Plein Air Painting

          Last Wednesday I joined a group of local artists for a plein air painting session.    They meet once a week during the summer, always at a different location, (garden, park or water view), paint from 9:30 until noon, then break for lunch and social hour – and show and tell if you wish to participate.   I did not, as my mother is the artist in the family.   I was only there as the driver and unofficial brownie-baker.   I never took art in high school, can’t draw a straight line and have no desire to learn.  The few times I have attempted to paint I sit there with a clenched jaw, frustrated that the end result does not in any way resemble the vision in my head.    My mother on the other hand, finds it pure bliss, and paints almost every day, although she has no formal training.   Still, plein air painting looks like fun, if you enjoy dabbling with a brush.  

Plein air is the act of painting outdoors.   Artists have always worked outdoors, but in the mid-19th century, the en plein air approach became more popular as painting in natural light became important to groups such as the Barbizon schoolHudson River School, and Impressionists.      In Canada, the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson are examples of en plein air artists.    (Wikipedia source)

The invention of a portable box easel which held paint and palette, as well as the availability of paint in tubes, made this outdoor activity much more convenient.   Previously oil paint was made from pigment powders mixed with linseed oil.   As there was no photography to record a scene, if you wanted to paint a landscape you either conjured up the image in your head, or went straight to the source, be it harbor, garden, or field of wheat.   

Monet

Impression, Sunrise – Monet

For the Impressionists, like Monet and Renoir,  it was all about the Light.  How the play of light affects and influences a painting was important to them, especially if you were lolling about in the south of France where the light is reported to be particularly inspiring.   Imagine a sketching tour there!  

Monet painted his famous Haystack series (25 paintings) after visiting a wheat field near his home at all hours, seasons and weather conditions, in order to capture the effect of different variations of light. 

Haystacks - Monet

Haystacks Series – End of Summer – Monet

Below is my favorite Renoir painting – a testament to natural light, shade and color – plus it looks like a fun outing.  

Luncheon of the Boating Party - Renoir

The Luncheon of the Boating Party – Renoir

No problem getting your friends to pose for hours if you ply them with enough food and drink and a boat ride down the Seine.

The Group of Seven were Canada’s first famous artists, painting outdoors in Algonquin Park in the early 1900’s.   They would often take summer tours where they would do preliminary sketches in the great Canadian wilderness, then return to their studios to finish the work over the winter.   

The Jack Pine - Tom Thomson

The Jack Pine – Tom Thomson

Our Canadian summer is almost over.   It’s cooler now in September and nice weather can no longer be depended upon.   This outing was the last of the year and an add-on for a session which was rained out earlier.   

Germain Park Garden

While not Monet’s famous garden,

Bridge-over-a-Pond-of-Water-Lilies - Monet

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies – Monet

the park we visited is known for it’s gardens.   I here to photograph the flowers, which are at their fall peak. 

Germain Park Garden

We arrive a bit late, as it’s a fair drive from home, and I’m not an early riser.  These artists are all morning people, but I suppose it’s cooler then for painting in the summer.    Today is overcast with a cold north wind, so we are all bundled up in sweaters and jackets.  It’s a large park, basically deserted at mid-week, and the painters have already scattered along the paths and picked their solitary spots.  

Zen Garden

There’s a separate Zen garden with a tranquil waterfall but no one is painting there.    Maybe it is too Zen?

Zen Garden

I wander around the flower beds admiring the fall colors, 

fall flowers Germain Park

and stop to visit with several of the artists, marveling at their talent. 

Plein Air Painting

Fall Flowers - mums

Most of the artists have been painting for years, but some, like my two friends, are relative beginners, 

Plein Air Painting still learning the tools of the trade.

Watercolor and oil are best for painting outdoors, as acrylic dries too quickly in the hot sun.

At noon they break for lunch, (brownies anyone?) in a spot sheltered from the wind,

Plein Air Painting - lunch

and afterwards, show and tell.   They pass each painting around the circle and I’m totally intimidated by then. 

Plein Air Painting

 And also grateful for that thermos of hot coffee.  

One of the artists points out a white squirrel which frequents the park, so I pursue a picture, although I only have the zoom lens on my cell phone, so it’s not the best pixel-wise.  

white squirrel

White squirrels may be albino (with red eyes), caused by a mutation of a pigmentation gene, or they may be a very rare variant of eastern gray squirrels.    He was a strange sight – and definitely an antidote to all that color.  

After lunch, I’m in desperate need of a nap.  All that fresh air is so tiring – makes you sleep like a baby – maybe I will dream in technicolor? 

Fall flowers - Germain park

PS.   Although it was an enjoyable day, I think I’ll stick with my writing gig for now.   

46 thoughts on “Plein Air Painting

      • Joni says:

        You’ve made me wonder why I don’t own a print of that painting, so now I’m going to shop for one! I have a blank wall in my new kitchen, and it is sort of food related.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Claudette says:

        Ha! I had this same painting, mounted on the wall, back in my single days. Over many moves it got destroyed. One day I complained about that out loud to the family while we were discussing something about art, and it came up. My partner remembered the painting, we had it in our first apartment together, so then he decided to get it for me for my birthday. It’s back on the wall where it should be. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Anne says:

    What a ‘different’ sort of outing – even for the non-painter. That garden looks exquisite: I really enjoy the combination of red salvia and yellow marigolds – something to consider when it is my turn to plant seeds in the garden. You have put this ‘report’ together so well that I almost feel as though I could have been there – such a lovely read this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve never heard of this kind of painting and can understand why it’d be great to do– if you were artistically inclined. Like you painting and drawing are not my thing, but seeing the garden with the white squirrel, being around happy people– I’d like that. Thanks for taking us along on your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      They always look so nice in the fall and we have had lots of rain. They have a seed party at this garden in a few weeks, where you can go and take free seeds. It must cost the city a lot of money to maintain, but it’s hidden a bit so not well known.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. J P says:

    Your group reminds me of my grandfather. He was in business for his entire career. He took up painting when he retired and was fabulous at it. I can’t paint anything beyond a wall in my house (one color, with a roller).

    How fun to see the immediate fruit of the artists’ imaginations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo Shafer says:

    One of my best friends has been doing plein air work lately, and one of my cousins in Florida is part of a group of women who meet periodically to paint and host gallery showings. Several months ago, VICTORIA magazine feature another group of Florida plein air artists. Of course, I’ve always loved Monet and Renoir from an early age; you may recall a couple blog posts I did several months ago about their respective gardens and the work they produced.

    (By the way, I don’t paint, either, but I do bake!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Baking is an art form too! I remember that article in Victoria – I think it was the summer issue – and I liked their work. Victoria is always good for inspiration.

      Like

  5. lindasschaub says:

    I learned a lot here in this post Joni and I love the photos and the paintings. When you first mentioned plein air painting to me in a comment many weeks ago, I had to Google it as I was not familiar with the term. I think I then sent you the post from Heritage Park where the two women had their watercolors and were painting … one with the sketchbook on her lap and the other one using an easel. The woman with the watercolor tubes and palette of colored cups was very nice; the woman with the more professional set-up, not so much.
    This does look like fun, right down to the brownies for snack time. The garden were beautiful too. Years ago, when crossing over the border was no trouble at all, we would go for a Sunday drive sometimes to Dieppe Park in Windsor. It was beautiful there with fountains and flowers. Was your mom in the picture you took of the group?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I did enjoy the outdoor picnic even though it was a cold day. Yes, she is at the far end with two of our art friends who had invited us and who are beginners, but she didn’t paint that day. She said she didn’t want to and it was way too cool and windy, so we just went at 10:30 and walked around the gardens and ate lunch with the group. I asked her if she would like to do it next summer when it’s warmer and she said no. She prefers to paint at her dining room table, I guess it’s more comfortable for her, and she uses acrylic which will dry out too quickly outside. Most of the artists were using watercolor. She enjoyed the day as it was a social outing for her. I was just going to ask you if you liked the squirrel and had ever seen one, and your second message popped up!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I will go back and look in the group shot … I was going to comment on the white squirrel last … I was fascinated as I’ve not seen one before and I pushed Send and forgot. Then I remembered later and thought “I must comment on that white squirrel – how did I forget?” I think it would be a little hard to concentrate on painting in a group as you are trying to get it done in a certain amount of time, luckily no one is gathering in front of your subject since you said it was a weekday and not the warmest of days and hopefully no flies or other pesky insects buzzing around.
        I think it is amazing that your mom is self-taught … people pay lots of money to take lessons. I think I mentioned the “Lush Brush” place here in Lincoln Park as we discussed how people go for painting parties, etc. … I see it closed, was up for sale briefly and somethign else is coming in that store. It has paper on the windows right now, so curious what it will be. We’ve had two stores close in the neighborhood … one the end of the street was vacant for two years and really in bad shape. Someone bought it and pained the entire building black – I was concerned as I saw someone in the Crime Forum ask if anyone had taken a look at the property because they were going to buy it as an “Escape Room” … I had no idea was that was, Googled around … I thought “oh no –
        what’s going to happen the end of the street?” So it is a screen print place for signs and teeshirts. But two blocks away, someone has bought a hair salon that was closed a few years after the owner died of cancer … they too have painted it black but don’t know what will be going there. I look around sometime and shake my head.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        You can’t see her or either of my two friends as the other people are in the way. I tried to respect their privacy and deliberately took the shot from a distance away, as of course none of them know about the blog. Their not really painting in a group, as they spread out, most of them not even within talking distance of each other. I guess the social aspect is lunch, and critiquing each others work – they were all good! We did stop and talk to three individually and they were friendly, but they were almost done as it was close to noon by then. Those painting parties have pretty much died out here, and I have heard of escape rooms but not seen any here – more of a teenager/videogame thing I think?

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, that is best to do a distance so they didn’t see you. I hope they were friendly critiques! No one went home with hurt feelings? I only saw the painting parties advertised in the online newspaper in conjunction with women getting together for fundraising events. I was surprised the business lasted that long because what did they do the rest of the time? Those parties would have been at night most likely. I had never heard of escape rooms and I guess they lock you in one room and there are multiple mazes to find your way out in the dark -I was not keen on that being at the end of the street and it is probably all teenagers hanging around there – didn’t sound like a good idea if people got agitated from being lost or potentially hurt inside one of the rooms while trying to escape. We have a lot of empty stores and have for a while – and, when they open new stores like The Lush Brush, they went into a dress store for heavyset women and the store had closed 10-15 years before and was vacant all those years. A hydroponic plant place went out of business and the building was vacation several years – now another place, different name is going in the building. I don’t know how they make a living – there are not that many people growing hydroponic plants these days and if they are for ponds, well … ponds are open five months tops?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        We have a lot of empty storefronts here too – half the mall is empty as well – everyone buys on line. Ax-throwing is supposed to be the trendiest hobby now, so there is an ax-throwing place. Sounds dangerous to me. And yea, I wouldn’t want an escape room too close by. The artists all knew each other and were gentle with their comments, even to my two beginner friends, who are their own worst critics. Things are very quiet on here today, Climate Change Day, but maybe it’s just for me, as I only had two views?

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Ax-throwing – I don’t think I’ve seen that here, just as well. I looked in Reader and not much there so you are right – people stayed off due to the Climate Change Day. I’m glad they were gentle with their comments with each other. When I worked in the Creative Department of the ad agency when I first got out of school, I had 9 bosses. Each of the secretaries (4 of us) had 9-10 bosses, a mixture of writers and art directors. So, they would be sitting in offices brainstorming with one another and laughing and joking one minute and then very critical of other person’s ideas. The secretary who sat next to me was sitting at her desk and her boss got mad at something one of them said and he took his phone (landline regular-sized desk phone) and hurled it out the office door against the wall. It crashed into many little pieces, so he came out rather sheepishly and said to Jan “please call down to the supply room or wherever and get me a new phone ASAP!”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. lindasschaub says:

    And how could I forget to mention the white squirrel – I’ve never seen one and how unique to see this one. Thank you for posting this picture Joni. The photographer I follow on Twitter likes nature at one of the big Metroparks. She sees a beautiful white deer and its fawn is the usual color. Just amazing to see her white doe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I wondered if you had ever seen one, but apparently they are quite rare. One of the ladies mentioned it at lunch as it hangs out in the park, although it was some distance from us, so I walked over to it and tried to get as close as I could, but I had left my other camera in the car when I went to get the lunch so I may go back some time and see if I can get a better picture. There’s a small cafe in the building next door, so I could grab a quick lunch and coffee sometime. It would be hard to see it in the snow!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, it was cute – I’ve never heard of any over here – I looked for a link last night to send you the white deer here, but she is on Twitter and it’s not on her website. It is amazing looking at it … no markings at all and a regular-color fawn. That is remarkable. You should go back and take some pictures before the snow flies as it would be lost as it scampered around.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Annie – I do have fun doing them, even though my camera is an old 2005 digital and a cheap $100 cell phone, and I really need to upgrade. I have a Harvestfest supper blog in progress, which was my first time photographing a meal which was perhaps not so good, as I took a few bites before I remembered to take the pictures!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I had thought of buying a more expensive camera, with a fancy zoom lens and video etc but I don’t have the patience to fiddle with all those things on it, or take a course to learn how. I just set my old one on auto-shoot and point and shoot and usually something turns out usable. I’ll probably just get a Cannon Point and Shoot for $200 vs $600 or more for a Rebel. I find cell phone cameras take pretty good pictures too.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. indianeskitchen says:

    Not yet I have been working in the yard for weeks! I still have 1 & 1/2 sides of the house flower beds to finish, an overhaul on my fish pond and then paint the inside of the garage! I finally finished power washing the house but I still need to power wash our large driveway. The darn black mold is not taking over!!! After that I start inside…lol My husband took a few days off in October and we have 4 day trips scheduled, I’m looking forward to that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Home maintenance is always such a chore. I had so much green mildew on the back siding of the house this year that I had to have cleaners come in and hand scrub it – then they told me there was a wasp nest in the siding – this was Aug 16 – I tried to treat it myself with sprays which was a big mistake. Had pest control company come and shoot powder into it after Labor Day and it killed them, but a week later the stink of the dead larvae was so bad I can’t sleep in my bedroom and have been sleeping in the spare room. It’s always something isn’t it……but I did manage to get a blog idea out of it this week. Good you are having some fun too. I hope your day trips involve some good meals out!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. annieasksyou says:

    Joni, are you ok? I realize you have a life besides blogging, but I haven’t heard from you after my last two posts, and you had mentioned that you were ill shortly before then. Just checking in with hopes that you’ve returned to good health.

    Best regards,
    Annie

    Like

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