When it comes to plein air painting today, Scott Christensen believes that much has been lost in approach and process. Too often, when outside, artists rush into painting without having a clear conception of the “why” and “what” behind the initial impetus to paint. It was Edgar Payne who said, “The most important ally in the study of painting is the art of thinking” and that “individuality in thought is....the greatest single factor in creative work.” Scott believes that the complexities of a landscape scene can act as a barrier to clear and creative thinking. The “enormously overloaded property room” of the landscape can be overwhelming. When approaching a painting of this content, it therefore becomes essential to learn to organize and simplify your ideas.
Although painting outdoors is one of the most satisfying things an artist can pursue, and can contribute to great learning, a re-framed approach may be necessary to fully exploit this opportunity. In order to better understand how to approach painting outdoors and derive genuine learning, the artist needs to spend time indoors studying and practicing. To this end, Scott dissects and analyzes individual aspects of plein air painting in the studio, enabling students to focus on one creative step at a time.
Learning art is a process that takes time. True learning is not merely the acquisition of a “technique” to achieve a certain result. Rather, it is the ability to observe and see in ways that are unique. Scott explains the process of approaching the landscape in clear steps and offers an atmosphere conducive to its learning. With diligent practice, the technique to express the new “seeing” will eventually find itself uniquely in every student. Once practiced and understood individually, students are better equipped to apply these understandings outside, and to discover and understand the “why” and “what” in the landscape subject matter before them.