The following article is an expansion for the Art Association Napa Valley on one of my earlier posts
Many artists will tell you that gaining experience painting en plein air is essential. They insist that experiencing the light when painting out of doors is unmatched. Historically, the act of outdoor painting from observation became popular in the 1840’s when paint became available in tubes. Natural lighting was especially important to the Impressionist movement.
In my own experience, I feel that plein air painting helps me to remember what I liked about a particular spot. When I take photographs for reference, it’s too easy to quickly snap the picture and move on. Actually sitting and looking at a scene, even if only for 15 minutes, helps solidify that picture in my mind. I find it much easier to get the result I want back in my studio after spending time outdoors.
Painting al fresco can also help you become less rigid or methodical. The changing light and weather conditions force you to work quickly. It lends itself to doing quick sketches that capture the essence of a scene before it is gone. Personally, painting from a boat at anchor is even more challenging. One’s point of reference is always changing even in the most still conditions as the boat gently sways in the currents and tides. And recently, my subject went from full sun to thick fog then back to sun again!
There are too many new and wonderful tools to cover, but plein air painting can be done with anything from a simple pencil and pad to a full French easel and oils. I find that I paint more often on vacation if I limit my supplies as much as possible. Most recently I’m using permanent ink pens with color added over them. I like my watercolor travel palette best, but also find the new Winsor Newton watercolor markers are a satisfactory substitute. I’ve tried many of the water-soluble crayons, but I don’t like the grainy residue they can leave behind.
Your Art Association has a plein air painting group. We try to get out a couple times a month in the summer. Come join us and try painting en plein air for yourself. Contact Sharyn Kastner Danielson for more information, sharynkd7 at gmail dot com