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10 Tips for Painting "En Plein Air?"

10 Tips for Painting "En Plein Air?"

Eric Maisel

5. You will need to be clear about your intentions.

Are you planning to make finished paintings while you’re out? Or loose sketches? Or something in between, something that’s more than a sketch but that still requires work back at the studio? Maybe you actually don’t know your intentions—in which case, try to learn them as you go. Maybe you’ll discover that you can complete things on the spot and maybe you’ll learn that your real goal is to capture a sense of place and finish up at the studio. Learn as you go.

6. You will need to think about partners and buddies.

Would you enjoy going out with a friend? Maybe several of you might travel together? You don’t have to confine yourself to one way or the other—usually Van Gogh went out alone but sometimes he went out with Gauguin. Think through the pros and cons of painting en plein air with a buddy and if the pros tip the scale in their favor, find a painting partner.

7. You will need to schedule real time for the experience.

Most people are so busy nowadays that they can’t find three or four hours “out of nowhere” unless they consciously pencil those hours into their schedule. Look at your schedule and make some decisions about where you might find your en plein air time. If you can’t find the time, that means that in order to get en plein air painting onto your schedule you will need to rethink how you spend your time.

8. You will need to remind yourself of the joys of en plein air painting.

You may be focusing in your mind on the difficulties associated with it and by focusing on them have forgotten how joyful it can be to be out in the world looking, seeing, and creating. Think back to how much you’ve enjoyed sketching in parks and cafés. The studio is great—but so is the world. Remind yourself of its greatness!

9. You will need to keep the process simple and not over-dramatize it.

It isn’t as if you’re going to the ends of the earth! We can easily talk ourselves into the belief that something is far more difficult than it really is. Have a quiet conversation with yourself about how easy it will prove to gather up a few things, go out, and find some fascinating vistas to paint. Don’t over-dramatize the difficulties!

10. You will need to have a conversation with yourself about the importance of en plein air painting to your creative life.

If in the course of that conversation you decide that it is more a romantic fancy or a “should,” let it go. But if you decide that it is central to your growth and something that matters to you a lot, honor your understanding of its importance and make sure that you get some en plein air painting on your schedule—and soon!

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