Plein Eire

Your Site For Artists Who Paint Outdoors

In this freezing weather (for overseas members, Ireland is in the grip of  a major freeze - and I'm not referring to the banks and forthcoming budget here), some members have turned their attention to painting outside in tricky circumstances - such as nocturnes and snow scenes. This leads to inevitable debate about what is and isn't 'Plein Air'. Is it okay to paint from the car? From the kitchen window? From memory? Or to finish off a painting back home because your fingers outside had no longer any feeling in them?
I have had some enlightening conversations with artists of differing opinions about this and read some discussion on this site on the subject. Some are dogmatic about everything being done on the spot and others take the pragmatic approach that the finished work is what matters, not where or how it was made. On a site like this one, dedicated to plein air painting, the policy is that finishing touches can be applied indoors but artwork posted has to be outdoor, or at least 'in situ'. Likewise, plein air events like Art in the Open have to take a stricter view than as artists, we might wish. When such events or organisations start speaking about percentages ('it must be 90% outdoors, or 'no more than 33% may be painted in the studio) I often wonder whether it is time, brush-strokes, talent, square inches or paint volume that the percentage is supposed to be measuring. 
In this I am reminded how many times I have rescued a potential disaster of a painting in the final quarter of an hour and equally, I am proud to say I have now honed down to a mere 5 minutes the complete ruination of an hour and a half's work.

I'm not sure any of  this is worth worrying about but I wanted to share an article (CLICK HERE) worth reading if you are in any way interested in this particular debate. 

For what its worth, I ought to declare that, personally, I really enjoy painting outside, especially on a paint-out with friends and have learned to realise how poor photographs generally are as source material but I don't see intrinsic merit in work made either outdoors or studio. If you do a better painting from the comfort of your car, or studio window, then, for me, that is a compelling reason. But in specific circumstances (such as Plein Air events, or on this website) I accept there are 'rules'.

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what a lot of twadel. A painting painted on site is a record of that place, a painter can use this for whatever they want, but the first image is the plein air painting. I personaly do not consider this to be a true painting, this is only a prelimanery sketch, if I was to think of it in anyother way it would become to precious, and I would not be happy when it goes wrong. Painting outside has enough reasons not to be tryed without these people who need rules for every thing taking over, next thing the health and saftey police will be chasing us for flouting there standards. Paint outdoors for fun, not by rules. Free the Plein Air painters of this world.
Hi Tony, you've started something here! Incidentally, all those plucky members going outdoors encouraged me to don several extra layers and tackle the slopes of a nearby 'mountain' last Wednesday - I photo'd the painting every quarter hour or so and put it on this site as an album that can be viewed sequentially. Used fingerless gloves, winter golf overalls, plus foamboard underfoot and was really quite cozy even in subzero. Farmers driving past thought I was plein bonkers!!
I might do some final studio work on the painting in due course, but it's shown in its plein state.
Competitions aside (and I'm not a great fan of such anyway when it comes to any art form), I really don't think it matters whether a plein air is 100%, 95% or even 50% "completed" on location. The key thing is that the artist derives what is necessary from the plein air experience to produce a stunning work of art, no more and no less. And of course "percentage completed" is a meaningless term anyway. If it's based on time, well the artist could spend nine hours on location doing an outline drawing while working on his/her suntan and then go back to the studio and "finish" the painting in the studio in another hour - 90% plein air then? Perhaps, one could say by observation that a painting is 90% complete, but then again a good twenty minute block-in can look almost complete to some eyes.

I usually spend 10-20 minutes "touching up" my plein airs in the studio, but only if I judge them good enough to sell them as finished pieces. Field studies remain unchanged and I retain them for reference material for studio work - all the rest get binned or wiped! I could just fire them all out there without finishing touches I suppose, but then I think I would be short-changing the buyer. The bottom line for me is that the idea that there is some inherent value in a painting because it has been fully completed plein air is just plain silly. A plein air or studio painting either works or it doesn't. If not then either fix it or wipe it!
Re your last paragraph, Karen, you can achieve this while still doing some touch-ups in the studio. I'm thinking mainly of things like edge variation. Some things can be done more effectively such as softening a tree line against a bright sky for example when the painting has dried slightly overnight. Also if there are any glaring perspective errors (I managed to get a roof angle which was near but not quite at eye level sloping the wrong way in a recent painting). I can't see how leaving that as I painted it would be more "direct and honest" - it was a mistake pure and simple and more a measure of my skill level than the conditions. Whether I fixed that in the studio or on location (if I chose to return the next day), the result would be the exact the same.

