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Plein Air Sketching



En plein air, or Plein air sketching is an art where you experience painting and sketching beyond the walls of your classrooms. This practice dates back to centuries ago, as artists have long painted outdoors.

History of Plein air sketching:

Though this act of sketching outdoors is very common in the 21st century, this technique was truly incorporated as an art form by the French Artisans, or Impressionists.

Impressionists developed new techniques specific to their styles of depicting visual effects contrary to the academic sketchings.

Inclusion of movement was a crucial element, that was met with harsh criticism by the conventional artists.

Their desire was to portray light, its momentary and transient effects set at a landscape or scenic beauties via Plein air sketching.


It not only means sketching landscapes or any scenic view outdoors; it can also mean sketching at your own surroundings with the subject in front of you. The subject can include any objects, artefacts, or even people or the scenery from your rooms, etc.

What skills do you need for Plein air sketching?

A plein air sketching necessarily needs an artists to have keen observational skills, and a great memory power to recall the colour notes, intensity of light, etc. Some painters also use photographs as a reference to get exact detailing; but most of them stay away from photographs.

When an artist paints their subject of interest from a point of observation, he / she will encounter a number of several different light sources, inside or outdoors. These distinct qualities have to be understood in order to produce a lively and convincing artwork.

Outcomes of Plein air sketching:

Artists found it easier to portray light and colours outdoors, and though plein air sketching was tiresome, the results were worth the trouble and the artwork looked realistic and the landscapes came alive.

Plein air sketching could help an artist understand different light sources prevalent around the subject and could produce realistic artworks as opposed to the conventional art styles.

Challenges: past and present:

Since the French Impressionists had to set outdoors for their paintings and sketches for Plein air sketching, a box easel or a field easel that is a precursor to the modern easel was invented. This could fold up into a briefcase and was suitable for Plein air sketchings.

The other challenges that include in the present day world, is the type of paints used, outdoor scenery, onlookers, environmental conditions, weather, etc.

Famous artists known for Plein air sketching.

French impressionist painters such aa Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro are famous advocates of Plein air sketchings.

Russian painters such as Vasily Polenov, Isaac Levitan, I.E. Grabar (19th-20th century) and  American Impressionists such as those of Old Lyme school, Guy rose, Arthur Hill Gilbert, etc. were renowned artists.

 Plein air sketching in Bangalore

There are many art institutes coming up with the concept of outdoor drawing classes. Few have been able to successfully get the audiences to experience and learn from their Plein air sketching classes amidst the greenery and the lovely landscapes in Bangalore.

Pencil & Chai is one such initiative from Coloring India foundation that aims to deliver quality fine art hobby classes and Outdoor “Plein air sketching sessions since 8 years”

Conducted weekly by eminent artists, these outdoor sessions definitely are a must try for those who are enthusiastic about art.

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