under the sun is beautiful of you have the vision - it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.
– Charles Hawthorne