Every art magazine, each arty email I have received recently, all seem to be discussing en plein air working. I’ve also been looking at a few art competions or ‘Call for Entries’ and there appears to be an increase in ones involving painting outdoors in the local areas. I’ve always enjoyed working outdoors but have not always been comfortable about having lots of passers by hence my en plein air work tends to be isolated locations. Time for a change perhaps.
So what exactly is ‘en plein air’ or ‘outdoor’ painting? Does the whole process involve being outdoors or is it acceptable to to start outdoors and finish off indoors? My own outdoor work is often finished off in the studio but I wonder if I am being true to the genre of en plein air. The Glasgow Boys (an alliance of about 20 Scottish painters in the late 19th centuary) were great believers in outdoor painting with their distinctive naturalistic styles. I wonder how many of them started outdoors and finished in the studio?
It would be an interesting experiment to work some paintings fully outdoors, either ‘Alla Prima’ (in one sitting) or over a few days working at the same time each day to keep the light correct. One sitting means that the weather is not likely to impact on the scene and our British weather is so unreliable that we are unlikely to get the same conditions two or more days running. I sketched a scene two days ago in the hope I could return the following day to paint, but the bright sunshine had changed to dull and overcast. No lovely mottled shadows on the path to paint!
Over the next few months I will compare different methods of working outdoors. Perhaps keep a journal of the process.