“En plein air,” is a French term that came into use as an artistic descriptive in the mid-19th century. Meaning, “in the open air” it has come to represent the art of painting outdoors. The popularity of this type of painting increased during this period due to the creation of transportable supplies and materials. Due to these changes, the artist could now move out of the studio, leading to a freedom that allowed an artist to be closer to nature. Prior to this period, paints were created by the laborious method of hand mixing ground dry pigments with linseed oil (in the 2003 film, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” this technique can be seen being carried out by the Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer). But in the later part of the century, paints became available mixed in tubes. Another asset to portability was the introduction of a new design in easels. For the first time, easels had the ability to fold into the size of a suitcase. Being transportable, it now allowed an artist to easily pack up his tube paints into a folding easel and effortlessly challenge nature’s scenery.
The Impressionist painters of this era often painted “en plein air.” Impressionistic painters such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir all took advantage of the light and colors while en plein air.
The plein air artist typically creates landscapes, inspired by everyday life, motivated by the natural light in nature. A plein air piece is usually created in its entirety while on site. Completion is done typically in one sitting.
Today, the movement is gaining in popularity. There are many active plein air painting groups. Boulder City has its own plein air group that meets informally several times a month. The group has travelled to many interesting sites in and around Boulder City.
On Saturday, April 13th, the Second Annual Boulder City Plein Air Paint Out will be held in Escalante Park South from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Sponsored by Boulder City Friends of the Arts and the Boulder City Art Guild and Gallery, the event is open to all. Artists have four hours to complete a piece. Judging and awards will be given at 1:00pm. For more information in participating, please call 501-9219.