Atelier en plein air……

How many times has an artist heard he or she should never use black? Or, here’s a good one, “Your light source should always be upper left.”  The list of those “You shalt not do’s” I’ve heard goes on and on and on. How about, “You need to stop doing those vignettes” or “All the brush work in your painting should be the same” or the opposite with “All your brush work needs to be different.”

It all boils down to some expert telling someone else if they don’t do it the experts way they’re doing it wrong and, I guess,  just because someone believes he/she is an expert,  he/she can say about anything and everyone needs to just fall in line. Note the following statement made by Jean Stern, Executive Director, the Irvine Museum, Irvine, CA. in the Summer Issue of Plein Air Magazine, 2011. (The title of the article is “Plein Air Painting: A Vehicle, Not a Destination”. page 28)   This is not the entire article but you can find it on line   here   if you don’t subscribe to the magazine. I quote:

“Today, the term plein air is nearly universal among contemporary artists and the collectors of their works. Quite often, as seen in countless art magazine advertisements, the legitimacy of plein air painting has been subverted to accommodate those who seek to appropriate the popularity and commercial success now attendant to that designation. Today, there are many who describe themselves as “plein air painters” who,in fact, are not.”

I smell plein air police.

Smore:   “At the same time, the practice of plein air has suffered the abuse of being reduced to a sort of status symbol. Indeed in many circles it has become a yard stick: If you are not a plein air painter you are not a good painter.”

Awe c’mon!

Smore:   “Plein air is a philosophy, and it is not the artists’ Nirvana. It is not the end product. It is, in fact, the beginning. It is how one starts the process of creating a landscape painting.”

Well, I’ll buy it’s one way if you’re into that sort of thing.

Smore:   “The plein air sketch confirms it’s reason for being when it leads to a refined, studio painted final work.”

What? Really?

Smore:  “It is tempting to keep the small, carefully observed, brilliant little jewels that tend to sell so well, and, unfortunately, many artists do just that. Now is the time to restore our dedication to landscape painting, not only as artists, but as collectors, dealers and historians. The sweet siren’s song of the small plein air sketch as the painters’  panacea has to be left behind. (I would consider it but this fellow isn’t my boss, my daddy OR my Mrs.) To paint the landscape is one of the most ancient of human endeavors. Landscape is surely the most supreme of art subjects, and needs to be shown in a large format.”  <—-opinion?

Geez, gimme a break!   Is this fellow having a hard time selling large paintings or something? And the final statement in the article reads as follows:

“Honor nature by properly portraying her majesty and grandeur. A small plein air sketch just won’t do.”

Now wait. I have to ask. Who died and left this man in charge of deciding what plein air is all about and how it should have evolved over the last couple of hundred years? I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to his opinion because he certainly does. I  just don’t buy it!!  And he’s not telling just me I’m wrong if I don’t see it his way and snap to!!. He’s also dissing collectors, dealers and historians as he sets himself up as the guy who “knows”..

The vast majority of my plein air work is executed without the slightest thought given to what is “supposed” to follow. I do a lot more work out doors than I do in my “at home studio” and I like it that way. Most of my plein air work never sees a larger canvas.  The little “jewels” that sometimes drip off the end of my brush don’t need to be “confirmed”. They are what they are. They are small paintings living a life of their own, done in my atelier en plein air. ( Atelier en plein air, loosely translated means “out door studio”.)

Above are two paintings done  Atelier en Plein Air.  Having been executed in my out door studio I am certainly hopeful that Mr. Stern is OK with what I’ve done because these puppies are for sale.

Mr. Stern, I’ll cut you a deal!!

Till next time…….


Want to make a comment somewhere?   —— >    <—–That’s a close as I can get you right now.    Eric Rhodes is the kyo muk .


24 Responses to “Atelier en plein air……”

  1. Well said Eldon. There’s always a ‘critic’, always a ‘know it all” – they’re out there!

  2. Hi friend! I recently took a workshop with a guy you probably have heard of- and guess what? he uses BLACK!!!!! Oh my!!! And there was an outcry of “WHAT??? We are not supposed to use black!!!” It was amazing- and now I feel very free to use it because it gets me to the color that I am trying to get to quicker- and with fewer colors mixed.
    Scandalous 😀

    • Hi kit! I keep a tube of black in my paint box all the time. Here’s a challenge for ya. Do a painting using only yellow, red, black and white. You’d be suprised what you can do with just that.

