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Plein Air

En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

Painting from life is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique. 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.

The roots of painting from life are found in 19th-century Europe. Englishman John Constable believed the artist should forget about formulas and trust his own vision in finding truth in nature. To find that truth, he made sketches outdoors, then elaborated on them in the studio.

Around the same time in France, in a small village outside Paris called Barbizon, a group of artists focused their attentions on peasant life and the natural world surrounding it. Like Constable, Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet challenged conventions of the day, choosing everyday subjects rather than the traditional cliches and presenting them in natural settings, the information for which came from sketches made in the field.

These realists, as they came to be called, laid the groundwork for the mid-19th century revolution in France that took painting from life to its logical conclusion. Lead by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edouard Degas, Auguste Renoir, et. al. the impressionists espoused the belief that you should trust your eyes. Using newly developed theories of how the eye physically registers color, they maintained that what you saw in nature was not form, but rather light on form. And light could be conveyed by color. To prove their theories, they took their paint tubes and easels outdoors, where they re-created the world as colors which suggested light. Rebuffed at first for what appeared to be unfinished paintings, the impressionist vision soon became a standard for truthfully conveying the outdoor experience.

Painting en plein air (in the open air) would forever change how we see the world. Artists in the United States were attracted to the concept, and many, like Californian Guy Rose, traveled to France to study with Monet. Suddenly, places with remarkable light were of particular interest to painters, including the both the East and West Coasts, and the American Southwest, where painting colonies formed. The goal of teachers and students alike was to capture the light and colors peculiar to the place.

Today, painting from life is a pursuit that continues to challenge the finest artists in the world, and no group is better known for upholding that credo than the Plein-Air Painters of America.

Pastels 'a l'e'cu

I use exclusively Sennellier Pastels, Extra Soft.

I have chosen these as they have a wonderful feel and move like paint. The color choice is extensive and varied in value, chroma and hues.

The Pastels of Degas

The Sennelier soft pastel " l' e'cu" is a unique tool for pastel artist who have a passion for tradition and quality. At the end of the 19th Century, Gustave Sennelier spent several year developing the Sennelier range of extra soft pastels. Degas and Sennelier worked together creating some of the colors which are still used today. This collection created the largest chromatic pastel spectrum. The collection was further developed in 1948 and again, recently,, at the beginning of the new millennium.

Sennelier pastels are still made according to traditional methods. The extra soft pastels are made from and extremely pure, selected pigment and a natural binder. The smoothness and velvety quality of the soft pastels result from a perfect balance between these two materials.

The pastels exceptional luminosity is a result of the naturally occurring minerals discovered by Sennelier in 1905 from the Champagne region of France. These minerals, which are still used today, are added to each hue to create a palette of colors that range form pure saturated pigment to varied tints.

This insures that the pastel keeps its special brilliance and intensity. The exceptionally high lightfastness of new pigments, such as the "quinacridones" or pyrroles" organic red or the "spinelles" mineral browns guarantees that colors will last longer.

The combination of Sennelier traditional manufacturing methods, the advances in modern chemistry and the recently developed pigments, enables me to paint with a revitalized palette of 525 shades.