Plein air painting is still an interpretation of reality, even though I am seeing the scene first hand. My "truth" is far more interesting to me than the scene in reality. Linda Blondheim
I’ve been posting my own plein air pieces … this is the most recent done a couple days ago while sitting on a friend’s deck.
When one of my friends told me she had to look up plein air because she didn’t know what it meant it occurred to me that others may not know either. So, A History Lesson….
Plein air is French and literally means ‘open air;’ painting outside, in the open air. In Italian one would say they were painting ‘alfresco’.
It isn’t a technique that has always been used. Prior to 1800, artists had to make their own pigment using a mortar and pestle. All paintings were done in the studio, including landscapes.
It wasn’t until 1800 that artists were able to get their paint in tubes. That gave them a freedom they hadn’t had when they mixed up their own paints.
Plein air is a term that is often associated with Impressionism though the two are not synonymous. However, it did influence the movement.
Teta Collins writes in The Artists Bluebook: Painting from life is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique. It challenges artists to concentrate completely on the information in front of them. their senses absorb it all, from sight to sound, from temperature to atmosphere, then channel these feelings into their vision in paint on paper or canvas… Painting en plein air would forever change how we see the world.”
Some artists using the technique today paint their major works start to finish en plein air, others use plein air works for studies, still others use it just because they like painting outdoors and some, like me, use it to help them improve their skills.