Plein Air Painting Blog

The Plein Air Blog celebrates the making of art in the great outdoors. From inspirations on painting light during different times of day to dealing with the practical matters that are an integral part of painting outside the studio, the Plein Air Blog is your faithful companion when it comes to tips and techniques, troubleshooting advice, informative resources, and surefire strategies for success. The plein air painting experience is about an artist’s love of nature and love of art, and the Plein Air blog is here to help you discover how to put the two together, so explore all the articles, step-by-steps, inspiration galleries, technique guides, and more that we have for you.

Moon Walk by John Hulsey, pastel painting.

Ever Hear of the Purkinje Effect?

Have you ever noticed when you are plein air painting how the colors of objects look so radically different in the very low light just before dawn or twilight? Take a red rose, for instance. We know that the flower’s petals are bright red against the green of the leaves in daylight. But, take a…

Plein air painting: Giant Easel

A Giant in the Field

Mammoth Plein Air Easel Another sunflower season has come and gone and this one was amazing. Our neighbor, Farmer Ted, grows about sixty acres of sunflowers for a birdseed crop every year. The sunflower is the official symbol of the state of Kansas. Western Kansas has enormous fields of them. Around here, though, they are…

Abergavenny Bridge, Monmountshire by J.M.W. Turner, watercolor painting

Turner’s Mysterious Yellow

A Watercolor Wonder A favorite pigment color in our watercolor palettes has always been Holbein’s Indian Yellow. We were distraught when it was discontinued in 2012. When we contacted Holbein to ask them why it had been discontinued and if they planned to bring it back, they replied that “changes have been made to the…

Storm Clearing by John Hulsey, oil painting.

The Eye of the Beholder

Plein Air Food for Thought Our lives revolve around those beautiful things, places and moments which inspire us and the effort to explore and reveal that inspiration to ourselves and others. It is a funny occupation in some ways—being a visual artist—and it often defies the hard Logic of the Marketplace and even our own…

The Wreck by Frederick Edwin Church

Stairways to Heaven

“Of the original phenomena, light is the most enthralling.” – Leonardo da Vinci Crepuscular rays are those wonderful beams of light we see at the beginning or end of the day that appear to radiate from the single point of the sun and stream through gaps in the clouds or between other objects. Their name…

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The Lost Art

Losing a painting somewhere is never fun, but losing a good painting can drive one to temporary distraction. While teaching our plein air painting workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park last September, I was demonstrating the direct-painting method of painting outdoors. This method requires the painter to begin work without any preliminary monochromatic sketch, or…

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Painting the Brightness of Sunlit Snow

Large snow storms give us opportunities to study the unique light, colors and shadows that only snow cover provides. Painting snow presents many challenges to the plein air painter–the least of which is the cold. The primary difficulty is the intense light reflected by the snow. This causes us to squint down, and in so…

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Don’t Let Your Plein-Air Skills Grow Cold

Don’t give up your plein air focus over the winter months. Try to paint from life indoors and keep sketching. (Melting Snow by Ben Fenske, 60 x 75, oil on canvas.) For some of us, winter weather is just a bit too unpredictable and chilly to spend much time outdoor painting. But if you’re like…

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The Cosmic Dance en Plein Air

Spring in the Hills II by John Hulsey, 5 x 7, oil painting. Whenever we get to feeling that there is nothing really new to be discovered in art or the world, we have to keep in mind that the “undiscovered country” often lies in our own backyards. Recently, scientists at the University of Duisburg-Essen…

Degas sketch

Power to the Pencil

With so much interest in plein air painting these days, it’s easy to overlook how important drawing skills can be to the landscape painting artist. Fundamentally, drawing is both a way of seeing and a way of knowing a subject. If you can draw it, then you own it. It is in your visual library…

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Dark Shadows

Why go to the trouble of painting from life when our cameras can take such great pictures? Digital cameras have gotten so good at taking properly exposed, beautiful photos that they can fool us into thinking that they are also accurate. To be sure, the technology packed into even an inexpensive camera is incredibly powerful,…

Sunny Morning on the Hudson River by Thomas Cole, 1827     Oil painting.

Higher Ground

We often talk about the myriad tasks of life that seem to buzz around us and can become distractions from our artistic focus. We call it “ground clutter”, a term borrowed from radar used to describe unimportant signals in the landscape. While it is important not to trip on or bump into ground clutter as…