Plein air painting has come a long way. From its beginnings in the Barbizon school of painters with artists like Millet to theimpressionists led by Claude Monet. The outdoors was nature in its purest form. What more did an artist need than to face nature and learn from it directly. Even Van Gogh, although not an impressionist, sought truth from nature.
Post world wars however plein air painting was overshadowed by conceptual art. The horrors of modern times were better captured in abstraction and other two dimensional art forms that rejected nature. It seemed that for art to be any good it had to be cynical and at times depressing. Where had the direct communion between artist and nature gone to?
Fortunately outdoor painting had never died out. The allure of beauty in nature together with its ever changing moods made outdoor painting irresistable to many artists. In recent years we have seen an upsurge in outdoor painting among all age groups. Modern impressionist painting in its many variations still attract serious collectors. Plus the accessibility of the work to most people is an advantage to artists.
In the United States, for example, outdoor painting events have become common place. Towns use these events for tourist opportunities. Artists get to learn from each other and the pursuit is a healthy one too. Simply Google plein air events 2015 and see the number results exceed a million hits!
The beautiful thing is that outdoor painting has been accepted by young and old. There are some extreme painters too. These intrepid artists take on extreme weather and terrain to capture nature in its majesty. See a video below for inspiration.
Personally I can relate to this growth. Outdoor painting transformed my outlook on art. It gave me new energy to paint in nature itself. It was an immediate bond. There are many challenges to overcome, but the main one is a mental switch. Painting is so personal that we shy away from exposing ourselves to public scrutiny. In reality it is possible to paint outdoors without public attention. In truth most people do not care about what you re doing. Those that do could become friends or collectors. What is not to like!
To promote outdoor painting, in my own humble way, I am working on a plein air course that will be launched on Udemy.com soon. As a primer for that I have prepared a free plein air guide that you can download in pdf form. Please share with other artists too.
Plus feel free to contact me about your plein air painting experiences or leave a comment below that may inspire others too.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa