Why Plein Air Painting?

People always ask me why I like so much plein air painting if in the studio it is much more comfortable. Well, I have a lot of answers to that question, short and long ones.
Maybe it’s because I love the unpredictable, when painting outside we are challenged by the weather and work conditions are generally less than perfect. You can see an ilustrated example of one of these situations in my blog.
Well, besides the fact that I love being outside, I know that colors and values become evident when we face the subject, nothing can substitute the sensorial experience, listening to the sounds, feel the light breeze, the moisture in the air,  the smells and even being interrupted by passers by. Each painting is a life experience, looking at a painting I did en plein air, I can perfectly remember the circumstances it was done.
The work done en plein air has a freshness and immediacy due to time constraint and light changing. The emotions that come from this are not easily reproduced in the studio.
Of course I am not advocating that studio paintings are not as good as the plein air ones, they are different.
There are larger works that can only be done in studio, but the experience acquired when painting from the natural environment is translated to that scale. Making small sketches outdoors is something that helps too and these sketches besides being fun sometimes are as good as finished works. When sketching we exercise our ability to simplify.
I will never forget the emotion I felt when I first saw Sorolla’s murals at Hispanic Society. It was amazing to see the preparatory studies and small sketches that served as a basis for those large canvases. Only an outdoor trained eye (added of course by that amazing talent) could paint that light.
When finishing a work in studio that I’ve started outdoors the challenge is to keep it simple and recollect what moved me to start it.

That was a long answer, I could go ahead giving reasons to paint plein air but I will stop by now saying that it is a real privilege to have such an experience!

Sandra Nunes

March 2008



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