The Power of Plein-Air Drawing

What is Plein-air? Here is what Google says;

adjective: plein-air
denoting or in the manner of a 19th-century style of painting outdoors, or with a strong sense of the open air, that became a central feature of French impressionism.”the French style of plein-air landscape painting

I may be known as a cartoonist but drawing landscapes and buildings is my relaxation. When you change a hobby into a job it can take away the relaxation factor even though you enjoy it. When I started my art business I was drawing landscapes, buildings and such as the main product of the business. Then when I released my comic series in 2008 I began to focus on cartoons and caricatures as the main art product. We are still there to this day and now my plein-air drawing is the relaxation technique.

Watch me draw the Burlington Junction Train Station

Why is there power in plein-air drawing?

Plein-air drawing or painting can be very romantic. You see it in the movies, an artist outside painting on a hill over a beautiful Tuscan landscape with the perfect weather and not a care in the World. That may be the dream but the reality is not near as perfect. You have to worry about bugs in the paint, the wind blowing over your easel, and burning to death of a sunburn. So why do it?

Plein-air painting is much like golfing or going to the beach. You get the chance to rest the brain and think of only the subject in front of you. Being outside can be very relaxing within and that is the reason most of us play golf. Enjoying the fresh air and leaving your cares behind for a few hours is a powerful mental vacation even if only the backyard.

Drawing St Luke’s Church

Another benefit is you will get a chance to improve your skills whether drawing or painting. You have the subject right there in front of you allowing you to really see the details and enjoy the scenery around you. When you’re finished your picture not only will you have a great memory of the day, but a finished project moving you forward in your craft.

You can do plein-air activities as a family or by yourself making it the perfect family activity during a pandemic. If you choose the right spot and everyone in the family doesn’t draw then some can go on a hike while you draw or paint or you can all create together. Put some music on in your headphones and enjoy the scenery around you.

Plein-air can be very rewarding whether the picture turns out well or not and remember it is more about being outdoors and improving your hobby than getting a picture perfect. If you want to learn how to draw plein-air buildings with a small group then join us in June for an on location workshop drawing around the Oakville area. You can register through the Oakville Art Society by clicking the link.

View other sketch walks with Bruce here

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is a professional artist from the Burlington Ontario area. He specializes in caricatures and cartoons and teaches a variety of drawing classes within the Oakville area through the Oakville Art Society. You can learn more about Bruce and his art business at