What’s To Become of the Plein Air Painting Movement?
Eric Rhoads, Plein Air magazine Chairman / Publisher

You and I live in an exciting time. There are more artists participating in plein air painting now than at any other point in history. Today, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of artists go outdoors to paint. Hundreds of local and regional plein air events take place each year, and thousands of people around the world buy original paintings from these events, from galleries, and from plein air artists themselves.

History will smile on this era of plein air painting because of the passion to keep quality high, because participants are driven to perfection through workshops and video training, and because there are probably more original plein air paintings in homes than any other kind of original artwork. You and I are experiencing a plein air boom.

Years ago, onstage at the annual Plein Air Convention & Expo, I suggested that this movement is the new golf, allowing people an intellectual and creative challenge along with the ability to be outdoors, to travel, and to make great friendships and social connections.

Though this is all well and good, it will someday come to an end, and future generations will look back at our old photos and wish they too could have been a part of it. But alas, the time will have passed.

A movement like this continues only with an orchestrated effort, and I for one want to see my children’s children able to take part in it. I don’t want to be so selfish as to think this special time is just for you and me. Therefore, together we need to work on that future now.

Our Plein Air Force effort to enlist you in helping to spread the word about plein air is more important than ever. Each of us needs to bring new people to painting, bring new people to plein air shows, and renew our efforts to make shows successful. Failed shows mean no more plein air exposure in those communities, and no sold paintings. Success breeds success, more shows, and more painters.

I’m happy to report that the Plein Air Force website has had tens of thousands of visitors come to view our documentary and share it in their communities.

Thousands have downloaded the easel brochures and stickers that explain what plein air is. And our site for those curious about plein air, PaintOutside.com, has helped get thousands of people started. Furthermore, our veterans’ training initiative has already signed up instructors in 200 cities, and we’re seeing veterans take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to plein air paint, which has helped many with PTSD issues. But we need more help. We need your help.

Without young people, this movement is at risk of fading as boomer painters age. Though we are seeing strong leadership among 30- to 40-year-olds, we need more of them to take up painting, and we need to engage college and even high school students, and expose them to the possibility of plein air painting as a hobby or a career.

I’d ask that you start thinking about what you can do to promote plein air when you’re out painting. Who can you invite along? Who can you offer a free lesson to? Where can you speak? How can you engage more people young and old?

The plein air movement is a shining light, and it has not yet reached its maximum potential. Too many people still don’t know what the words plein air mean. We need to educate and expose more people. Together, we can keep this light bright for generations to come. Will you help?

PS: The Plein Air Convention & Expo is a great way to inspire and infect people with the plein air bug. We hope to see you there in May and hope you’ll suggest it to those you hope to inspire.


  1. I’m not sure what to say about this “movement” called plein air. I began painting by going outside (by myself) on the beach and in the woods because I lived in that environment and tried to put it on paper. No one else did that where I was, in Harrisville Michigan, right on the shore of Lake Huron. As for promoting painting outside, I think artists will do that if that is what appeals to them and does not have to be promoted. I guess I think art will happen weather
    it’s acknowledged or not and doesn’t need outside help- not a pun.

  2. If you really want to see this “movement” continue to thrive over the long term, please consider offering some affordable festivals and workshops! There are a lot of us who paint en plein air regularly either solo or with a local group who would love to attend your conventions but do not because of their prohibitive cost.


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