Plein Air Painting - Where To Paint


Best places for painting landscapes en plein air!



In our last post, we discussed the definition and history of plein air painting; determining that the simplest definition is "painting nature from within nature." Today, we'll take a little trip to discover said nature, and pick out a few perfect locations for plein air paintings!



People have always had a dynamic relationship with nature. Nature is beautiful; it is also dangerous and, at times, downright scary. But whether we are revering nature or fearing it, there is always a sense of awe attached. Nature is wondrous. It is bigger than us, it can demolish us, but we are stricken with a sense of amazement when we truly experience it, even through a secondary medium like a photograph.

This is probably why nature painting, specifically landscape painting (and, in terms of our discussion, plein air painting) has been such a popular art form across time and cultures. The two main traditions are found in Western painting and Chinese art and both forms can be traced back over a thousand years. The term "landscape" was originally introduced to the English language in the 17th century and was used exclusively for classifying works of art. It was a hundred years before it was used to describe the real thing.

Landscape paintings generally include three elements: a natural wonder such as a mountain, waterfall, or canyon; a view of the sky; and an element of weather. People are sometimes included, and when they are, we get the sense that they serve a purpose: to be dwarfed by their surroundings.

As an artist, you can be selective about what you include. Who holds the paintbrush holds the power here. Some artists have painted landscapes from photographs they have taken, but there are complicated techniques involved, and it is best to experience the site first-hand so that you can transfer the emotions of the experience to others who will later view the painting.

If you've been itching to take a trip to explore your landscape painting skills, you're in luck! We've come up with five great places for plein air landscapes. Different painters have different preferences, so here they are in no particular order:

Southwest US

  • The American Southwest Georgia O'Keeffe was particularly fond of northern New Mexico for her landscapes. You can also check out the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona. Sedona, AZ is particularly popular in the fall; they host an arts festival every October.

New England

  • New England is also a popular place during the autumn season. The leaf-changing sparks its own category of tourism. It's also a lovely place to paint, and Maine specifically is a favorite spot for landscapes. Its location in the hemisphere grants it a uniquely slanted light; the Island of Monhegan and Acadia National Park are both the subjects of many beautiful paintings.


  • Yosemite National Park, which boasts from its website: "Not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra." Yosemite is a one-stop-shop for some of nature's finest specimens, including the famous El Capitan mouantin.


  • Yellowstone National Park Best known for its collection of geysers, but also the home of the Morning Glory Pool — which looks something like if an asteroid hit the Earth and left a rainbow-colored crater in its wake. Few places on the planet offer such unique plein air painting subjects as Yellowstone!


  • If you're in the mood for someplace really exotic, try Bali, Indonesia. A tropical wonder that includes beaches, islands, mountains, volcanoes, and waterfalls; not to mention some of the most stunning architecture.

Monet in his garden

There you go! An extremely limited and by no means exhaustive tour of some popular places for plein air painting. However, if you're not planning on traveling much this plein air season, never fear! Some of the best plein air paintings have been painted from — essentially — the artist's own back yard. Just ask Monet, the father of modern plein air painting, whose most beloved subject was his own garden!  And of course, don't forget about seascapes and cityscapes, both of which are also perfect fodder for plein air painting! Stay tuned for our next post, where we'll tackle the best supplies for plein air painting: and how to bring them with you when you do travel!

What about you? Where have you gone to paint en plein air? Or if this will be your first outdoor painting season, where will you go? What's your dream painting location? Let us know in the comments below!



Plein Air Painting - An Introduction


Spring into plein air season!

Weather notwithstanding, spring has nearly sprung! Soon the days will be warming up, the sun will be out longer, and painters will be heading outdoors in droves for a bit of plein air painting. Over the next few days, we'll be discussing the ins and outs of painting en plein air, where to do it, what to bring, how best to travel, and more, so stay tuned, stay informed, and learn all you need to prepare for spring painting season!


Claude Monet

What is plein air painting?

If you're at all familiar with art and painting, even peripherally, chances are you've heard of "plein air" painting. Despite appearances, painting en plein air is not just a snooty phrase tossed around by painters who are trying to be impressive: it's a real thing, practiced for hundreds of years, and one most likely in practice today by many artists who just aren't aware of its fancy French name.

The term en plein air is simply French for "in the open air," meaning plein air painting is just creating art outdoors. Now, you'll be thinking, "What about cavemen? What about Australian aborigines? What about all those outdoor megaliths and Egyptian statues and everything that's been around for thousands of years before France even existed?  Surely THEY didn't work en plein air!" Okay, technically that's correct.  It's just that the French coined the phrase for it back in the 1800's when painting outdoors really took off and its popularity skyrocketed.


