Scott Hiestand’s paintings of the Florida landscape may seem serene at first glance, but they represent a decidedly wild terrain.

“Glades,” by Scott Hiestand, acrylic, 20 x 36 in. This piece won First Place in the PleinAir Salon’s June/July contest.

Hiestand says he is drawn to the bands of color in the open areas of glades — fields or marshy areas outlined or sparsely dotted with trees. “The vast open space of it all, where the sky hits the horizon and there’s a tremendous amount of space — you can’t see this anywhere else but South Florida,” he says. “I’m just fascinated; I’m in awe of it.” This acrylic painter recognizes that a scene with such bands has to have a rich sense of atmosphere to it. He uses very thin washes to push and pull layers in the picture plane, applying two or three washes, adding a bit of detail, and then applying more washes. “I will push colors around in the background and then as the eye comes forward, pull out more detail,” says the artist. “That’s the way my eye sees it. Details pull in the eye and then you see bands of color as you look out in the background.”

“Strickland Creek,” by Scott Hiestand, 2012, acrylic, 11 x 14 in. Private collection

“White Trees,” by Scott Hiestand, 2012, acrylic, 6 x 8 in. Private collection

His paintings of Florida glades are restful, but his painting sessions are not: Wildlife abounds in the Sunshine State. “I live in an area that has a lot of dangerous wildlife,” says Hiestand. “I’ve never been bit, but I’ve seen a lot of them. You have to be cautious.” 

His primary concern is snakes, but much bigger reptiles may visit as well. “I’m always aware of what’s going on around me,” says the artist. “Sometimes that can take away from your concentration on the painting. If you think you are the only one in the area, you are probably kidding yourself. You never know when a snake can be at the base of your easel. Or a car surprises you by coming along, and the people step out and talk to you about what you’re doing, which is always nice.”

“Water Edge,” by Scott Hiestand, 2012, acrylic, 6 x 8 in. Private collection

“Spruce Creek,” by Scott Hiestand,  2012, acrylic, 9 x 12 in. Private collection

“Redtail,” by Scott Hiestand, 2006, mixed medium, 8 x 12 x 27 in. tall. Private collection

Hiestand loves it all and says he feels fortunate to live in an area with a lot of “critters.” Whenever possible, the artist includes an animal in his paintings. 

The artist estimates that 90 percent of his paintings are completed in the field, but he will occasionally add an additional wash or place accurate details on a bird in the studio. He also spends time in the studio sculpting animals out of wire, covering much of the armature with cloth to which he applies hardeners, gesso, and paint. He leaves some of the wire armature visible. “I do all this work with the wire, I’m for sure not going to cover all that up,” he laughs. “I like playing around with the positive and negative space.” Hiestand also feels it is important to make the heads of animals detailed and finished, then leave part of the body rough and open, because when we look at animals, we naturally focus on their heads.

“Rainbow Trio,” by Scott Hiestand, 2008, mixed medium, 25 x 12 x 17 in. tall. Collection the artist

“Table Top,” by Scott Hiestand, 1999, acrylic, 11 x14 in. Collection the artist. Studio painting

Not surprisingly, Hiestand feels strongly about conservation, and he does what he can to preserve the landscape and protect the wildlife he so dearly loves. His devotion to nature in Florida is evident in his work.


  1. How well said!!!! The value of the plein air paintings can’t be determined by how many of them there are, how available they are, or how much people are willing to pay for them. The market,the buying public, unfortunatley, is not the same as the real value of how these should be apprciated. Some of these little first impressionas are pure genius.

  2. One paints for the pure pleasure of doing so. The challenge is always there to pull off a painting that leaves you excited. If a sale results, it’s a plus, at least for me anyway.

