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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Why You Should Try Plein Air Painting

'Pretty in Pink'                  8x10                pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available $150
 We have had these azaleas for close to 30 years. I remember choosing them for the wonderful purply pink blossoms and the smaller flowers that covered the bushes. Every year we would take photos of the kids and the dog in from of these azaleas. So it was a natural subject to paint with my extreme plein air kit that I was testing.

I consider my plein air paintings field studies. They are notes for future studio paintings. Every once in awhile I like them better than the studio versions because they are much fresher and expressive but I always approach them as if they were just studies.

A couple of weeks ago I painted the azaleas when they were at their prime. I decided to use the study I did outside to paint a more resolved painting inside. I chose to do a watercolor underpainting to get a head start on the vibrant colors.

Here is the plein air study on the left and the studio underpainting on the right

 Have you tried plein air? Here are some reasons why you should!

You don't need to be an accomplished painter to benefit from painting outdoors. You don't even need fancy equipment. Quick and simple sketches will work as well. I plan on working outdoors more often and I offer you this challenge...put together a small plein air kit that you can keep ready and commit to painting at least one study from life every week. More is better but start with a manageable goal. Have a look at my post on making a cigar pastel box. Here are some of the benefits you can expect:
  • You will see colors better including the subtle nuances that photos can't capture.
  • Your paintings will have a better sensation of light. You will be able to see into the shadows instead of making dark holes.
  • You will strengthen your powers of observation.
  • You will get to know the landscape better and bring a deeper understanding to your studio paintings.
  • Paintings plein air studies can also bring a freshness to your studio work.
  • You learn to work quickly and efficiently so that you can capture the fleeting light. This leads to stronger paintings with less fussiness.

I added a few bright pink pastels for the blossoms

watercolor underpainting on white sanded paper

Do you want to learn more about plein air ? You can see the video demo of this painting and a month of lessons on plein air on my Patreon Page.

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