Monday, March 22

En Plein Air Painting

Today’s Image
Reference Photo, Cows
Copyright 2010

I have to hand it to those Impressionists, many of whom were known for painting en plein air. That is, they painted outdoors, on site, and up close and personal to their motifs.

I like the idea of painting en plein air. I really do. Getting out there in the open and back to nature with the wind at your back and the sun in your face definitely has an appeal. You can plainly see what you’re painting and that should help to heighten your creative senses.

I can’t imagine what the Impressionists had to go through to pursue their plein air passion for painting outdoors. Well, maybe I can imagine it.

I know the French countryside and its seashores were and are beautiful and were conducive to creating beautiful paintings, but it must have been awful.

They had to gather up all their paints, which back then were stored in pig bladders, and believe it or not, that was the latest thing in paint manufacturing.

They probably had to make their own art boxes and easels sized to fit their own supplies and their personal ability to haul all that out to the countryside.

Traveling in the late 19th century was no picnic, it seems to me. They did have locomotives to get around the country, but they still had to get to their plein air site by wagon, on horseback, or on foot. That can take up most of what little time remained when the light is just right.

Then there was the climate to contend with. I remember reading in one of my books on Monet, how he was almost killed when, painting on a seaside cliff, he was overtaken by a monster wave. Now that’s perseverance.

And, they had no sunscreen, no UV-ray sunglasses, no bug repellant.

So why am I even talking about this? Well, it’s because about twice a year I get the en-plein-air bug. It’s when the weather is mild and sunny and the humidity is relatively low. It’s when I get the urge to find the perfect plein air sites with natural scenery including puffy clouds, rivers, meadows, birds, cows, etc., etc.

So back to nature I went the other day in search of some scenery. And I did find some similar to Today’s Image.

As I’ve said before, I don’t paint with oil for a number of reasons, odor and drying time being two of them. And acrylic paint dries so fast that it's almost unusable out of doors. And for some reason, I can’t picture anyone painting a watercolor en plein air.

So instead of setting up shop with all my paints, easel, and supplies, I simply pulled out my digital camera and photographed my favorite scenes, which I’ll use as reference photos for some future paintings.

As I said, I’ve got to hand it to those Impressionists and their plein air painting.


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