Plein Air and Artistic License


City by the Bay
©Loralee Chapleau


Yesterday was a beautiful day in the San Francisco Bay Area and I was lucky enough to be out there painting. My friend and I painted by the waters edge near the Berkeley Marina. The day was clear and we could see all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind wasn’t too bad, so we decide this was our chance to paint a quick one of the city.



My Sketch and View of the City.
©Loralee Chapleau


This is my initial sketch with my view of the city. At this point I ended up at asking myself the usual question…now what? I just wasn’t in the mood to paint a monochromatic tonal piece.  Once again I found myself with an unhindered imagination and a palette full of endless possibilities.  As you can see, I ended up taking a great deal of artistic license with the color and atmosphere. This leads me to my next question…

What defines plein air? There is a lot of debate among painters as to what constitutes a real plein air painting. The answer seems to be as subjective as art itself. Here is a link to an article from a few years ago that sinks it’s teeth into the issue, if you are interested,

My painting was done entirely on site from direct observation. I just chose to ignore some of that information and create from my imagination. Is this painting any less a plein air painting because I did not adhere to the light and atmosphere that was before me? As far as I am concerned the definition is simple. Plein air means “in the open air”. What of the rest of the rules and restrictions others may want to apply? I say, it’s art! Live and let paint!


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