Sunset on the river
En Plein Air is a French expression which means "in the open air." There are artists who go on wonderful trips to exotic places to paint village scenes, great mountains and ocean vistas among many other subjects. There are numerous groups who regularly meet to paint en plain air; and there are teachers who hold seminars at beautiful inspirational sites.
I ALWAYS wanted to do this painting outside thing, but lack of confidence held me back. What if someone came up and looked at what I was doing? What if it was (which was very likely) crap? I had just begun taking a watercolor class (having always worked with acrylics and oils previously) and I really wanted to start painting something other than vegetables, fruit and cups and saucers from my kitchen. So for my first plein air experience I went just a few blocks from where I lived and sat at the edge of a cow pasture (where I figured it was not likely that anyone would pass by) to paint some wild daisies which were growing there beside the fence.
Certainly nothing fancy was involved. There was no easel...just a watercolor pad in my lap and minimal supplies. But while this was far from the glamourous experience I had always pictured in my mind, it was so relaxing that I quickly found myself absorbed in my little painting and immensely enjoying being alone with nature, albeit alongside a fairly well traveled road with a few MOOOOOOOO diary cows for company. The tiny painting did not amount to much but I was hooked on the outside experience.
My next plein air excursion was equally mundane as I, once again, went just a short distance from home to a school where there was a ditch....but not just any drainage ditch! THIS ditch had some lovely colorful flowers growing in it which had caught my attention. And, again, I thought this place was as safe as any as far as the chances of anyone coming up and being interested in what I was doing sitting at the side of a "ditch." They probably would have considered me simply daft but that was something I could live with!
Finally I was one day able to convince Suz to go paint Plein Air with me. She was nervous for the same reasons I had been back then, but we did it. We went to the Saint Augustine lighthouse. There were a considerable number of people there walking about and sure enough someone came up to us to look at what we were doing. Someone asked if he could see our painting and Suz immediately hugged her painting to her chest to conceal it so quickly I feared she might injure herself, and said, "noooooo". LOL And the thing is, her paintings are always wonderfully spontaneous, full of beautiful saturated color...and delightful to behold.
Boathouse in Mandarin on St Johns River
In the years which have come and gone since those first tentative outdoor paintings, I have enjoyed many many plein air outings. Some have been on hot summer days when you could almost hear your flesh sizzle in the heat; and some have been on days so windy and cold (we can say the Outter Banks of N.C. here...another story entirely!) that it was hard to keep your grip on the brush because your hand was so freezing cold and fingers refused to work. Some were days when a storm was approaching rapidly and the painting had to be done pretty darn quick! And one I recall was on a beach in very early morning where gnats were feasting on my flesh and flying into my mouth and up my nose ....ARRGGG.
Every single one of those outings return to my mind in infinite detail when I run across one of the old paintings. I can still remember every aspect of the experience and, regardless of the elements, would not give up one second of any one of those days...most of them spent with my BFF, Susie, painting by my side.
Sort of makes you want to grab your BFF and a paintbrush doesn't it? Well get to it. I personally guarantee you will have an excellent time. You don't even have to paint...just draw or doodle and enjoy yourself En Plein Air. If anyone asks ... tell them I sent you.
Thanks for coming by today as always and remember to be good to your friends and...