Plein Air Painting: Why Paint Outdoors

Apr 25, 2023 | Blog, PLEIN AIR SERIES, Tips & Tricks

The Benefits of Painting en Plein Air

Painting en plein air, or outdoors, is a practice that has been cherished by artists for centuries. The French term “en plein air” literally means “in the open air,” and it refers to the act of painting outside, on location. The plein air painting movement has gained popularity in recent years—and for good reason!

If leaving behind the comfort and safety of your studio walls to paint in “the wild” doesn’t yet appeal to you, there are numerous reasons why painting outside is a valuable practice for artists of all skill levels. Let’s explore just a few of them.

PAINTING OUTSIDE Develops Your Interpretation of Light and Color

Photographs are notorious for missing the luminosity and wide range of color we see in real life with our eyes. A photo resolves a painter’s color choices for them. For example, shadows are full of desaturated color, but photos rarely pick up on that. Direct observation requires careful consideration, noticing the nuances of color, light, and shadow, and the growing ability to translate them into your art. The practice of “learning to see” that plein air painting affords can elevate the depth of your painting and lead to a more authentic, vibrant, and emotional artwork.

Painting PLEIN AIR Teaches You to Paint Quickly

Painting outdoors can be challenging because you’re often working with changing light and weather conditions. While this may be frustrating at first, it’s also an opportunity to learn to paint quickly and confidently. When you’re plein air painting, you don’t have the luxury of time, so you learn to make decisions quickly, simplify your values and shapes, and trust your instincts.

Painting OUTDOORS is a Connecting Experience

Painting outside your studio can be a great way to connect with other artists. Many communities have plein air painting groups or events, and participating in these can be an exciting way to meet other artists, learn from them, and share your own experiences and techniques. Some artists have noticed painting with others increases their enthusiasm and gives a heightened sense of purpose.

Painting outdoors can also be a great way to connect your art with the community. Painting in public spaces often draws attention and sparks conversations with passersby. Who knows, you might make a new friend or win over a new collector!

If you haven’t tried painting en plein air yet, you have nothing to lose—give it a try! Grab your supplies, find an interesting location or subject, and start painting!

plein air painting friends
📸 Image—Mastrius Mentors and Artists (from left to right): Heather Kinahan, Charlie Easton, Doug Swinton, Julie deBoer, Valerie Speer, Theresa Eisenbarth (front)