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Getting some Air - Plein Air

Photo: Plein Air on location at Givhans Ferry State Park
Plein Air on location at Givhans Ferry State Park

The french phrase "en plein air" translates to in the open air. It's also the phrase used to to describe painting outdoors from live scenes.

Plein air painting is all about leaving the four walls of your studio and experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape. The practice goes back for centuries but was truly made into an art form by the French Impressionists with their desire to paint the effects of natural light on the way we see the world. Painting outside is challenging due to the transient light and constantly changing atmospheric environmental conditions. It's amazing, when you stop to pay attention to it, just how fast the light and shadows change during the day. In the photo above, you can really tell how very different the light and shadows were when I did the initial layout for my painting versus what they looked like by the time I finished a few hours later.

For me, plein air painting is a wonderful blend of my love of the nature and of painting. I get to flex both my naturalist and artists muscles. I need to get myself out there and do it more often!

I was lucky enough to spend the past several days at a plein air retreat at one of South Carolina's beautiful state parks: Givhans Ferry. The three day retreat organized by Michel McNinch ( gave me quality time to practice this skill set and create new studies and paintings with fellow artists. All good stuff!

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