  3. Eldon, be responsible…If you are going to quote this person’s article you should at least include a mailing or emailing address or link to the editorial section of the magazine so we can properly share or point of view with this short sighted, narrow minded, self appointed obviously ignorant loud mouth. Yes there is a lot of P.A. work that’s a study, an exercise and some just plain misses…That’s how we train! It like saying one must never do any public speaking without writing it down first. Many an actor (self included) honed their skills to such a level that they can accurately portray a character often without parts of the script…How? because we are artists! Expert indeed-fool for sure! Thanks for saying it ! I have to go paint outdoors now so I can finish something later-KL

    • Hi Kirk. Yeah I know. I’d kind of like to leave a comment of my own.So far I’ve not found a place to leave a comment. I’ve found email addresses for Eric Rhodes and the Irvine Museum. Even the article I linked to in the blog has left “comments closed”. This issue of plein Air that I have is a complementary issue and I’m wondering if the summer issue is even out to the news stand yet. Her is something tho that might show us why he thinks the way he does. Is George his brother?

      George Stern Fine Arts
      On 6th between San Carlos & Dolores
      Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
      district: Carmel-By-The-Sea
      1.831.626.9900 or 1.831.626.1100 | Email | Website

      Edit business info

      About George Stern Fine Arts

      For over twenty-five years George Stern Fine Arts has seen the art of Early California painters rediscovered by the collecting public. What started as local interest has matured into a recognized part of American Impressionism, collected throughout the United States and internationally. George Stern Fine Arts has been privileged to be a part of the emergence of these artists and their enthusiasm for Early California artists is stronger than ever. They take great pride in offering the highest level of quality available.

      Mr. Stern is the founding president of the Fine Art Dealers Association and actively involved with numerous museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Irvine Museum and the Fleischor Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has assisted these museums with art publications, acted as a consultant in the development of their shows and collections and contributed his expertise as a lecturer and panelist.

  4. i left out the word IMPROV in my comment- being able to act without prepared or rehearsed script-Plein Air painting- to paint without extensive prep, and most often -without extended repeated sessions. Some bands record LIVE and do not tweak it in the studio because the ENERGY of that LIVE moment adds so much life to the performance that it creates ART more powerful than that of the studio!

  5. I’m with you!

  6. Clay Hinman Says:

    LOL. When I stumbled across the comment about black, I thought of Norman Rockwell. He used to outline his pencil sketches in black and then push the color out to the edge of his figures. That was part of his technique for producing the clear figures that adorned the front of the Saturday Evening Posts for all those year. Black? Great for contrast and goes with anything.

    Your comments about not thinking… just living in the moment and going with the flow keeps your work real. Over thinking it and intellectualizing it is more of a teacher’s thing. (remember the old axiom, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.) While it isn’t ever quite that clear, too much intellectualizing and analysis stifles creativity–consigning artists to mountains of opinions and rules. I rather like the view that we learn rules so we know how to break them. 🙂

    • Mornin Clay! I was never one to bow much to authority. Especially when authority is full of crap! 🙂 Too, my pallet might not always have black on it but it’s handy just in case. 🙂
      rules!! Who needs em!

  7. You know, why does there have to be one ‘artiste’ or ‘ art afficiando’ who seems to feel that he knows it all. I agree with you, Eldon. I love the ART in plein aire work that is NOT touched up in the studio because it is not necessary to do that. As far as colors used, good grief. As far as I can see, an artist worth his oats can use whatever color he wishes; who’s to say what he can or cannot use. Art is creation of a sort and there are really no boundaries I believe. I wonder if this ‘critic’ has sold many works or maybe he feels his importance to art is sacrosanct. Geez. How pretentious can one get.

    • Hiya Peg!! Thanks for stopping in and having a look. I’ve kinda put this guy aside. He’s just another thorn in the side of creativity. He can spout all he wants, I aint listenin any more. 🙂 {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

  8. Eldon, furgetabout it! This fellow gave me an award for a small plein air piece last year. Maybe he wasn’t the juror; that was Peggi Kroll Roberts. It must have killed him to see a plein air piece win the Jean Stern award! Hope he doesn’t see this! Chuckle.