Most viewers probably wouldn't see the minor touch-ups I make to many of my plein airs, but if I didn't fix them, everytime I looked at the painting those pesky little glitches would just grow larger and larger!
Come on everyone! We need a real argument here to get our minds off the miserable cold! Having resisted painting the white stuff for the past week, I finally realised why today - I just plain (or plein?) hate it, and one has to love one's subject I feel to really do it justice. Sorry gone off topic here!
Plein Air painting is another way to sharpen your visual awarness and mark making. One perso who seems to take this to another level is an Austrilan artist on you tube, if you have the time look at Robert Hagan's " Cattle Drive". He combines out door painting with Photographs.
Plein Air painting is a direct approach to paint what is in front of the artist away from the comfort of a studio or wherever one paints. It then in itself is a challenge to battle against the elements, time and the public or whatever, to capture the scene, and it is this very approach that gives spontaneity to a painting. Plein Air work frequently looks very different to studio work from the same artist, so both IMO should be accepted as such. When I am out walking I often see a scene that inspires me or part of scene that stimulates my creative process that I will plan a painting around, so I often create a painting using several components of scenes. Kevin MacPherson paints Plein Air and in the studio and frequently uses his Plein Air studies as his reference for larger studio paintings. I think that as long as people are clear on the distinction of Plein Air and studio work then there should be no fuss, and I see nothing wrong in touching up Plein Air work in the studio, be it 20% or 80% if the initial scene/ idea came from the outdoors.

Mmm. Never thought about it. For me Plein Air is ALL done outside, whatever the weather. Many are unfinished symphonies that  I never completed...yet. Must pull some out & see what I can retrieve...or treat as undercoat!! I see nothing wrong with finishing work off at home or in studio, particularly if the location used is somewhere you dont frequent. It may be inpractical to return to the location to finish it...for example another country, while on holiday. In this case taking photos on the day may be useful. I dont have any rules about precentages of time spent outdoors or indoors on a piece, but personally get satisfaction from the total outdoor experience. I have to admit to being a fair-weather painter generally. Snow, ice & cold is actually quite bearable & invigorating. Light rain is fine, but stormy wet weather I havent braved yet. 

Hi there,  .  after joining Plein Eire a couple of years ago I didn't go any further being 'typically' deeply suspicious

of anything involving any other people !  However, Facebook has slowly but surely weened me onto social networking.  .  and now , I'm back, cos I'm extremely interested in these definitions of 'plein air'.   Constantly

I'm explaining to visitors at my studio/gallery at An Clachan Craft Centre , An Chúirt Hotel, Gweedore, Co.Donegal, that this painting is 90% painted outside; this one here is 50/50, this one is 100%, and this other

one is only about a fifth painted outside, but yes, at 1.40 by 1.60 metres it's certainly quite big and I reached

a point where I had to get it inside fast !  And you know what,  . after I go through the predictable feeling

of guilt when I confess that a picture isn't 100 % painted outside, I usually get the feeling that the viewer

really, actually mostly doesn't really care how the thing was painted.  But maybe that's just me ?

For me , the 100 % painted outside picture is the holy grail .  .  so I doggedly pursue the dream.  But, I give myself a break and do a wee tweak once the picture is indoors if it's crying out for something that doesn't

interfere with the integrity.  Often just picking off the twigs and grass etc.

Mmmm,  .   forgotten what else I was going to say.

Anyway, -  Big Thanks Tony, for putting together and maintaining such a brilliant website.

I found two short videos on you tube plane aire painting. Bothe to me are a bit extreem, making our venuers seem minor. 1 is plaine aire painting from Grizzley Peak ( John Kilduff).  2 Landscape artist Mark Brennan ( no relative) Time laps painting Wilderness. Take a look.

What is true plein air painting?
I don't have the answer and my knowledge of english language is very limited to profoundly argue the substance of the theme, but I have some questions that I would like to leave here.
Lets imagine two situations, situation 1 and situation 2.

Situation 1
You are in the midle of a field, in a valley, mountains around you, and you are painting the trees and this little creek.
Is this still plein air painting?

The sun  is very hot, so you put a hat on your head and you continue to paint. Is this still plein air painting?

Instead of a hat, you open an umbrella and continue to paint under the umbrella. Is this still plein air painting?

Instead of an umbrella you enter your car and from there you continue to paint the very same landscape in front of you. Is this still plein air painting?

Instead of the car, you enter in this little house, that happend to be there, and from the window you continue to paint the very same landscape. Is this still plein air painting?

Situation 2
You are in your studio painting a still life set on a table.
Is this still plein air painting?

But the light on your canvas was not good enough, so you set up your easel outside the studio and continue to paint the very same still life, through the window. Is this still plein air painting?

Then you thought of bringing everything out of the studio to your backyard, set up and paint. Is this still plein air painting?

Finally, you put everything in your car and off you go to this field in this valley, mountains around, set up the still life and your canvas on the easel and start to paint this very same still life. Is this still plein air painting?

Helder, I congratulate you on your palette which is laid out very well and has neither black nor white but only an infinite range of delightful greys from the lightest to the very darkest.

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