  3. the problem with stern as well as rhodes is that they view plein air from an academic perspective,(as can be surmised from having read many previous statements). subject, drawing/technique, values, colours, are seen in that descending order of importance, whereas those who have actually studied outdoors for the last 40 or 50 years (as well as their masters before them) quite clearly understand that the list of priorities run the reverse of that path with colour taking primacy over all else. and this academic view that outdoor work is simply preliminary support for the studio is also an obsolete p.o.v. dragged into modern times by those who refuse to jettison the academic corpse.

    studio painters as well as plein air hobbyists have every legitimate right to work as they wish and to produce what they wish to, but they do not have the right to define a painting terminology for everyone else solely based upon their preferred processes or their own visual biases, which would certainly be a marriage of both arrogance and ignorance of the full historical scope of outdoor painting.

    those who promote the one shot work will never be able to grasp the monumental gulf which separates them from the multiple session painters who return to the exact location and motif at the same time of year, the same time of day and kind of day in order to make a truthful representation of the light key, which trumps all else. the light being the actual subject and the one visual truth about what one is seeing which cannot be ignored.

    the intent of the painter also trumps any pre-defined terminology, the two major plein air intents are pictorial and compositional. that which is pictorial is obvious enough and may rightfully be illustrated in one session, but it is only logical that one would need to return to the motif seen in the same light key for repeated sessions if one was to compose anything of actual substance. but do not mistake that these repeated sessions are to register illustrative subjective detail, they are rather to more closely approach the truth of the lighting. one may certainly produce a beautiful painting in studio but this refined vision of nature can not be achieved within a studio working from secondary source materials. the english landscapists had a saying about intent, “it is not the addition of individual circumstances (details), but the omission of general truth, that makes the little, the deformed, and the short-lived in art.”

  4. Thank you so much for explaining, I have been painting for 12 years and am now trying to understand Plein air and its processing. You have helped me so much!
    New member of Laguna Beach Plein Air Association.

  5. certainly not being an excuse for his blind spots or ignorance of the actualities of extended on site light key painting one still could possibly say that stern has probably been visually inundated with so much west coast illustrator pleinair that at some point he decided to push back and not allow the historical california painters to be tainted by the same classification and terminology, especially in light of the illustrators having appropriated the same names to designate themselves for commercial marketing purposes. and as an extension of this problem the commercial illustrators have conducted a very effective campaign to convince the public that there is little difference between illustration and painting (because in their minds there is not any at all), and since the general public’s perceptual level is on no higher plane they are happy to accept nostalgic, sentimentalist, and derivative subject matter adorned with pretty colours,

    this biting criticism of illustrators is nothing new, and having been the object of it for many years they have sought to redeem themselves through larger studio landscapes (apparently unaware that the end product was still an illustration because of having been arrived at through the same level of perceptual development as the pleinair works). these “studio landscape” blowups (through the use of field studies and photographs), which stern touts as the true end goal of all legitimate painters, are seen by the illustrators as the best way to legitimize themselves. and this campaign has also had great success to the point that the public accepts these studio productions as the equal of if not the same as on site works. so by proclaiming studio landscapes to be superior to all on site works stern has now given cover and legitimacy to the very people he wished to expose as illegitimate. the predictable result of the classic circular thinking processes of an academic,

    but this is not a contemporary debate that will be won in a contemporary time frame, the commercial illustrators have already won the public argument in the short term by producing trivialities which appeal to the immediacy of the general market place, (and which fact should be seen as completely irrelevant and of no concern to any serious painter), the argument will only be decided in the long term as such decorative wall papers are forgotten. this will happen far more quickly if there are truly substantive alternatives to compare them to. as a great teacher once reminded, “one should not tear down other things unless you have something better to put in its place” , very often the frivolous cannot be so easily recognized as such unless that which is truly serious or profound and obviously of a much higher refinement is set in contrast to it, works which obviously express the difference between what is pictorial and what is compositional. and even then only a minority will perceive the actualities within those formal elements of painting which show the works to be completely unrelated to illustration. either way this argument will never be resolved by the use of words, it always comes back to that same teacher’s often repeated advice, “let your paintings do your talking for you.”

  6. I read that Monet, near the end of his life told Sargent that he thought he had made a contribution of the study of atmospheric color; but he said that all color fads very quickly and soon his paintings would have no significance. He said that if he could paint his pictures again he would incorporate more drawing and form.—I see this already happening in the museums, the French Impressionists paintings in general look to me dull and out of harmony.

    Most of the past great painters understood that you can’t have both successfully and that creative light causing form is more powerful and lasting then too much screaming color.


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