"Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of the Wood" by John Singer Sargent 1885
I often get asked, "Do you paint outside or in the studio?" Well, the answer is both, but when I can, I love love love painting en plein air!
If you are inspired by nature, painting in the midst of it is truly exhilarating. I feel like I paint with all my senses when outdoors. It is so exciting to SEE true color in day light. Light moves quickly so you are forced to make your marks quickly, which takes on a fresh feeling to your painting. Any plein air painter will tell you there is nothing like it and if you haven't tried it you are missing out!
Wikipedia explains:(plān-âr', Fr. plĕn-ĕr')
En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.
Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism. The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). It was during this period that the "Box Easel", typically known as the French Box Easel, was invented. It is uncertain who developed it first, but these highly portable easels, with telescopic legs and built-in paint box and palette, made treks into the forest and up the hillsides less onerous. Still made today, they remain a popular choice even for home use since they fold up to the size of a brief case and thus are easy to store.
I too have many French easels. They are wonderful! I use them painting outside as well as in the studio when I teach students. It is very convenient to rest your palette on the drawer that pulls out in front of you under the canvas. They fold easily and most all of your supplies fit in the box.