What is Plein Air Painting?

Plein Air Painting comes from the French phrase “en plein air” meaning “open (in full) air” and describs the act of painting outside.

Plein air is to paint direct from nature and try and respond directly to whan you see before your eyes mixing the correct tones and colours.

Through history many artists have painted outside but during the 19th century plein air painting became very important to groups such as the impressionists including John Singer Sargent. Plein air painting increased in the 1840s with the introduction of paint tubes which offered more flexibility for the artist to paint outside. This must have been an incredible advancement at the time as many painters made their own paint by grinding and mixing powders and blending with linseed oil.

French impressionist painters and Plein Air Painting

The French impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir advocated plein air painting and much of their work was done outside

Why I like painting outside?

After spending many years working in studios as a scenic artist I decided that I would like to develop my own painting and took up the challenge to paint outside. For me obtaining realism and true depth and tone is very important. Variety of scenes and outside light also play a big part

Challenges of painting outside

Just as in the 19th century for Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir the challenges are still the same dealing with ever changing light, learning to get colours down quickly and to embracing your surroundings.

Plein air for me is so exciting and give me the experience of recreating a view in a way that photo can not record. Of course it’s not always plain sailing (no pun intended) the outdoors has no central heating so I make sure I’m dressed for any occasion so wrap up warm and let the magic begin.

Plein air is always different for me but it is also very rewarding and it inspires me to keep going out. The world is full of great locations you just need to learn to paint faster.