The term “plein air” refers to painting or drawing outdoors with the intent of capturing the living beauty of nature, or of natural or man-made objects seen in their natural settings, in a direct, spontaneous manner.
As the light, atmospheric and weather conditions change continuously during the course of the day, plein air artists must learn to work quickly to capture the image they see before it changes.
This is very different from studio painting, in which the desired conditions can often be maintained for as long as is needed to complete the work in progress.
Plein air painting was initiated in the mid-19th century by French artists, who enjoyed newly available oil paints tubes and portable box easels with telescopic legs that could be easily carried outdoors for painting sessions.
Download a more thorough look at the history of plein air painting in the prepared document below.