    • Yep! I pretty much got that one out of my system. Couldn’t just let it go tho. 🙂 Your story about the award is hugely funny! Makes my day actually. Thanks…

  9. I have to agree with everyone else comments on this topic. I’m just a passerby that likes to check out fellow artist blogs to see some beautiful original work but I read your post and have to leave my own thoughts. I just recently finished participating in two plein air competitions here in northern Utah and I LOVE to plein air paint. What this person doesn’t understand is the fact that some people plein air paint simply because it is INFINITELY more enjoyable than painting in your studio. Most of us who work with the landscape do so because we are outdoorsman at heart and enjoy the beauty that the landscape provides. Naturally, we want to be in the outdoors as much as possible.

    Aside from the fact that it is more enjoyable, it is also much more challenging to execute a successful plein air painting than it is to execute a studio painting. You have an entirely different set of challenges and issues to overcome when you paint outside that make the experience all the more rewarding when you beat mother nature and complete a beautiful piece or work. I spent the last 2 weeks painting in sun, wind, torrential downpours, heat and even cold(that’s a Utah Spring for ya), but was still able to come out with some beautiful small paintings that I am very proud of. I paint en plein air because I love to do so, not because I am trying to make a statement, or because I am trying to end up with a study for a more involved studio painting. I love it, end of story.

  10. Hey Eldon- I’m so glad you took offense to this article- the same way I did. I was just talking to Coni about it in the car on the way to our painting destination as to how appalled I was by his writing in Plein air Magazine that small plein air paintings should only be used as studies for the big daddies. Thanks for your feelings on this issue.
    Will you be at the PAAC show? Hope you will!

  11. Great to see you at the PAAC Show.
    Sue read the article in question, out loud to me as we drove to the PAAC show. I had read it previously- in a magazine store – and it was enough to convince me to NOT buy the magazine.
    But, I was reminded of the first time I actually saw for myself the difference “plein air” could make. In the studio of a well know artist, who will remain nameless, he showed me his 8×10 plein air “study” and the huge, epic (my word) piece painted from it.
    All the energy and exuberance had been sucked out and replaced by tedious, detail work that rendered the painting a big snooze.
    It was at that very moment that I resolved to NEVER go there.
    For a different answer – ask another artist; I am comfortable with differing opinions, but dictating taste – to artists. . . . .
    That is exactly why the impressionists flouted the Salon.

  12. Beautifully written and great paintings Eldon. I was right with you on this one the whole way. In fact I was thinking about something like that the other day, about the “rules” and who makes them. And why is it that the people who break all of them, the originals are hanging in all of our major art museums? Sometimes when artists post plein air studies, and then a studio piece, I prefer the painting made out in the open. I also like landscape paintings done completely from photos. It turns out the magical “what works” is as impossible to define as why people fall in love.

    So I am with you. All I know is that you know what you are doing.

    You are great.

    Take care,


  13. Al Schryvers Says:

    This reminds of a movie “local Color, it is funny, serious and sad, but it is about this.

  14. I agree with you, Eldon. Who put this guy in charge of what’s “proper” landscape painting and what isn’t? Oh, one thing in the article that’s a bit misleading…ok, wrong : landscape painting is not actually the most ancient of human endeavors in the arts. Depicting wildlife in painting is far more ancient, going back close to 30,000 years. Sorry to burst Stern’s bubble! Aboriginal rock art is tough to date precisely but it’s from around this same time period and depicts, yep, animals and humans. Sculptures of the human figure are also about as old. Outside of Australia, figurative paintings (humans) began in the ancient Near East around 3,000 BC and in the American west about the same time. Archaeologically speaking, landscape painting is a relative newcomer on the scene, the earliest of which was found in a Roman mural painted around 100, and that’s really stretching it (it simply shows a volcano, nothing else). About 1000 AD was the beginning of the Chinese depictions of the landscape in art, and in western painting it would be around the Renaissance. So actually landscape painting is one of the more recent of subjects to be depicted in painting!

    I love plein air landscape work, although I concentrate on wildlife painting (let’s rub it in to Mr Stern some more…wildlife painting – the truly oldest of painting subjects). Plein air painting has done so much for ALL of my work that I don’t think I could spell it all out.

    Oh yeah, I use black and love it!

  15. Rick Frisbie Says:

    Yahoo Eldon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: