PleinAir Magazine -
Cynthia Rosen painting a large landscape en plein air, as seen in the PleinAir Magazine article “Pushing Boundaries” (December/January issue).

In this issue of PleinAir Magazine, we’re highlighting a number of artists who exhibit a pioneering spirit, defined as a “willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places or try new things.”

Measured against the great span of art across the centuries, plein air painting occupies a relatively new space on the timeline. For much of art history, allegorical and narrative themes dominated landscape painting. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that artists began to reject the contrived scenes of their predecessors and turn in earnest to nature itself for inspiration.

PleinAir Magazine
The cover of our December/January issue of Plein Air Magazine; art by Michele Byrne (Click here to buy the digital version now)

The Romantics had helped pave the way just a few decades earlier. Railing against the rise of industrialization and the sober academic tradition that had dominated the arts, they took their sketching materials with them into the landscape in search of authenticity. But it was with the French Barbizon School of the mid-1800s that plein air painting found a defining place in the artist’s process. And of course, it welcomed its most famous proponents in the Impressionists who followed. Seeking to capture the effects of atmosphere, these artists based their paintings on the science of color and light, and completed most of their work outdoors in a few hours.

At about the same time, plein air got a boost from a little-known American portrait painter, John G. Rand. Up to that point, a pig’s bladder sealed with string provided the best means for storing paint. Bladders, however, didn’t keep long or travel well, and frequently burst open. By inventing the collapsible tin tube that would give his paints a longer shelf life, Rand also enabled artists to leave their studios with greater ease. As Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, “Without colors in tubes, there would be no Cézanne, no Monet, no Pissarro, and no Impressionism.”

In this issue of PleinAir Magazine, we’re highlighting a number of artists who exhibit the same pioneering spirit, defined as a “willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places or try new things.” The four artists featured in the story “Pushing Boundaries” provide the most obvious examples. Challenging the preconceived notions most people envision when they think of plein air work, these innovative painters explore shape, color (or lack thereof), and emotion in exciting and revealing ways.

For Matt Ryder, a British-born artist living in Dubai, painting the landscape was only his first act of revolution in the abstract-dominated art market of the region. Featured in “Painting the Middle East,” he also stands nearly alone among his peers in his pursuit of plein air.

In “Freezing the Sun,” Russell Jewell provides a more subtle example. Working in a medium that has not always been well-represented in plein air events, this watercolor artist frames his work in an untraditional format that may offer a glimpse into the future of the medium.

And these artists are not alone in displaying a pioneering spirit. To every group who ever organized a new plein air event; every artist who has saved up and sacrificed to take a workshop or attend the Plein Air Convention; every art lover who has supported a burgeoning painter by collecting their work; and every enthusiast who made the leap to painter, I salute you.

PleinAir Magazine, December/January Table of Contents:

PleinAir magazine contents

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  1. I’m thrilled to see Cynthia Rosen as the main artist featured here. She’s my favorite Plein Air painter. I was fortunate enough to take one of her workshops this year, and she’s also a warm and supportive person and very giving with excellent advice. And her paintings look even more amazing in person. Watching her demo at the workshop was jaw-dropping. Not only did she come up with an incredible painting in a short time, she talked throughout the demo, giving out painting lessons that improved my painting immediately. I look forward to seeing the new issue of PleinAir.


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