Are you an aspiring artist or wannabe? Come and paint outside before the summer is gone.  It’s called Plein Aire and its pronounced “plain air” and has nothing to do with air quality.

Over the last decade, I had the pleasure in taking new and experienced artists outdoors to paint.  Our usual venues are wineries, but we also venture off to wonderful parks and the lake shore.

I was asked why it is not just called ‘painting outside’.  Yes, that would be simple, except this activity could get confused with actually painting things outside, such as your home, barn or fence.  I challenge you to go on Google and type in “painting outside” and see the diverse array of painters whom paint the exteriors of things.
Actually, ‘plein aire’ is a term derived from the French phrase en plein air, which literally means ‘in the open air’. It’s a familiar concept today, but in the late 1800s when the Impressionists ventured out of their studios into the natural world to investigate and capture the effects of sunlight and different times of days on a subject, it was quite revolutionary.

What made it possible for these venturesome artists was the invention of paints in tubes that were portable and allowed them to take their paints and brushes outside.  Prior to that the paints were mixed in animal bladders.

What and Where Do I Paint ‘Plein Aire’?

Your subject matter is entirely up to you, and you don’t have to paint everything you see. You are wanting to capture the essence of the scene and atmosphere, not the details.. Focus on what you see, not what you can imagine or intellectualize about the subject (otherwise you may as well be back in your office or home).

Why not scout out locations in advance to decide what you are going to paint and where you should set up. This way when you head out to paint you can spend the whole day painting and take along the best selection of colors for that particular scene.

Here in the valley we are blessed with color, scenery and natural beauty in every direction. Pack a basket with some wine, cheese, paints and go out and become your own Monet!

By Louise Lambert
Westside Weekly, August 16, 2016