The Benefits of Painting Outdoors
The benefits of painting outdoors (plein air)
Since the days of the impressionists, artists have enjoyed the experience of painting outdoors. It is one of the true joys of being a painter. Not only are we one-to-one with nature, but there is also the camaraderie when two or more decide to paint on location.
In Australia there are a good number of artists who have always painted a large percentage of their work on location and sometimes on a large scale. Today, there is a kind of revolution taking place, where more and more artists are choosing to experience the enjoyment and challenges of painting away from home, even if it is in the garden!
Why is plein air infectious?
There is no doubt about it, once we are bitten by the plein air bug, it’s hard to stop – you just want more. So, why is that? Foremost, I think painting out with nature is like a holiday for artists. Sure, we can pay thousands for a big painting holiday, but going out for a day’s painting fairly locally, comes without the hassles and cost of something much bigger. A place that you may be familiar with, suddenly takes on a new look and feel when you are there to paint – it has all the feel and enjoyment of a little holiday, particularly if we are in company with other artists - friendships are formed and cemented.
The benefits of painting plein air
There are also tangible benefits to working outdoors.
* You see colour as it is and not through the medium of a computer monitor or printed page
* By using a limited palette are colours become good old friends and colour mixing becomes instinctive
* We tend to work faster because conditions (light and shadow) are always changing
* Because we work faster we learn to simplify and become more confident with the brush – this is extremely beneficial
* Because we are simplifying shapes we concentrate more on tone
* Because we are concentrating more on tone our plein air works will have life
* Because our outdoor works have more life about them, we capture the essence of a place – we become better artists all round!
Keeping it simple
Too much hauling of stuff can have a negative effect on your enjoyment so travel with a limited palette and small canvasses or boards so that a painting can be finished in an hour or so.
Keep your subject simple too, and if you do find yourself facing a complex scene, simplify it by cropping and chopping. Leave things out if it unbalances the whole picture and conversely put stuff in that helps the balance – always be in charge of the painting, we’re artists and we can change things at will!
Don’t let an ordinary scene get in the way of an interesting interpretation.
Caption: Mike Barr plein air painting at Goolwa.