Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Plein Air?: Part One: The Artist

Painting Paul by Wendie Thompson

So last week I was invited to speak about plein air painting to a statewide committee WDAC (Wisconsin Downtown Action Council). Thought I would share some of what I said here!

Allow yourself to think for just a moment about either the best day of your life or the worst. If you'll notice an image came to mind...just one. And it's that one image that represents the whole day. That image triggers all the rest of the images of that day cascading into your memory like a waterfall. With that image all the senses are triggered...smell, sound, temperature and emotion! This is how our brains work. We remember moments not days.

The plein air painter is attempting to catch that one fleeting moment in paint. Why do we do it?

We do it for a number of reasons:

1. To learn: It's a "shortcut" to becoming a better painter. No camera can capture the full spectrum of colors found on location. And because you are racing the sun your senses observe faster than you can think. We learn to "see".

2. Artists often gather together to paint plein air. It breaks up the solitary studio time and great friendships are forged! Often there are group critiques which help everyone become better.

3. It tends to drive one "into the moment" where there is no past and no future and that is where many can find peace.

4. To work out colors and compositions for future larger paintings.

5. To document the changing world around us.

6. To meet and create new collectors. (More on this later)

7. Some like to compete. I am of the opinion that nothing pushes you to get better faster than a little friendly competition!! There are at this writing 14 Competitive painting events in Wisconsin this season. They are listed on the WIPAPA blog ( Anyone can come to these events and watch the artists painting...fascinating, fun people!!! Also a really great way to find new fresh art for your collection!!

I'm certain I missed some reasons. Feel free to comment. I will add them!!

Chief Instigator, Wendie Thompson

Next: Why communities get involved??

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