'Plein Air' Anyone?

Setting up for a Plein Air painting demo for guests on Whistler mountain.  

Plein Air painting has become very popular since the Impressionists first ventured out with their umbrellas after finding out they could, for the first time in history, go outdoors with their newly invented portable paints.  Understand, before the 'artist's colorman' appeared on the scene and made paints for sale in collapsible tin tubes, the painter would make fresh paint in studio every day that was kept in sea shells, or animal skin bladders.  Not very easy to throw in your day pack.  

At the 'Giant Steps' waterfalls in Paradise Valley, Banff National Park.  

Anyway, since then, landscape painters in particular, have taken to the woods and fields and mountains, as well as the streets, to practice their craft en plein air.  There are several advantages to this practice as I see it.  First, it really does help to view the changing colors and values in nature to help capture, or improvise on, the subtle, and dramatic effects one perceives.  Learning to synthesize, and simplify, is also a valuable skill that can be developed as you often need to work fast as things can change very quickly as well.  I am sure there are other good reasons for this practice that I can’t think of at the moment, plus, it’s not really something I am particularly interested in myself. 

I much prefer hiking and taking lots of reference photos of the beautiful scenery to sitting in one spot and painting.  

Thank the tech gods for cameras, esp digital ones!  If I am going to spend time in a beautiful area, like the meadows in the Rocky Mountains for example, I am much happier hiking and exploring and taking in as much as I can.  In the 3 or 4 hours I would spend sitting and painting I can hike many kilometers and take dozens of pictures of amazing scenery that I can then use for inspiration and reference material back in the studio. 


But that’s just me.  Whatever your preference, we sure are lucky to be able to get out and enjoy all the wonderful landscape and paint it in whatever way we fancy.  I am looking forward to some inspiring hikes again this summer.