Get outdoors & start painting ‘Plein Air’

Plein Air Painting

Let’s get straight down to business and suggest that if you haven’t yet painted en Plein Air, then you haven’t painted outdoors. Pardon our French, but ‘Plein Air,’ literally translated, is ‘outdoor painting.’ If you have lugged your easel, palette, paints, brushes, canvas and sketchbook to some idyllic outdoor location, then you are in good company with Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

Originally made popular by the French impressionists, Plein Air painting is as popular today among contemporary landscape artists (or those simply trying to find their elusive muse). And you are likely to find your muse outdoors because ‘Plein Air’ also refers to the true colour play of light and shadow – satisfying the inner yearning of any aspiring artist. 

“Plein air painting is all about the experience: getting out of the house, into nature, and engaging your senses.”  -Warwick Goldswain, Art Educator for Shaw Academy.

The composition

For starters, Plein Air painting offers you unlimited subject matter – from landscapes to seascapes and fauna to flora. The outdoors presents you with natural objects and scenes to capture on canvas or in a sketchbook, no matter your paint medium – oils, acrylics or watercolours. Whether realism, expressionism, impressionism, surrealism or abstract art, you get to choose how to represent and interpret the world around you in your own unique way. 

Plein Air painting

As you consider the setting in front of you, your artwork is not limited by the edges of a photograph or cameral angles. You get a live 360-degree experience and are able to physically interact with your surroundings and better transfer that into a painted scene.  

The colours

Setting up your easel and canvas outdoors immediately allows you to view nature in all its colourful splendour. These natural layers of hues and tones are constantly changing with the shifting sun and seasons, creating a neverending spectre of inspiration that enables you to constantly experiment with the colour wheel. 

That is the beauty of painting outdoors. 

The clarity

Plein Air painting also allows you an extra dimension of focus as all your senses are engaged with what is going on around you. This contributes subconsciously to the emotion of how the colours land, dance and blend on the canvas. Even if you are in a group, painting the same outdoor scene, every artwork will differ as each artist engages and converses differently and personally with nature. 

If you have never experienced the outdoor muse, then Plein Air painting should be on your art to-do list. Step one includes stocking up on quality supplies from an online store such as The Art Materials Company and planning your next outdoor trip – easel, paints, brushes, canvas and sketchbook in hand.  

And then, just breathe. After all, that is what being outdoors is all about. 


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