Real Men Paint En Plein Air

13 Nov 2008

by Allison Malafronte

Nothing proves a plein air painter’s prowess like surviving a hard-core painting session battling the elements of nature. The young, talented California artists Jeremy Lipking and Tony Pro learned this the hard and—as you will see from the video below—hilarious way when they set out to record an instructional plein air-painting session that instead turned into a showdown with a seriously perturbed Mother Nature.

As any plein air painter knows, when you strap your wooden box to your back and head outdoors you never know what you will encounter. Most of the time the weather is pleasant, the vistas are inspiring, and the distractions are few. But every now and again lightning strikes—as it literally did right in front of Tony Pro in this video—and you learn to just have a laugh. “We started out with every intention of making a serious instructional plein air video, but when the lightening struck practically a foot away from me, it was pure comedy after that,” says Pro, who along with Lipking taped, edited, and produced the video.

You have to admire Pro’s and Lipking’s steadfastness in the midst of such unusual circumstances. Lesser plein air painters would have dropped their alizarin crimson and headed for the hills at the first sign of sprinkles, but these guys took it like men and waited until they were covered with mosquitoes and hit several times on the head with hail before bailing. “What you don’t get to see in the video is when we’re running for our lives to catch the water taxi back in the middle of this deluge of hail and lightning,” Pro says. “I was pretty sure we were dead men.”

Luckily for us, the painters and their video survived, and now we can all enjoy their documentary that proves disasters en plein air happen to the best of us! Here’s the video:


Pro and Lipking will be filming Part II of this segment in the Sierras this weekend and will have the new video posted to their pages on shortly. On a more serious note, Lipking also made a video of a plein air-painting excursion that he and several of his artist-friends made to Maine this past September, which is also on his page. The video is beautifully shot and edited and shows the artists capturing an amazing sunset off of Port Clyde, Maine. (Lipking will be adding interviews with the artists to the videos shortly.) An exhibition associated with the Maine trip titled “Paintapalooza” will be held at the Addison Art Gallery, in Orleans, Massachusetts, in February, and will feature the following artists: Jeffrey Bonasia, Glenn Dean, Frank Gardner, Jerome Greene, Logan Hagege, Peter Kalill, Jeremy Lipking, Eric Merrell, Ernesto Nemesio, Colin Page, Paul Schulenburg, and Lance Walker. For more information, visit

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on 13 Nov 2008 8:49 AM

I have had the pleasure of painting along side of Jeremy and Tony on several occasions, and even going out to dinner with them when painting was finished for the day.

They are both delightfully human and thoughtful. This video is so true to life. Thanks for putting your lives on the lines to give us a few laughs and ultimately beautiful artwork.


Lou Marek wrote
on 17 Nov 2008 9:11 PM

Wonderful. I was driving near to the top of the world outside RedLodge Wyoming/Montana when I told my wife I want to stop and do some watercolor sketching and no sooner had I sat down on some rocks by the car, I was attacked by the most awful - biting, small black flies. It drove me insane. No bad weather though.


Julie Trail wrote
on 18 Nov 2008 10:13 AM


Thanks for showing us that painting en plein air is an adventure not to be missed, up there with other outdoor activities like mountain climbing etc.

I'm curious where these fellows were, as it looks very familiar, maybe the Desolation Wilderness?  The mosquitoes were definitely Alaska-sized, however!

on 18 Nov 2008 1:57 PM

Hi, Julie,

They were actually in the Sierras, in California. Doesn't seem like extreme-plein-air territory, but I guess they proved otherwise!

on 19 Nov 2008 4:33 PM

Great article and what a crazy trip.

I took a Scott Christensen work shop last June in Idaho and it snowed and or rained many of the 9 days...and I was in a tent.  Still had a great time and learned a bunch.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

wheezard wrote
on 22 Nov 2008 5:10 AM

I love seeing folks painting out in the wild.  Here's a video demonstration I did on a January day in the snow.  Real men paint when it's below freezing! <grin>

wheezard wrote
on 22 Nov 2008 5:15 AM

Oops - you'll need to click on my name to see it.

Lena Francis wrote
on 23 Nov 2008 1:11 PM

That's the best belly laughing I've done in many years!!!! Since Lipking is my current most admired artist - it made him more real to me and inspired me to just keep trying.  Sorry - I am not familiar with Pro's work - yet but I love what I saw of it!!!

Please keep doing these videos, guys.  

I've experienced gnats, mosquitos, scorching, sun, rain, high winds, and,the most difficult for me to deal with here on Kauai, tourists, while painting.  My determination has always paid off, if only for the sweet and incomparable adventure of it all.

Thanks so much for showing us this video. I also appreciate all the comments and feel that I may haave found my "tribe".  How priceless is that/! Now I'm inspired to drive my broken down car to the place where my current plein air work-in-progress has been evolving and finish it.