PLEIN AIR PAINTING
Edited from a contribution by a former member Rosalind
Plein Air painting is the act of taking Art outside. By leaving the studio the Artist goes into the world of 3D, the world of the ever changing luminous effects of natural light and shadows. They have the absolute joy of studying their subject not as a flat picture but as a living, constantly changing actual presence. They can go out on their own or as a group but when absorbed by their creativity they are alone exploring a newly discovered world.
There is a whole whack of information on how and when Plein Air developed. I will leave you to look that up if you want. What I would like to focus on is what makes me love Plein Air, truly love it and how I organize my equipment to make accomplishing the outings easier.
To many people Plein Air means going out to paint, carting all of their Art needs with them, dealing with rough terrain, potty deprivation, weather, etc. What I hope to do is simplify this by making it, simply put, simple.
I suggest starting someplace with easy access. If you have a yard or patio or balcony or someplace easy why not use that as your trial location. Pack as if you are going a distance (no cheating if you are near your Art supplies). Keep a list of what you did or didn’t need then rectify this in your kit when you get back to your studio. Keep your kit together (or make a list of what you remove from it) so it is always ready just to pick up and go.
CHOOSING A SUBJECT
Most first timers find this overwhelmingly difficult especially if you are out in the great outdoors. What is really helpful is to take a cut square/rectangle like a mat to look through. This will make what is overwhelming much more manageable. Take your time!!!! Enjoy looking around your world with new eyes. If you do chose a subject/direction you want to paint continue to use your view finder to look through occasionally but don’t do what I did the first time. Make sure you “anchor” your view by choosing something in your square you can identify. For example a stone or tree in the middle of the left side of the square, etc.
MAKING A MASTERPIECE
Again —- think simple!! Your studio stays in your studio! No matter what kind of medium you use, only take the basics. Think about what you can’t possibly do without then think again. For example, my last paint out I took the basic colours in my water based oils with just 4 brushes and a white paper plate as a pallet. Simple. With the basic colours you can make anything you might need in the way of shades. Also remember that because you start your painting Plein Air doesn’t mean you can ‘t finish it off in your studio.
Many Artists sketch their subject then take it back to the studio. Most take a photo of what they are painting/drawing. Others start their masterpiece on site then come back at the same time on another day to finish it off. Plein Air purists say it must all be done outside to be truly Plein Air. Personally I think these people must live in a one season climate. Boringly predictable!!
Again, keep it simple. Remember Dollar stores have wonderful squeeze bottles for making large quantities into small manageable quantities. Pasta holders or travel toothbrush holders for clean and dirty brushes. Be imaginative. Also remember to use ziplock bags to sort your supplies. It keeps things organized but it also keeps things dry if you get rained on.
What I will do here is list what I bring in my own cart, always remembering though that everyone’s needs are different.
How do I carry all of this – it can be a back pack, a cloth grocery cart (big wheels), a kids wagon. Be sure it is something you can easily get in and out of your vehicle. I have Rubbermaid type drawers in the back of my vehicle where I have sorted my Plein Air stuff. This way I can just take out what I want utilizing my cart to carry it if I am going far. Quite often I will just put the back of my Honda Element down and sit there. It works. LOL
Drawing – sketch pad, pencil, eraser, sharpener, maybe coloured pencils, pens.
Water based Oil Paints – paints, brushes, water for washing my brush off and thinning my paint, 4 pieces of paper towels, canvas (when choosing the size of your canvas remember you will be carrying out a wet canvas when you are done), easel.
Water colour – you know best what you need. I don’t usually use water colour
Acrylic – again think basics with only basic paints and basic needs and remembering the Dollar stores with their little bottles etc. Be inventive.
These should always be in your set up: hat, chair or stool, bug spray, sunscreen, drinking water, umbrella that attaches to your chair and/or inexpensive rain cape, camera. If in a wooded area wear trousers and long sleeved shirts (sun and bugs), sturdy shoes preferably waterproof, clamps or tape to hold your paper down, easel, Kleenex, garbage bag (leave no litter). Remember not to pour dirty paint liquids on the ground near trees or plants which could possibly damage them.
Unless you are painting in isolation there will be people stopping.
I love the following description that I found. I am putting it under absolute essentials because I feel that is what it is.
Absolutely essential . “The nerve to sit there and not worry about what people think of you and whether they’re judging what you are drawing. Just do it because you love it, do not worry about passers by!”
There is no right or wrong in any type of Art. With Plein Air it is one person’s joy of discovering their surroundings accompanied by being as one with your medium and your canvas/paper. Nothing else matters.