John Singer Sargent plein air painting.

 Why the 1800's, you ask? A number of reasons, including an expanding middle class and a school of thought geared towards natural beauty, all led to an increased interest in arts and painting. But most importantly, access to needed materials was suddenly broadened by the creation of ready-made paints. Previously, since the beginning of time essentially, artists would have to painstakingly make their own paint, color by color, grinding pigments into binders – only making a small amount at a time, since there was no way to keep it fresh and prevent it from drying out. In the mid 19th century, however, there was a "big bang" in the art supply world, aided by the invention of metal paint tubes, that allowed manufacturers to create oil paints in bulk, sealing them up in tubes to stay fresh. Additionally, "moist" watercolors – the re-wettable pans we are familiar with today – were developed, providing a convenient, portable, and accessible medium.  Suddenly, artists and art enthusiasts alike could easily acquire necessary painting materials without having to make them from scratch – already pre-packaged for bringing into the field!Winsor & Newton Watercolor advertisement.


Coinciding with these new portable paints was the artistic views of such schools of thought as the Impressionists and the Barbizon school: most notably, that natural daylight is the ideal illumination, and aimed for depicting it accurately and tracking its changes. In a sense, these 19th century plein air painters didn't only paint outdoors, they painted a moment in time, the passage of time, and the feelings it left behind. Though highly criticized and even ridiculed at first, Impressionism and its spin-offs greatly aided the popularity of plein air painting, as they believed the best and only way to paint this movement of light over nature was to be right there in front of it whilst painting.

So in the end, a combination of technical innovation and popular thought in the 1800's brought outdoor painting to the masses, as it were, and there it has remained ever since. Boiled down to its essence, plein air painting is painting nature from within nature, and as such is an avenue open to any and all artists – whether they use a fancy phrase to describe it or not!


Notable Plein Air Painters:

Claude Monet

Winslow Homer

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Georgia O'Keeffe

John Singer Sargent

Edgar Payne

 Stay tuned to the blog for more posts about plein air painting in the upcoming week! At Jerry's Artarama, we're determined to be ready for the spring plein air season, and hope you will be too. What are some of your favorite plein air topics or artists? Let us know in the comments below!



Famous Artist Quotes


Inspirational quotes by famous artists to spark your creativity!

Henri Matisse


"Creativity takes courage."

— Henri Matisse


The mind of the creative genius is a strange and wonderful thing. Not only have great artists created great works of art that have shaped culture and the human experience for centuries, they also have interesting insights as to why they do what they do. Perhaps some of these insights may help spur your own thoughts about art, and help you on your own creative journey!

Some artists see art as a type of dialogue:

Edward Hopper

"If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."

— Edward Hopper


Georgia O'Keeffe

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way—things I had no words for."

— Georgia O'Keeffe


Pablo Picasso

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."

— Pablo Picasso


Vincent van Gogh

"The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech."

— Vincent van Gogh


The way they describe substituting a paintbrush for a pen demonstrates how similar the branches of the arts can be. It's not so much about being a painter or a writer; they are two beasts of the same species. We could also guess that creativity of all types essentially draws from the same well of genius.

Other artists have described the purpose of their work rather eloquently:

Alberto Giacometti

"The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity."

— Alberto Giacometti


Pablo Picasso

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

— Pablo Picasso


James McNeill Whistler

"An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."

— James McNeill Whistler


It seems they are saying art is a way of sharing a perspective, through a visual medium, one that can last forever.

Piet Mondrian had a peculiar take on it. He classifies creating art almost as a spiritual experience, as though there is a greater Being doing the work. It is an incredibly passive stance.

Piet Mondrian

"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel."

— Piet Mondrian


Although, in a way it echoes what these other famous artists have said:

Rembrandt van Rijn

"Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God."

— Rembrandt van Rijn

Other artists have described their subjects. Of course, it would be difficult to take what they say literally:

Jackson Pollock

"Every good painter paints what he is."

— Jackson Pollock


Frida Kahlo

"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality."

— Frida Kahlo


If so, we would have to infer that Pollock is a series of paint splatters, Kahlo something much more macabre.

But Cézanne truly enlightens us on the origins of art.

Paul Cezanne

"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."

— Paul Cézanne


By using the term "art", Cézanne broadens the topic beyond just painting, although he was a very famous painter. Instead, he includes all forms of creative genius. If they all draw from the same well, it must be a deep water made of intense feelings, as light and dark as the end results.

What do you think? Do any of these famous artist quotes resonate with your beliefs about art? Are there other quotes that do? Or do you have an art quote of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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