Learn about the massive trends we’re seeing in the plein air community, and how you can help grow this historic movement.
A couple of years ago, the plein air movement experienced an exciting new trend that has continued to grow.
More and more outdoor painters have started becoming buyers and collectors of plein air artwork. In a raise-your-hands survey I did on stage during a convention, we found that about 90 percent of the room said they had bought one or more paintings in the last year, 50 percent had bought five or more, and about 10 percent raised their hands for 10 or more paintings purchased in a year.
And the reverse is true — an increasing number of art buyers and collectors have taken up painting! One expert theory is that because of all the plein air shows around America (I estimate there are over 300 now) where people get to watch painters in action, the buyers and collectors become so enthralled that they want to learn to paint, too.
These upward trends are in addition to things I was already seeing happen in this community:
• The plein air movement is exploding. More and more people are discovering it every day. Probably because of the huge number of people facing retirement who are seeking ways to stay mentally challenged and use their creativity.
• Not only am I seeing a lot of baby boomers taking up painting, I’m starting to see a substantial number of painters under 30 and 40 coming into the movement, and lots are showing up at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE).
• There has been an explosion of awareness of the term plein air. Years ago, almost no one knew the term, but today, more and more people seem to be becoming aware of it.
• There is a new, booming plein air movement in watercolor and water media, including acrylic and solvent-free painting. We’re seeing more and more people coming in to join us.
• We’ve been surprised to see the PleinAir Podcast reach over a half-million listens.
• Because of the podcast, PACE continues to see more attendees who have never painted outdoors.
• Several plein air shows are reporting record sales.
As you can imagine, I was pleased to see this full circle trend because it’s important that art buyers and collectors be part of the overall ecosystem of the plein air movement. I also think show organizers who don’t yet understand this will be thrilled to hear it.
These trends reinforce the need for all of us to be an active part of and grow this community. Plein air painting changed your life and mine, and we can help others discover it.
How You Can Help the Plein Air Movement</2>
As you have probably heard, Jean Stern, art historian and director of the Irvine Museum at the University of California, says that plein air painting is the largest movement in the history of art.
It’s important that we keep this movement strong. How do we do it?
- Get people excited about plein air painting and bring more people into the family.
- Interact with people when you’re out painting, explain what plein air painting is, and give them a feel for what you do. Encourage them to try it for themselves. Suggest they consider purchasing paintings for their home. This may breed new painters or new buyers.
- Teach, demonstrate, or speak at local community centers, schools, and events to let people know about plein air painting. A couple of years ago we launched PleinAirForce so you can have free materials to hand out, easel stickers, and there’s even a free documentary we created about plein air painting that you can show at events. (And every plein air painter should watch it to understand the history of plein air painting.) You have our blessing to link to it from your website to inform collectors.
- New at PACE20: For the first time, PACE will have a special track just for those who organize and plan plein air events! There will be presentations and information sharing on best practices, how to build events, what works and what doesn’t, how to promote events, boost painting sales, how to get the best artists to attend, how to jury shows, and a whole lot more! To attend, you must be fully registered for PACE.
- Expose plein air painting to young people. Kids and teens could grow up and become artists or collectors. Since they often get zero art education, plein air will stand out — if they see you in a class or assembly at their school, that may be the only art they are ever exposed to. Pro soccer is hot today because every kid in school is exposed to it. We need to think about the future.
- Stay active in local plein air groups and make them easy to find. If there is not a group in your town, consider starting one. People need to attend events regularly to thrive. A weekly paint-out in your town is always fun. Because the PleinAir Podcast is up to almost a half million listens, more people want to find others to paint with and are seeking local groups. I hear from people all the time, and I point them to PaintOutside.com, which offers some free painting lessons and also has a directory of artists so people can find them in their area or when traveling. (Consider registering on that page so you can be found.)
- Become a part of the plein air community. For those of you who have attended the Plein Air Convention, you know it’s like a family gathering where you can see all your new and old friends every year. But it also builds confidence, helps you understand the plein air world, and helps you grow faster because it’s got education, community, and painting as a group. People grow to the highest level when they become a part of the community of painters. Too many people feel alone and cooped up in their studios, and it’s a good feeling to paint with others, which, of course, also promotes growth.
- Encourage growth. Stale painters get frustrated and lose interest. Growing painters stay engaged. Point people to workshops and learning events like our convention. Point them to instructional videos and other resources.
- Work the charity events. By doing so, you will expose affluent people to plein air painting. Offer to do demos at events, or find ways to speak to charity groups.
- Seek ways to gain publicity for you or your group. Look for ways to get in the local paper, websites, TV, etc.
- Bring someone to the convention with you. Maybe offer to share your room. People who have not attended don’t know what to expect — they often envision something like a giant political convention. Let them know it’s a safe, welcoming environment, that all levels of painters are welcomed and encouraged, and that they’ll learn so much that they’ll thrive in many ways. You might even encourage your whole group to go. Each year, we see more painting groups experience the Plein Air Convention together.
- Embrace the idea that plein air painting is about quality. With thousands more people taking up plein air painting, tens of thousands more people will be exposed to plein air painting. Always keep quality in mind.
- Strive for personal growth as a painter. Be the best you can be. Though it never happens overnight, just being dedicated to growth toward improved quality is important.
- Give some free lessons to get people started and feeling like they can learn. Let them pick up the brush and do a couple of strokes for you. Or point them to the free lessons we offer on PaintOutside.com. They may end up attending your classes or workshops.
- Keep it fun. We all do this because it’s fun, so make your outings fun for everyone. People who see you having fun will want to join in.
- Be encouraging. People drop out when they’re frustrated with the process of learning.
Every week I encounter people who are taking up plein air painting and who are not even aware of workshops, events, conventions, even magazines like PleinAir.
In every town across America, there are painters who want to connect and become a part of our world, yet they are not aware of the various resources or that there’s a whole community for them to join. Seek ways to reach out and connect.
Together we can grow and strengthen plein air painting.
Eric Rhoads, Publisher
P.S. Every person painting outdoors, every group member, every event organizer, and every gallery supporting outdoor painters should be thinking about these things. You have my blessing to forward this to those you think may not have seen it.
P.P.S. Don’t forget about the all new track for event organizers at the Plein Air Convention & Expo coming up May 2-6, 2020 in Colorado. PACE20 is shaping up to be the biggest and best PACE event ever and seats are selling fast. In fact, there are only about 135 seats left now. If you’re still trying to decide, you’ll have to hurry because once we fill up, we’ll have to place you on our waiting list and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot. Register today!