Plein Air Painting

The French term plein air means out of doors and refers to the practice of painting entire finished pictures out of doors.

Getting Started

I was introduced to plein air painting well after art school. We definitely painted from life and imagination in university but never went outside to paint because–well it’s Florida so the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

However, I started going outside to paint with other artists in Maryland and West Virginia to try this plein air for myself. That was 20 years ago, and I have not stopped looking through the lens of painting outside in extreme conditions–heat, bugs, animals, rain…you get the picture.

You can take hundreds of photos to capture a place but nothing beats sitting with your easel and paints to create a memory of your favorite spot.

If you need to record a time and place, make a photograph as a reference. But if you need to create a memory, paint from life–outside.

To get started you need to choose your medium, your easel, and your composition. Easy, right??

Medium: What type of paint?

Oil paint is my preferred method due to its longer dry times and complexity of colors. This is what Monet and the other Impressionists used. Pros: artist can speed up or slow down the drying times using different mediums; Cons: messy clean up with chemicals like oderless mineral spirits

Watercolors and Acrylic Paint

Pros: Wide range of colors, easy cleanup, dries fast, no messy clean up/chemicals

Cons: Save your white/light areas, dries too fast, goes dark or muddy easily

Fish Beach, 2019 Monhegan Island, Maine

“Creativity takes courage.”

Henri Matisse

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