Definitions and Frequently Asked Questions about Plein Air Painting

“Plein Air” is a French expression which means "in the open air" and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif ("painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees") in French. In painting, "sur le motif" reproduces the actual visual conditions seen at the time of the painting. This contrasts with painting according to studio or academic rules, which creates a pre-determined look.

Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school, the Hudson River School and Impressionism. The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1840s with the introduction of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). Previously, painters made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil. The Newlyn School in England is considered another major proponent of the technique in the latter 19th century.

It was during this period that the "Box Easel", typically known as the French Box Easel or field easel, was invented. It is uncertain who developed it first, but these highly portable easels, with telescopic legs and built-in paint box and palette, made treks into the forest and up the hillsides less onerous. Still made today, they remain a popular choice even for home use since they fold up to the size of a brief case and thus are easy to store. [Wikipedia]

For the Shadows-on-the-Teche Plein Air Competition, all work on paintings must be completed in the outdoor setting of the painting. The artist can experience many types of weather conditions during the competition.

Locations for artists to paint.

The artists can paint in the parishes surrounding Shadows-on-the-Teche in the area referred to as Acadiana. This includes Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes. The following are some suggested painting locations in these parishes.

Iberia: Shadows-on-the-Teche-New Iberia’s Historic Main Street-Avery Island’s natural area & Tabasco plant-sugar cane fields-Delcambre shrimp boats

Lafayette: St. John Cathedral and St. John Oak

St. Martin-Levert Sugar Mill-Sugar cane fields-St. Martin du Tours Church-Evangeline Oak-Evangeline statue

St. Mary-Town of Franklin’s Historic Main Street