- Brenda M. Sylvia
Plein Air Painting in the USVI
plein-air [pleyn-air; French ple-ner] adjective
1. pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio.
2. designating a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist.
3. (of a painting) having the qualities of air and natural light.
So because I am currently living back in Virginia for my first winter since 2007, I am reminded of the difficulties of being a plain air painter when the weather is cold outside. There are many things I enjoy about painting on location, but being cold is not one of them. This got me thinking about my experiences plain air painting in St Thomas and St John. I worked first on location in St John back in 2009 after shipping my acrylic paints to the islands. At that point I did not have a car and it was much easier to hitchhike around the islands without wet oil paintings. The first location I choose was the Peace Hill ruins, followed by a couple of paintings on Hawksnest Beach, Dennis Beach, and at Oppenheimer Beach. After moving to St Thomas in 2009 my plain air work continued with a focus on Sapphire Beach which is walking distance from my home. My love of experiencing nature and trying to capture on my canvas my response to these special led to my on-going series, Beautiful on the Edges - the Beaches of St Thomas. My nearest series started here on the mainland is called Trails and Trees. As with my St Thomas series, I hope it will become a mixture of studio and plain air painting. I firmly believe that all of the paintings I do now are informed by my years of painting out of doors.