|©Theresa Grillo Laird - Across the Bay - oil on canvas|
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I say it's high time we take back the definition of "plein air" from the multitudes of former illustrators who have hijacked it.
"Plein Air" means painting outdoors plain and simple. No where has it ever been said - until very recent times - that you don't dare touch the painting again and that it must be finished quickly in one shot.
Before the computer age, commercial artists had to work quickly and in a kind of painted shorthand if they expected to keep their jobs. Artists aren't bound by the same constraints. For well over 100 years artists have toiled in front of nature blissfully ignorant that the masterpieces they were turning out weren't legitimate plein air!
Imagine telling a Monet or a Redfield or Edgar Payne that they were unwelcome to exhibit or join an artist's association because their painting lacked the freshness and spontaneity that only something painted quickly in one go could have.
Painting in front of nature is without a doubt the best way to learn landscape painting. Colors and values aren't very accurate in photos and photos completely lack the sense of air space between and around objects. Painting on the spot also gives you familiarity with the elements that a landscape might be made of. A tree isn't just any tree for example. Each tree and each kind of tree has it's own unique characteristics. The same tree will even look different under changed weather conditions. Nature is never a boring teacher!
So grab your paints and head on outside. Learn everything you can. And don't let anyone tell you that your work is less worthy because of when or where you chose to call it finished.