A plein air painter friend of mine recently told me about her encounter with a passer-by when she was outside painting in the West Village this past summer. This stranger pointed out to my friend, "You're a dinosaur!" In other words, this person believed that not since the late 19th century when the Impressionists launched their movement had there been any artists painting on-site. Either that, or this person was hallucinating and really believed she had sighted an ancient reptile! The fact is that even while all sorts of artistic trends have come and gone, there have always been artists interested in and pursuing their passion for painting what they see on-site, out-of-doors, and I am one to continue on that path. Sure, people are often surprised to see me with my easel in a particularly grimy neighborhood (as by the Gowanus Canal has been for years!) or even on a neighborhood sidewalk - "Are you painting that bodega, miss?!" "Are housing projects your specialty?"
We paint from life outside for various reasons. For me, it's the combination of my love of being outdoors and the challenge of capturing the colors and shapes I see before me in a pleasing and interesting composition. I do what I love, especially finding beauty in small, everyday details. And the process is meditative; I am rarely as calm yet energized as when I paint en plein air. Am I carrying on a tradition? Am I stuck in the past? Does it make a difference?
In the end, I have my own voice and make my own mark(s). Let the sun shine!