Inspired Vision - Why Traveling to New Landscapes is Important to the Plein Air Painter

3 Nov 2014

Plein air painting, Ghost Ranch, by John Hulsey
Ghost Ranch by John Hulsey
In the 25+ years that we traveled to northern New Mexico to paint, we have explored its charms in every season of the year and have never failed to find wonderful scene after wonderful scene for a plein air painting. A big part of this charm is that this area of the Southwest is just inherently stunning, but another important factor for us as artists is that it represents a change of scenery from our home landscape.

Leaving our familiar home turf and going somewhere else beautiful, possibly unfamiliar even, always gives us “new eyes”, and allows us to shed our visual biases, embrace wonder, and revitalize our spirits and our plein air art. This process of getting “new eyes” is one of the reasons that traveling to paint is so important to us. Such a radical change of landscape can be rather blinding and even throw off one’s work completely at first.  We have found that this off-balance mode shakes up old, tired plein air painting habits and forces a reconsideration of seeing and working that can help us understand the new language of the landscape and translate it into the art process.

Between Storms by plein air painter Ann Trusty
Between Storms by Ann Trusty
In practical terms, this may result in an abandonment of reliable ways of working, or a change of colors on the palette, or even a complete change of medium. It can be an uncomfortable process for plein air painters, but artistic  growth is its companion.  We always feel an incredible sense of focus and stimulation in new environments and situations. In this way, the travel is its own reward. For more on painting in the Land of Enchantment, click here.

Do you have a favorite location for when you are plein air painting? Or how a change in your painting process led to artistic growth for you? Leave a comment and let us know! We'd love to hear from you. 

--John & Ann

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Kisu wrote
on 10 Mar 2011 11:30 AM

The area you refer to has been my home for 7 years now, and every second of every day is still new and breath taking.  I haven't yet painted plein air here--my attempt last year during spring camping trip to Chaco ended up a disaster with gale force winds and a sudden change to bitter cold--but I still hope to in the near future.  

on 10 Mar 2011 4:10 PM

Weather is always a factor for the plein air painter!  We, too, have encountered some interesting conditions.  Thanks for writing, Kisu.  

KatPaints wrote
on 10 Mar 2011 5:26 PM

Good timing. I just posted a topic about plein air vacations. The challenge is that I do not like painting alone for safety reasons. I'd like to find different options of going somewhere and maybe connecting with a group  in the area or people willing to travel and meet in an somewhere and agree to paint for a few day. Maybe you can address ways of an individual finding other people to paint with in other states (excluding workshops or anything with a fee.) Any other ideas would be helpful.