I love the idea of plein air painting. What's not to like? Outdoors - nature - fresh air and seeing your surroundings properly. Paying attention and learning so much about art and yourself. So what is the problem? Well there are many excuses too.
I have heard many comments from artists knocking the idea of outdoor painting such as:
-weather is unpredictable
-there is nowhere nice close by
-painting not good enough - might look foolish
-missing the equipment -its expensive
There are many more excuses. They are all weak.
Maybe there is too much misconception about plein air painting. My take on it is simply about getting my references from outdoors (minimum) and trying to get a something down. What does this mean? Consider the impressionsits. They did not set rules about how much of the painting had to be completed outdoors. Many started outdoors and finished the painting in the studio. I have read about arbitrary rules set by plein air groups such as the painting must be 60% complete outdoors before going into the studio. I am not a fan of this. Sure I agree that a sektch and planning session outdoors then painting in studio is not a plein air painting, but it is far preferable to no outdoor planning and references.
My personal challenge is to make sure that what I do started outdoors. This applies to taking a small plein air painting and developing a large studio work from it. Some plein air studies are an end in themselves. Others go on to inspire bigger studion projects. It all part of the idea so lets not get too fussy.
Sometimes I finsh a painting outdoors. Sometimes not. So what? What if you have a great view and stand at the window painting what you see outside? Fine by me. It is about seeing the real world and painting fleeting moments. It trains the mind to focus and react through the paintbrush. Does it guarantee a perferct painting? No but it will spur on your progress. Is it easy? No but it gets easier.
As far a kit is concerned you do not need much. A little aluminium field easel, a fishing tackle case (new please) and a bag will take all your necessary kit. Start in your garden, beach, balcony, but give it a go. Have a look at my painting demo and notes on My Studio page.
So let us not debate plein air painting too much. It is what you make of it and if your thing is painting nature, people outdoors and street scenes then outdoor painting is part of your life.
The challenge? Paint 100 plein air studies in one year. I am using 25cm x 20cm boards (8 x 10 inch). I will be posting pictures of the paintings on My Studio page. Are you up for the challenge? Let me know and if you would like support then I will be happy to comment and give you support. Join in any time and use your favorite medium (I prefer oil but watercolour, acrylic, pastels are great too).
Are you in?
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