The Art of Plein Air Painting: An Essential Guide to Materials, Concepts, and Techniques for Painting OutdoorsM. Stephen Doherty

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There is a growing interest in outdoor painting because it allows people to combine their interest in art with general outdoor activities; it connects them with social groups of artists; it involves them in an expanding market of festivals and exhibitions; and it can easily fit into a busy routine with only a few hours' commitment per week

Spring is the perfect time to go outside and experience the wonders of nature through painting, even if social distancing. Plein air painting, the art of painting outdoors, offers possibilities artists can’t find inside the studio.

When painters set up easels outside, they put themselves in direct contact with nature. Responsiveness to the landscape’s changing light, forms, and colors yields work that’s lively and spontaneous. However, plein air painting also poses a set of challenges not encountered in the studio. There are matters of choosing a location, rationing the number of supplies to bring, working within a time limit, adjusting to sudden changes in weather, and possibly even testing physical endurance when transporting equipment to a painting site.

The Art of Plein Air Painting presents the full picture of what painting en plein air requires. Devoted plein air artist M. Stephen Doherty guides readers through how to choose the best spot, which materials and tools to bring, and the basics of mixing colors and preparing canvases and panels ahead of time. Sidebars and step-by-step demonstrations cover topics that range from sketching out a composition to starting a painting with washes or lines, toning a surface, and doing a cityscape. Doherty even teaches how to do a nocturne - a painting made after the sun has gone down.

Works by famous plein air painters, such as Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent, are discussed, along with works by some of today’s best plein air artists. Doherty interviews contemporary masters Mark Boedges, Clyde Aspevig, Kathryn Stats, Michael Godfrey, Joseph McGurl, and Clive C. Tyler to gain a deeper insight into the plein air process. Finally, the book contains information on plein air events - workshops, county festivals, and juried shows - now being held across North America, as well as advice on selling finished work.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Size: 280 × 249 mm (11 1/32 × 951/64 in)
  • Pages: 176 pp
  • Illustrations: 400 illustrations
  • ISBN: 9781580934480

M. Stephen Doherty earned a master of fine arts degree from Cornell University. He taught art in public schools, colleges, and workshops; worked for an art-materials manufacturer; and served as editor in chief of American Artist magazine for thirty-one years. He is now editor of PleinAir magazine ( Doherty has exhibited his paintings in solo and group shows, served on advisory boards of art schools and artists’ organizations, judged art exhibitions for museums and art societies, and has written a dozen art books and hundreds of magazine articles. Visit him online at, or read his blog,

'Drawing on years of experience, well-respected tutor and artist, M. Stephen Doherty, has brought together the best plein-air methods and tools in The Art of Plein Air Painting. Working within a time limit, rationing supplies, dealing with sudden changes in the weather and simplifying the scene before you, are just some of the subjects he covers.... For anyone wanting to build the courage to get out there and start painting, this book is a must.' - Leisure Painter