To paint outside is to paint en plein air. Artists have painted en plein air for hundreds of years, and it’s no surprise that it’s a popular method even today. There’s nothing like being out in nature; it’s peaceful and generally quiet, providing the ideal space for creating art. And if you’re painting an urban scene in a bustling neighborhood, you’re able to portray the energy of the city in a way that’s alive and present. But when you think about plein air painting, your first thoughts are probably of hills, trees and landscapes that reflect the natural world.
Maddine Insalaco is one such artist, who travels as far as Italy to paint and teach plein air workshops. “Although plein air painting relies largely on spontaneity and intuitive reaction, thoughtful planning and deliberate decision making ensure that you will get the most of your time on-site,” Insalaco says. “Refining the ability to paint quickly outdoors has distinct benefits for artists of all levels. There is no better way to learn to see and mix colors than by studying them directly in nature. By studying a motif outdoors in natural light and struggling to assign colors to it, the job of mixing colors in the controlled light of the studio for other works becomes infinitely easier. Consistently painting in the open air will sharpen an artist’s visual memory while generating sketches that can be used as references for future studio compositions.”
Want to learn more about outdoor painting? Learn more in Insalaco’s article, “A Streamlined Method for Quick and Deliberate Plein Air Painting,” which originally appeared in Plein Air Painting magazine.
Then in “Quiet Reverence,” Meredith E. Lewis takes you into the world of Dongfeng Li, an artist who creates atmospheric watercolor portraits. In this article from Watercolor Artist (April 2012), you’ll learn how Li developed his signature style and how he paints these graceful portrait paintings. “Painting from life, photographs and reference material, Li strives to achieve authenticity in each painting,” says Lewis. “Life painting is his favorite way of working. If he chooses to work from photographs, he often changes the color scheme and various personal elements to complete and unify a composition.”
And last but not least, read about master portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has painted models such as John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Tom Wolfe, and more. In “A Brush With History” from The Artist’s Magazine (January/February 2013), you’ll gain insights into how to not just paint a portrait, but how to paint a personality, including how Kinstler interpreted the actor Christopher Plummer in a portrait painting.
Plein Air Art Advice
Maddine Insalaco has been teaching plein air artists for more than 15 years. In “A Streamlined Method for Quick and Deliberate Plein Air Painting,” she shares a wealth of information that she has gathered over the years in a concise article that takes all the guesswork out of painting outside for the first time. She believes that one of the best ways to maximize your time is to have a plan and use it. “In the excitement to begin painting,” she says, “many artists jump right in and start covering the surface with color before the composition is clearly drawn and before they really analyze the subject, the space to be depicted, and its color in abstract pictorial terms.”
You could just grab your paint tubes, palette, canvas, brushes and other plein air painting supplies and head outdoors, but why waste your time and resources? Read this free article to find out how thoughtful planning and deliberate decision making can help you make the most of painting outdoors.
Plein Air Painting Tips
Whether you’re interested in how to paint clouds, trees, mountains, or wildlife in their natural habitat, there are certain things you’ll need to know about plein air painting in order to maximize your time at the easel.
In “A Streamlined Method for Quick and Deliberate Plein Air Painting,” Maddine Insalaco has this advice to share:
“Landscape painting is primarily about depicting space. Plein air painting in particular focuses on capturing light on forms in space, and a sense of light can be communicated in a painting through the successful presentation of value contrasts, or chiaroscuro. Specifically, an artist must grasp the range of contrast between the light and dark sides of forms, the shadows they cast, and how these relationships change depending on a form’s location in space. Often, beginner artists, in their enthusiasm to capture color, make pictures that have no light in them, as they fail to isolate the relative values of the color they see.”
Download the full article now and learn more from this experienced plein air artist!
Bonus! Plein Air Painting Techniques
Included in this free article is a step-by-step demonstration on how to create a plein air painting. Insalaco walks you through each stage, including
• Step 1: Drawing in the composition of your plein air painting
• Step 2: Mixing the paint
• Step 3: Testing the color
• Step 4: Adjusting for atmospheric perspective en plein air
• Step 5: Laying in the colors
• Step 6: Blocking in the composition
• Step 7: Adjusting for saturation and temperature contrasts
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