That’s the English translation for En Plein Air.
Artists today are so fortunate to be able to enjoy this ‘method’ of painting. Before the invention of paints in tubes and the French Easel this was a monumental task for an artist. Imagine trying to lug your full-size, wooden easel to the site at which you wanted to paint. Then imagine you had to carry with you all the paraphernalia required to mix your own paints.
We tend to think of artists as entirely right-brained but in the days of Rembrandt or Vermeer I would submit it was almost a scientific (and therefore, by today’s standards left-brained) activity. Creating color from which to paint involved grinding or gathering pigments that resulted in a very limited palette for a great deal of effort. Today we have scientists to do that for us as artists.
Painting ‘in the open air’ is a freedom artists today take for granted and most, as I have done more than I’d like to admit, have spent very little time doing. It is too easy, perhaps, today to work in our studios which are rarely well-ventilated than to gather our tubes of paint (so convenient, yet so taken for granted) and our portable easel, of which there are numerous styles and head outdoors.
Granted the weather and your location can often dictate the sensibility of heading outside to paint. But whether you live in a crowded city and need to set up in a park or wide sidewalk or have the benefit of living in ‘the country’ the possibilities abound. No one, least of all the Impressionists, said a plein air painting had to be of just trees and fields or that they had to be representational.
Certainly some of the more memorable plein air paintings are landscapes but many are seascapes, cityscapes or a combination as seen in Renoir’s The Doges’ Palace, Venice well. As 21st Century artists we are not limited by what we see in our studios or out the window. So what are you waiting for?
Get outside and paint your vision of the what’s outside wherever you may be!