Plein air painting is one of my absolute favourite past times. Here are 5 reasons to love it:
1. The results speak for themselves
There's something special about a plein air creation. People often remark on the sense of atmosphere or immediacy in my plein air creations. This comes from working quickly and trusting your mark. Quick work might be essential because the bee you're painting didn't hover for very long. Or because the light changes faster than you realise. Or sometimes because the weather is going to get the better of your intentions.
2. It's good for improving observation skills
Drawing or painting from life is always a good exercise for artists. It's absolutely essential for improving your art and learning to render what you see rather than what you think you see. Outdoors, subtleties of light, atmosphere and movement introduce the magic of life into observational art in a way that a studio still life won't.
3. It's ideal for mindfulness
Plein air painting and sketching requires you to be in the moment. It's great for my mental health and one of the best stress relievers I practice regularly. Well, when the weather permits. It really is a breath of fresh air.
4. You've got more space
There's something freeing about being outdoors. That extra space and light can be very liberating for your inner artist. Based on viewer comments, it seems some of my best work was created outdoors. I suspect the joy of not worrying about making a mess has imbibed itself into the art and resonates for others.
5. It's great for social media
Yeah, gotta admit this one. Plein air creating provides photo opportunities that, in my experience, seem to perform well on social media. Showing your creations (and yourself) in situ has two benefits. On the one hand, it adds that all important authenticity ingredient to your online art person, making your creative process visible and relatable. On the other, if you choose your angles wisely, it gives you opportunities for well-lit, engaging images with lots of depth. But you do need to be mindful of where the light is coming from when you take the images.
Of course, plein air has many challenges too. You need to be able to set up and pack away quickly. Organisation is key to make sure plein air preparation isn't onerous. Many people also find creating in public disconcerting. I'm lucky that I've become more comfortable with this over time. It does get easier.
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