Landscape Painting- “En Plein Air”

By: Courtney McCreary

~Hello friends!~

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from being cooped up in the painting studio, and head outside to work on painting en plein air.

“En plein air” is French term which translates to “in the open air”; essentially a fancy term for painting outdoors.

This method of painting was popular with Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, and is still utilized by many landscape painters today.

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One of my en plein air pieces, probably about 2-4 hours worth of painting, collectively. (Oil on Arches paper)

The overall goal of en plein air is to capture light patterns and values within a landscape, focusing more on the essence rather than achieving a photo-realistic painting. You don’t really have a lot of time to worry about fine details, because you only have 2-3 hours at the most to work before the natural light changes. Therein lies some of the tricky aspects of en plein air. Everything is done outside; setting up your easel, paint mixing, color matching, composition, etc. Sometimes the prep work alone can take up upwards of a half an hour before you actually get to start painting. This can be frustrating at first, but with more practice, color mixing and matching becomes easier and you find your own little ways to problem solve.

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Another study, about 1-2 hours. (Oil on Arches paper)
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Some 5×7 en plein air achromatic studies (Oil on Arches paper)

With en plein air, and with any other form of art, practice is so important for improvement. It’s good to do little studies and find out what kind of landscapes you genuinely enjoy painting, whether it’s trees, mountains, seascapes, fields, and so on. To use my own work as an example, I’ve been painting the same cluster of trees for the past few weeks, experimenting with different light and angles to find what works best for me. Whatever you choose to paint, enjoy your time outside and the nature around you! Go forth and paint!

Have a great week~

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