What is Plein Air?
En plein air refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view. In the mid-1800s painting landscapes on location became practical due to two important inventions: paints in tubes and the box easel. Before these innovations existed, each painter made their own paints by grinding and mixing pigment powders with oils — a process difficult to perform away from the studio.
The high point of plein air art came with the emergence of Impressionism. Artists of that period included Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Interest in outdoor painting has remained constant since the 20th century. The last 20 years has seen a resurgence in plein air painting in the United States. Groups of plein air artists gather together to paint at single locations or within geographic boundaries. These “Paint Outs” give artists a chance to share their talents and creativity with the public while giving artists the ability to be immersed in creative process.
Pastels are often mistaken for chalk which is limestone and dye. Pastel is actually dry powdered pigment molded into a crayon shape with a binding solution. The word pastel is derived from the French word pastiche or pate, which is made by grinding he pigment and binder. Because its pigments have lasting brilliance, pastel is as close as an artist can come to painting with pure color.