Painting in plein air is a must-have experience for your art students. They’ll learn to notice and capture natural light, shadow, and color in a way that’s just not possible indoors. And one of the best ways to compare and contrast those critical artistic elements is to revisit the same plein air location several times throughout the year. Like Monet’s Haystacks, a series of 25 paintings that captures the same subject beginning in summer and ending the following spring, painting the same scene in different seasons will result in noticeably different works.
Choosing the right plein air location for your multi-visit field trip is crucial. Below are a few things to remember as you scout your location:
If your school happens to be adjacent to a National Park, mountain range, canyon, or shoreline, wonderful! Natural subjects can be inspiring. If you’re not near a natural wonder, but still want to choose a natural subject, consider a local park. Trees and sky lines offer great angles and colors. Just make sure your location isn’t too far from your bus or whatever transports your students as they’ll each be carrying their own supplies.
Remember that plein air painting is about painting outdoors—the subject doesn’t have to be outdoorsy. You can also choose to capture an interesting structure, corner, even a parking lot or construction site can be ripe with interesting, naturally-lit colors and shapes.
You may not need to leave campus for this exercise. The critical piece is finding an interesting subject and revisiting it, exactly, from season to season. From the parking lot mentioned above to the soccer field to a drinking fountain, your students will learn to see the beauty in the everyday objects all around them and the way they change, visually, throughout the year.
Be sure to choose a place you’ll be able to access throughout the year. If you’re in a cold climate, you may not be up for a hike through the snow to get back to that gorgeous mountain view you captured in the early fall.
Whatever location you choose make sure there is enough space for all of your students to paint comfortably and that the location is safe (near the parking lot, versus in it, for example). Having restrooms nearby never hurt either.
Have you conducted plein air lessons with your students? Do you have any tips to share with your fellow art teachers? Let us know in the comments below.