I have been thinking about writing this blog post for a while now about the relationship I have with plein air painting and the relationship plein air painting has with the rest of my art practice.
When I was in art school I was a drawing major and so I studied drawing and I drew a lot. I had a few painting classes and learned some basics but it was really just a drop in the ocean of the understanding needed to really establish a strong foundational core for your painting practice.
I remember for my final graduation piece for the big grad show, for some reason I decided to do a painting. A big one! Like 8 feet by 6 feet or something like that. Even though I had never really endeavored to do anything like that before. I was astounded how long it was taking me to complete this piece and I remember working literally right up to the last day deadline and the painting was still wet when they hung it in the show.
I realized something about painting during that big final piece I did for my graduation. I realized that there was still a lot about painting I didn’t know, naturally, though, I realized I in fact knew even less than the obvious small amount I did grasp to some degree. Or that there was so much more to it than I anticipated. It was humbling.
That summer after graduation I began learning to paint.
And literally the first painting I did to begin this process was a landscape plein air painting. My reasoning was simple. “Learn From Nature”, I mean I read that statement over and over and over in all the art books I studied in school, and I had already established clear feedback from my drawing practice that I leant an immense amount about drawing when I draw directly from life and so seeing as how my new home summer studio after my graduation was out in the country side surrounded by nature; the landscape was a ready subject ripe for observing, and in my eyes the perfect aid in teaching myself how to paint for real; to lean the basics, the fundamentals and to create these into a Solid Core Foundation to fuel and support my artistic expression. And so this is what I did.
I spent that summer not only painting the landscape, but also painting a lot of self portraits, portraits of my girlfriend at the time, still lifes, interiors, ect. I took every opportunity to paint directly from life. And this is the crux of this blog post. I did this, I painted from life, and I painted plein air, because it taught me the fundamentals. I started learning how colors interact on a flat plain, and how to make something look and feel real. I wanted to know the rules. I wanted to develop and know the basics, so that I had a stable foundation from which to branch off and explore other means and methods of painting.
Plein air painting always gave my studio work a liveliness and vitality. And so even when I was focused very much on studio work, I always found time to go out and paint plein air as the foundational process to strengthen the core of my painting practice and really understanding the structure of how paint interacts on the canvas to form the appearance or illusion of space and objects
So I still go out today and paint the landscape. Its like my baseline.
Even when I am not doing a lot of painting, I have maintained an application of painting the landscape. Simply as that very basic, building blocks, process of painting.
So if you are an artist and you are looking for a way to develop your skill. Or you are wanting to begin your artistic journey, I’d highly recommend plien air painting or painting directly from life anywhere, whether that be still life’s, or portraits. Or if you are a drawer, and not yet into painting, then the same applies if you haven’t yet, to draw from life as that regular study of the basics, and development of the fundamentals.
So one primary reason I paint plein air is because of what I explained in this blog. It is how I learn, practice, and perfect the basics and fundamentals of painting.