Our Plein Air group on June 11, 2021.
Early-morning sunlight streaming through the trees. The rippling of the water, and the call of birds. My primary source of summer bliss is plein air painting. Every single Friday.
I’ve noticed that occasionally people feel a little frustrated with Plein Air painting. It's a very different experience from painting in the studio.
Here are a few pointers that have helped me:
First of all, Go easy on yourself. Toss any thoughts of perfection aside, and immerse yourself in the experience! If your painting turns out well, that’s a bonus!
Second, Mindfulness. The joy is in the journey: being outside, noticing the ground under your feet supporting you, carefully observing the beauty of nature, listening to the soundtrack of bird calls and water flowing, feeling part of creation. This is the best therapy there is!
Third, Simplify. Don’t try and capture everything you see—it can be completely overwhelming. Zoom in on a section or an area, even an interesting plant or two. Save detail until the very end—you might not need it at all! (Sometimes it’s helpful to simplify the materials you bring on location as well!)
Fourth, Values. If you focus first on sorting your lights and your darks, everything usually falls right into place. This also helps to simplify the scene. I don’t always do a value study, but my paintings usually turn out better when I do!
Fifth, Focus. Keep your mind and your eye—and your painting — centered around the one thing that initially drew you to the location. Was it bright-colored flowers in the foreground, a glow of light in the background, an array of interesting shapes? Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of the magic that initially inspired you, and don’t let anything upstage it!
Sixth, Embrace the challenge. Plein air painting really stretches you as an artist. There’s a reason artists have been choosing to paint on location for centuries, from the French Impressionists to the Hudson River School in upstate New York, these artists knew that getting outside and painting from life in nature would improve their painting skills and powers of observation better than any other practice.
Seventh, Instruction. Sometimes a short private lesson on color mixing or value studies or some other key principle can make a big difference when you’re painting on location. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a private session if you think this would help you over a hurdle or two.
If you're interest in joining us, reach out to me directly via the contact form, or sign up for the group email under the LEARN tab. Anyone is welcome. You don't have to be mega-talented. And we always have a great time.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.