I’m not a plein aire painter, as you probably know if you’ve read this blog for a while. That fact didn’t stop me, though, from joining fellow artists from the area in the recent “Paint the Prairie” event at nearby Snowball Hill Prairie, part of the Missouri Prairie Foundation.
If you’re curious about the name — as I was — it’s because the hillside is covered with white prairie flowers in the spring and summer. It was also once a popular sledding hill.
I did not take along an easel or any paints. I did have a sketchbook with me, but rather than make only a few sketches, I chose to spend my time hiking, visiting with friends, and taking photographs.
Mostly I took pictures of the various types of prairie grasses growing in the area, but I got a few shots, too, of some of the artists who came out for the event.
Most likely I’ll paint a scene with the pale, purple coneflowers. I do love coneflowers. There was one other photo I took which I’ll probably use as a reference photo. It was not a picture of the prairie, but I fell in love with this scene:
So despite the event being called “Paint the Prairie”, I’ll happily be painting these trees. Maybe I can add a few little dots of white and call them prairie flowers. But even though this scene isn’t really native prairie, it’s what I loved most, and that’s what we should be painting, right?
The opportunity to attend a plein air painting session was a good thing for me, if only as a way of reaffirming my hesitancy about painting out of doors. From time to time, weather permitting, I might do a little painting at our city park, but right now I’m still not comfortable lugging equipment around and trying to paint in public. Maybe someday I’ll get over my apprehension and give it a try, and maybe I’ll really enjoy it.
But, not today, and probably not tomorrow.
So, here’s a question, and I’d love to hear your opinions:
How important is plein aire painting?
I understand the value of being outdoors, on location, painting what we actually see rather than relying on photographs that have altered the colors. I always think I would love to be a plein aire painter, simply because I love being in nature, feeling the different moods, watching the interplay of lights and shadows, and breathing in the fresh air.
Am I cheating myself by not doing plein aire painting? Can I still be a landscape artist if I work only in my studio?
Do you paint en plein aire? Has it helped you improve your art or given you a greater appreciation of landscape painting?
Please share your thoughts!