This Thursday, June 7th, marks the first outing of the Manotick Art Association Plein Air Painting group for 2018. The Paint-outs, which have been a feature of the MAA for many years are for those members who enjoy the challenge of painting outdoors. There is no instruction given. Everyone is expected to work on their own and are free to decide whether to join the group each Thursday.
There are many groups that operate this way. I have painted with similar ones in Victoria, BC, Fort Myers, FL, Algonquin Park and Eastern Ontario for example. Some of the more obvious benefits are the enjoyment of meeting new friends and getting outdoors; but also, the experience gained through watching seasoned artists paint and learning how they pack their equipment for plein air work is pivotal.
For painters at any level there are artistic benefits from plein air painting too. Through direct observation and guidance we can learn to see colour in all its shades (values) and intensities. In time we grasp how to focus on shapes and forms and come to understand how we perceive things and how they relate to each other. In short, we learn about ourselves in the context of our surroundings.
The Canadian landscape with its four seasons is a pure gift just waiting to be explored and painted to the best of our abilities, each in our own unique way. Outdoor painting is always a challenge. Often the painting results are unsatisfactory due to the complexity of the surroundings. When we get it right, though, the plein air painting can be very special - as a stand-alone painting or as the bases for a studio work.
So on Thursday, with paints and canvas in hand, we are off to face the challenge: to abandon ourselves to the inspiration of time and place, totally uncertain of a successful painting. That is when we rise to surpass ourselves. Magic.