So what is plein air?
It is simply painting what you see when outdoors. (click here to go to a Wikipedia explaination)
Mostly artists paint small, quick and painterly pieces when working en plein air. When outdoors the scene can change rapidly due to weather changes, tidal changes for water, people moving and just the general movement of the sun changes the lighting, colors, highlights and shadows of a scene dramatically.
"Flowers and Flag" Oil 11" x 14" Painted plein air in Naples, FL
Plein air paintings can be studies of a scene to be taken back to the studio and used as a reference for a bigger painting. More and more though plein air paintings are a style of art on their own. People love the loose brush strokes with little detail and definition and an artist can capture the essense of a scene in a way that can seem magical. With a little training of the eye a person can start to tell when a painting was done plein air and when it was done in studio away from the actual location/subject portrayed.
See my growing page of plein air paintings and see what you think. My earlier ones are tighter, less loose brushwork as I struggled to loosen up. I am now much more at ease with the brushstrokes showing. Click here to go to Plein Air Paintings
More about plein air next time. (hint, I will answer the question, why not just work from photos?)