Plein Air

Welcome to MAA Plein Air Painting

Why do it?
Plein air painting, as we know it, had it’s beginnings way back with J.M.W.Turner and John Constable in England in the 1800’s. It became popular, later, with the Impressionists, aided by the invention of screw-top tubes of paint and flat brushes, that made painting outside much easier. 

Many artists create their work in studio, using photographs and other images or simply from memory of what they saw outside. It’s all cool –  all about artistic expression. 

However, from someone who has painted outside for years, I know that there are a lot of great things that come from plein air painting. First, there is the simple enjoyment from painting with a friend or a number of friends in the fresh air and sharing the adventures of new places.

But there is much more! With time and effort, by painting outside, we can learn to perceive colour and the effects of light on shadows and reflections in ways only seasoned artists can appreciate. Plein air painting can make major improvements to one’s work, whether it’s studio landscapes, portraiture or any other genre. In time, plein air painting can teach us to see as artists. I know this to be true from years of instructing and painting outdoors in all seasons.

Why not give it a try? It can be frustrating at first because there are so many outdoor elements from which to choose; so little time before the sun’s overhead path changes the shadows and  hues. But we learn by trying and we can learn by watching and listening to other seasoned artists. As serious artists from beginner to professional, we can always learn more.

How Can I Join Up?
The MAA Plein Air Group gets together each Thursday morning from 9:30 until noon from early June until the end of September, at locations within an hour’s drive of Manotick. Once you have emailed me ( with your request to join , I will add your name to the MAA list for weekly notifications that are emailed to everyone approximately one week in advance with the directions and description of each location. (You must be a member of MAA to participate).

There is no instruction during these sessions – everyone is expected to bring their own supplies and work independently. However, if you are a beginner or just need advice, please let us know so we can be a help to you. It is that easy.

A Plein Air Painters Packing list
Here is what I take with me when I go out to paint and sketch. 

A plastic bag to hold used paint rags, wrappers etc. When we leave, the area should be spotless! 

  • A wide brimmed hat
  • Sturdy shoes or boots and long pants (read the notification tick warning)
  • Sun screen & bug repellant
  • Sunglasses to protect my eyes.
  • A chair or stool for when I sit while painting and for lunch breaks.
  • My paints, brushes and a prepared canvas or other board.
  • Sketching tools – sketch book & soft pencil to plan my painting
  • My portable easel (learn from the others before you buy one)
  • Bottled water and something to eat
  • A camera is good too.

Submitted by Charlie Spratt Life member MAA,

(assisted by Gary Blake and Anne Robinson)

Charles Spratt CSPWC OSA SCA

Charles Spratt, artist, teacher, has been painting professionally for 40 years. He has painted the landscape and given painting workshops from the BC West Coast to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Supporting the visual arts in the surrounding Rideau Area

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