The Plein Air Critique – It’s a Bonus!

A plein air (French for “open air”) painter attends a workshop for a variety of reasons. Perhaps for the purpose of improving his/her painting skills, have long periods of quality time in which to paint, or perhaps just to get away from the routine of daily life and get a fresh perspective on his/her work.
As the workshop begins, the instructor has the class members introduce themselves. He/she then gives an overview of the class, any special instructions and a demonstration related to the lesson of the day. The members are then free to choose their location within a given area and paint until lunch time.
After lunch and perhaps a rest time, it’s time to paint again until, say, 4 pm when the class assembles for critique. The class members are expected to bring the paintings they have been working on during that day, whether or not they are finished.
“Critique” can be a scary word, especially for the uninitiated. “But,” you say, “my painting is so bad that I don’t want everyone looking at it”. Let me tell you, there are others in the class feeling the same way. Besides, just as any 10th grader knows, you have to go through grades 1 – 9 to get there, so every advanced artist had to go through the beginning steps to get where he/she is today.
Here are the positives: There are others in the class, some more learned than you, some less. All come from different backgrounds and experiences and have differing amounts of talent. You can learn a great deal just by looking at their paintings and listening to the critiques given to them by the class. You can learn to see the strong parts and weak parts of their paintings. You can learn to understand the comments given by the class and how to improve the weak parts. You can learn that the comments are given in a kind and positive manner. In this process you are training your own eye to see the strong and weak parts of your own painting and to see the way an artist sees.
When it is your turn to show your painting(s), you will see them in a whole new light. It is amazing the ideas people will have for you to improve your work. You will be subject to ideas that you never would have discovered by yourself and all will be given in an empathetic and positive manner. You will have learned ways to improve your skills and you will be so happy you took the risk of showing your work.