Go alongside an artist who left the studio, left his car, and left the trail, to find the perfect spot for painting en plein air.
Beyond the Art Studio Walls
By Erik Koeppel
“How to be a Plein Air Painter,” may seem like a ludicrous subject for an article, and a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have considered it. I have a French dictionary and am aware that en plein air means “outside.” So plein air painting must mean painting outside. However, in some discussions in recent years with several artists (some quite renowned), I’ve learned that there are those who consider plein air painting to be a “style” of painting, and that just because you are painting outside doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “plein air painter” (translation: outdoor painter).
I feel that I’m really beginning to plein air paint when I cross a boundary with an imaginary sign that reads “Nature: All Welcome.” Crossing this gate, I am leaving the comforts of my quiet, comfortable studio behind and entering into a kind of unknown. There is a reason I’m here; I’m searching for a painting.
For me, that meant leaving my car beside the road one day in the White Mountain National Forest and entering directly into the woods where there was no trail.
By making my way along deer, moose, and bear paths, I found my way through the dense woods to the Ellis River. Although the river was fine, my curiosity drove me to explore further upstream. I was prepared to spend the day with a heavy pack, water, lunch, paint gear, travel guitar, and sketchbook. It was slow going along the river.
The boulders were often too large and the water too rapid to walk easily, so I often had to take to the woods, move further upstream, and then check on the river views every so often, all the while imagining the beauty around the next bend.
Originally published in Artists on Art magazine
LISTEN > Erik Koeppel is featured on the PleinAir Art Podcast with Publisher Eric Rhoads, in which they discuss Koeppel’s techniques for painting trees and what he’s learned over the years from the Hudson River School and nature.