November 20, 2008 (CHAPEL HILL, NC) – On a recent weekend this month, Chapel Hill artist Kimberly Alvis joined a group of painters who took their paints, palettes, canvases and easels to Elodie goat farm in Bahama, NC, to participate in an en plein air (French for “in the open air”) painting session coordinated by Outdoor Painters of Graham, NC.
The result is a 12”x16” oil on panel painting entitled “Two Goats” that captures a pair of goats around a large watering pot in a field, their shadows indicating mid-morning. A small wooden shed in the background squats before a grove of tall trees in full autumn color.
“I love plein air painting because it’s so challenging,” Alvis said. “You never know what you’ll have to deal with. It could be wind, cold, manipulating the easel so the sun isn’t shining on it — which messes up the values — or trying to keep a goat from eating your canvas! When I get back to painting in my studio it’s so much easier.”
Frank LaLumnia, a founding member of Plein-Air Painters of America, explains the challenge – and attraction — of plein air painting:
“Painting from life is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique,” he writes on the organization’s website (www.p-a-p-a.com). “It challenges artists to concentrate every sensory nerve on the information in front them. They absorb it all, from sight to sound, from temperature to atmosphere, and then channel those feelings from head to hand, re-creating the vision in paints on paper or canvas.”
According to LaLumnia, plein air painting began in 19th-century Europe. “Englishman John Constable believed the artist should forget about formulas and trust his own vision in finding truth in nature.”
French Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir also advocated en plein air painting, and much of their work was created outdoors.
Outdoor Painters in Graham facilities and promotes artists who enjoy plein air painting by working with property owners or agents to secure access to restricted or private property for “paint-outs.” For more information, visit the website: http://www.outdoorpainter.org.
Kimberly Alvis is an accomplished artist represented in the Triangle by Somerhill Gallery. She is currently showing a collection of recent works at the Carrboro Town Hall in Carrboro, NC. To see more of the artist’s work, visit http://www.alvisart.com.