Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Should I Take a Plein Air Workshop?

1. Learn to Paint Faster and More Efficiently

Because of the dynamics of painting outdoors we are pushed to capture our subject matter quicker than in the studio.  The dynamics of course are the weather and moving light source, including moving clouds, cows, boats, people, and shadows.  These variable features require the artist to paint with energy.  Painting with an experienced workshop instructor will teach you how to grab a bigger brush, paint on smaller canvases, use fewer colors, and to get those initial colored shapes in quickly.  As you begin to practice a bolder approach while painting outdoors, speed and efficiency will be the end result.

Marc Hanson Workshop with his Dog
2. See Demonstrations

During most plein air workshops your instructor will demonstrate painting outdoors, and a good instructor will explain the whole process while he or she paints, including why they selected the scene and how to approach it with paint including value and color relationships and handling their medium.  Not all instructors can answer questions while painting fast, thinking, and explaining their process, so have a note pad ready to write down questions that might come to mind during the demonstration in which you may revisit these questions with the instructor when he or she may have more time to articulate an answer.  You won’t be able to learn everything you need by watching an instructor demo, but it will help.  It is especially enjoyable if the instructor produces artwork that you admire or is intriguing to you.

3. Finding Solutions to Our Painting Struggles

As artists, we all struggle, for life is full of trials and testing and art is no exception.  Maybe you are having trouble with mixing color, composition, simplifying complex subject matter, knowing when you are finished, mastering a certain medium, selling your artwork, using fewer colors, or organizing your outdoor equipment without bringing the whole studio.  I have found solutions for many of my painting struggles as a workshop participant with the help of an instructor as well as other students.  Surprisingly many solutions will be discovered within the group of artists you are painting with.  When choosing a plein air workshop seek out ones that will address some of your current struggles in art.

4. Immersion

Just as in learning a foreign language it is often helpful to immerse yourself in the language.  A plein air workshop will allow you to work plein air without interruption away from the family, work, the cares of life and other distractions.  Several days of intense instruction, painting exercises and group painting is a great way to immerse yourself into outdoor painting.  I know this sound like a lot of work, but the true artist at heart would consider this experience a VACATION!!  

For those interested in a 3 day plein air workshop in the mountains of North Carolina, I am announcing today my fall 2011 workshop in Burnsville, NC – September 29 thru October 1, 2011.  

Burnsville is a beautiful quaint mountain town Northeast of Mt. Mitchell, which is the highest point East of the Mississippi River in the lower 48.  This workshop will be limited to 10 students so if you are interested don’t procrastinate in reserving your spot in the workshop. For more information go to  for more details.