Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Plein Air Painting Enthusiasm Deflating?

Agnes Lake, Banff, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

It's interesting what's going on with the plein air painting movement in the art community (seen from my little corner). Everything is changing and this isn't an exception. When I studied art in the Vancouver Art Academy in the late nineties, there were no plein air events in my neck of the woods. The only person I knew who was doing it was one of my teachers who would rise at dawn every single day and head outside to paint - rain or shine.

He'd show us products of his efforts and they were rarely impressive so none of us, his students, felt compelled to leave the comfort of the studio and fight the elements. We talked about the tradition of impressionists and The Canadian Group of Seven, of painting outdoors, and wondered how anyone could find time to do it nowadays.

And then, just over a few years, plein air painting events sprouted in artsy communities everywhere, the social media exploded with daily paintings, and artists at large massively invested in portable easels and nice wide-brimmed hats.

Once we tried it, we realized how much beauty and inspiration can be found in the nature, parks, streets, marinas or in our own backyard. I attended some fabulous outdoorsy gatherings where I socialized and painted with like minded artists, and adored every minute of it.

I am sorry to report that I didn't produce any major masterpieces, but I sure learned a lot, and I gathered endless inspiration for my studio paintings - and I happily continue to do so every year. Just last week I spent a beautiful rainy day with dear old friends, and met awesome new friends in the West Vancouver Harmony Festival plein air painting event.

But, here comes the deflating part - there used to be more participants  in these gatherings in past years. Am I imagining this or is the enthusiasm for plein air painting ebbing? I notice events being canceled, number of attendees dropping, and it's been a really long time since I've seen a procession of daily paintings in social media. What's going on?

Maybe it's the way it should be - maybe we all had to try it out to decide if it works for us or not. I will keep at it, simply because I love painting oudoors, and learning from other artists whenever I can - but I have realized that my best works still come from the studio. Maybe one day this will change.

(plein air sketch) Ruckle Park, Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

(studio painting) Ruckle Park, Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Happy painting, inside or outside!