What is it?
Today’s Technique Tuesday topic takes us on a trip to the great outdoors as we explore the world of Plein Air painting. The term “en plein air” is a French expression that translates to “in the open air.” It is used to describe the technique of painting outdoors, with the subject in full view of the artist. Although these days many artists work in their studios, often with photographs as reference, many artists still love to paint en plein air–especially landscape artists! When a landscape is created outdoors, the artist is often able to capture the space, the air, and the light more accurately than they could from a photograph alone. The task of plein air painting can be a bit tricky, as artists have to deal with obstacles like unpredictable weather and shifting light throughout the day. Many artists truly enjoy the challenge, though.
Examples from art history:
Painting outdoors has been done for a very, very long time, but it was not until the mid-1800’s that it had a true boom in popularity. After the introduction of paint in tubes and the “box easel”, an easel with telescopic legs and some storage capacity, painting outdoors became a lot more convenient, and the Impressionists were among the first to take advantage of the fact. As the growing movement of Impressionism was largely focused on looser representations focusing on light and color, plein air painting was the perfect method. Impressionists like Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissarro took advantage of the plein air painting technique, and the popularity soon spread across Europe and the Americas. Check out this neat plein air painting done by American artist Winslow Homer in 1868– not only is this a plein air landscape itself, but it depicts several other artists working en plein air as well!
“Artists Sketching in the White Mountains” by Winslow Homer
Examples at Principle Gallery:
Many, many of our artists at Principle Gallery have painted outdoors, but some of them make special effort to do as much of their work en plein air as possible, to give their landscapes a real sense of freshness and life. Sometimes, as it’s understandably easier, artists will paint en plein air and create small studies, then go back to their studios to create a larger version of the work. Either way, it’s often easy to sense when observing a landscape whether the artist used the plein air painting technique in their work; the paintings seem so realistic and fresh, you can almost smell the great outdoors! Here’s a collage of several Principle Gallery artists who delight in working en plein air. Click on the artists’ names in the list below to view more of their amazing work on our website!
(Upper left) Bethanne Kinsella Cople: Bethanne is a great lover of the plein air painting technique. She travels all over the country to paint different outdoor vistas with her signature lush and loose brushstrokes, and has experienced all the ways plein air painting can be both exhilarating and tricky–and sometimes bizarre! Once, when on a plein air painting retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bethanne stepped away from her canvas for a few moments, only to turn around and find that an enormous bear had wandered up to inspect her work! (Not to worry, though, he soon moved along and Bethanne was safe.) Pictured: Bethanne Kinsella Cople’s “Tow’rd Some Far-Distant Wood”
(Upper middle) Lynn Boggess: As you may have noticed, we’ve just had an exhibition of Lynn’s work open this past week! It’s a great show, so be sure to click here if you haven’t yet checked it out. Lynn paints outdoors about three times a week in the woods of his native West Virginia, armed with canvas, paints, and cement trowels in lieu of palette knives, because they give him the flexibility he needs to create his vivid, thickly textured landscapes. Somewhat abstracted, though remarkably realistic at the same time, Lynn’s work has the true ability to make the viewer feel as though they’re truly out in the woods themselves. Pictured: crop of Lynn Boggess’s “2 January 2015”
(Upper right) Kevin Fitzgerald: Based on the eastern shore of Maryland, Kevin has some beautiful views right around him, so it’s no wonder that he enjoys taking advantage of them to create plein air works. Kevin often works in the method mentioned earlier, by creating smaller works en plein air and sometimes painting larger works in the studio based on those studies. Kevin’s work has an incredible sense of peace to it, as the colors and light are captured so beautifully at all different times of day and painted with a profound softness and grace. Keep an eye out, because we’re expecting a whole bunch of new paintings from Kevin within the next few weeks, as we prepare for his solo exhibition, opening March 20th! Pictured: Kevin Fitzgerald’s “Wheatfield Dawn”
(Lower left) Douglas Fryer: Currently based in central Utah, Douglas Fryer is well known for his incredible paintings, and his landscapes in particular. They have an ethereal, thoughtful quality to them that seems to at once capture a sense of stillness as well as the movement of the outdoors. Though he sometimes paints in the studio from photographs, Douglas excels at capturing landscapes en plein air, even occasionally participating in plein air competitions! His landscapes capture what he refers to as the “hidden poetry” in the places all around us, even those that may seem mundane at first glance. Pictured: Douglas Fryer’s “Autumn Memory, South Randolph”
(Lower middle) Gene Costanza: An artist who delights in the “painterly” application of oils, Gene focuses on a semi-Impressionistic portrayal of landscapes and man’s interaction with nature. Primarily self-taught, Gene shifted his career to painting after spending over 20 years in law enforcement. Using the discipline and patience developed during his time on the force, he now creates landscapes with a soft yet vivid atmosphere to them, inviting the viewer to “step into” the scene themselves. Gene will be part of a two-person exhibition called “Coastal Light,” coming up at Principle Gallery Charleston in March, so check out this link to see his new works! Pictured: crop of Gene Costanza’s “Winter Creek”
(Lower right) Sergio Roffo: Sergio Roffo was born in Italy, later immigrating with his family to Boston, MA. He currently resides on the Massachusetts coast, where he paints his incredible coastal landscapes and nautical scenes. With an elegance and freshness, Sergio captures the light and texture of his coastal environment in his beautiful paintings. Sergio will also be exhibiting with Gene Costanza in the upcoming “Coastal Light” exhibit at Principle Gallery Charleston next month–view it here! Pictured: crop of Sergio Roffo’s “Daily Catch”