Art In History Art Blog
Hello out there! I am a plein-aire painter and teacher, and what I most want to do with my new blog is to pass on the tips and techniques which I have shared with my students in the past. This cannot be a substitute for the interaction with a teacher as you work, but particularly for artists with previous experience I hope it can be helpful, and will start some fun conversations.
This is the first of many posts in this category. In it I want to define what plein-aire painting is for me. In the broadest sense, plain-aire painting means working out of the studio, in front of your subject. However, this can be done in many ways, notably as preparation for a later finished work done indors, or as a finished work in itself.
Artists for hundreds of years have sketched out of doors to train there eye, to gather subjects, to collect compositional and color notes for future use. These are all valid reasons to work outdoors, but for me they do not make a true plein-aire artist. A plein-aire artist is one who works out of doors because only in this way can he or she achieve the immediacy and truth that comes from direct communion with nature. This enterprise began only a little more than 200 years ago, with the English watercolorists, and later the French naturalists of the mid-19th century.
For me working out of doors is central to how and why I paint. I paint because something out there makes my fingers itch to capture it, as it is, with all the freshness and immediacy I can muster. I can only see a fraction of what is there to see, but each day it may be a larger fraction, and on good days the result if a kind of truth with resonates with the place and the moment. Sometimes I have expanded such a work in the studio, but I always do so knowing that, whatever "improvements" I may be able to make, I will lose more than I gain of what is most important to me in the original.
Incientally, one of my favorite subjects is winter scenes, and I have worked out doors is temperatures as low as 10 degrees Farenheit; my record is 0 degrees, and a still, bright day. Oil paints are remarkably immune to the cold.
So this is for the other Plein-aire painters out there, and for those who thank they might want to be converted. Let me know if you are listening!