What I have learned about Plein Air….

Plein Air Painter

I am unabashedly a studio painter.  Oh sure, occasionally in the summer months I set up an easel system in my garage and paint.  In my old neighborhood the kids would sneak over, filled with curiosity as to what Mrs. Barron was up to in her garage with the music blaring.  But that was about as close to Plein Air as I have ever gotten.  Now I am living where there is a major Plein Air Competition held by the Cedarburg Artists Guild (www.cedarburgartistsguild.com) every year.

I love my intimate environment with my canvas and paints.  It is important for me to build a relationship with my subject matter.  So I was rather perplexed trying to figure out how to be involved, enjoy the weather (when it was nice this past week), and meet other artists now that it’s no longer too cold to be out and about.  While at a Guild meeting I realized that I could use my time to walk around, meet some of the artists who have come here to participate, and do some interviewing with photos to share with all those who are friends of the guild’s Facebook page.  During this time I have benefitted more than I thought I would.

I have met some amazing artists and seen how they treat their canvases for outdoor painting.  I have seen many different ground colors used.  In fact, one artist used a very bright green undertone which he felt would be difficult to paint over but halfway through the painting he discovered that bright lime tone gave such inner light to his landscape.   We have shared discussions on numbers of brushes to bring, use, and the challenges with whichever they have decided.  However, I believe the most important lesson to be learned from plein air painting is the need to make quick decisions as the light changes so rapidly.  As an artist we forget to use our instincts and I believe plein air painting encourages us to push our talents to the top without allowing our safety devices to get in the way.  A lesson that I hope will stay with me forever.

Most artists have enjoyed the conversations by passerby people walking down the sidewalks and have been so gracious to allow me to invade their space with my pad, pen, camera, and questions.  I’d like to thank them all for their time!

Even though I didn’t paint this year in the competition, I do believe I came out a winner for having met those that I have talked to and for learning all that I have which will provide me that additional courage to participate fully next year.  If you are in the Cedarburg, Wisconsin area I hope you’ll come on out for Strawberry Festival on Saturday and head over to the Cedarburg Cultural Center (www.cedarburgculturalcenter.org) to see the plein air paintings and perhaps bid on one in the auction that begins at 4:30pm.

Hope to see you there!

4 thoughts on “What I have learned about Plein Air….

  1. Even when you are not holding a paint brush, you are growing as an artist. I think you knew what to look for to grow, which makes you the amazing artist that you are. And no courage needed with your brave heart. Glad you got to “listen” to others paint:)

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  2. I have only done a few plein air paintings, but enjoyed them each time. There’s a few downsides, bugs, weather, but exciting to meet artist and the people that visit while painting. It’s all about having fun and being creative and I’m sure you’re doing just fine!

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  3. Thanks for the comment! Actually most artists said they love the constant contact with people walking by but the best discussion of the week has been how many brushes artists bring to paint outside yet how few they actually use. Some even complained about how grey their paintings were getting, using oils and just a couple of brushes, but never considered to use the other brushes they brought. Funny. There were even some kids, around 10 years old out there painting…great to see them joining in!

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