How’s Your Plein Air Vision?

4 Nov 2013

Before Dusk (Central Park at 72nd Street) by Sam Adoquei, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in.
Before Dusk (Central Park at 72nd Street) by Sam Adoquei,
oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in.
Somewhere out there, maybe even as you read this, a group of hungry, dedicated artists are taking a plein-air painting workshop. And at some point during this workshop—perhaps right at this very moment—one of those aspiring artists will ask the classic question voiced at least once in every workshop: How do I develop my personal style?

Well, if it’s Sam Adoquei’s plein-air painting class that he teaches every summer in Central Park, the answer may be somewhat surprising. I believe he'd reiterate what he writes in his latest book, Origin of Inspiration: Of the three essential qualities—skill, style, and vision—that serve as the backbone for successful artists, style is the only element an artist can do without, but luckily style comes without the artist making too much effort.

Wow, does that resonate with you? It does with me. I completely get what Sam is saying. I truly believe we do not need to worry about style—it will develop on its own. Much as your handwriting has a unique look that evolved over years of practice, your style (your personal way of using your materials) will naturally evolve as you spend years mastering skills (your ability to utilize the fundamentals of art).

It’s vision that poses the greater challenge. Vision is your reason to paint. Vision is your voice. Vision is your unique message to the world, expressed in plein-air painting. I’m still honing my personal vision. No longer content with merely capturing the beauty of nature when I am en plein air—not that there is anything wrong with that vision!—I know I want to convey a deeper message about my spiritual connection to nature and about my concerns and fears about the future of our environment. The fun and the challenge is figuring out how that vision will manifest itself through my plein-air painting.

Have you thought much about the vision behind the outdoor painting you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to share. Leave a comment and let me know.


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mark beale wrote
on 15 Mar 2011 7:41 AM


This is an interesting post. I agree that artists should not deliberately try to develop a style. It can look "forced" if someone tries too hard to be unique. We are all already unique because we are individuals with our own unique set of experiences and abilities which, in turn, affects our painting. Musicians often say that style is defined by what you cannot do. In other words, go with your strength and develop it. Style will come naturally if you do that. Paint your unique vision and style will result. Mark Beale,

Yamakawa wrote
on 9 Nov 2013 10:19 AM

When I began painting in oils, I had a style all of my the last 10 years I've been painting in acrylics and my style has seemed to paintings are mainly from memory but sometimes I depend on photographs.plein Aire is new to me- is it from memory? I've had many classes, ranging from sumie to One stroke .allof them have helped me to develope my style.

Yamakawa wrote
on 9 Nov 2013 10:49 AM

I just read about plein air painting - free ebook and it was very informative;)

anantio wrote
on 9 Nov 2013 3:46 PM

I think  that those few hours you'll be taking to paint that what have captured your attention are very special  moments in your painting career as it is in  that very short time  which makes  you push your utmost  to create that vision which  fired your imagination. You want to lock in your memory that particular frame and you try to convey  what you felt to an audience.