Plein air painting, is the act of painting outdoors. Before the 19th century, artists mixed their own paints from raw pigments that they often ground themselves from a variety of media. This had made for inconvenient portability and kept most painting activities confined to the studio.
However, this changed in the 1800s, when tubes of oil paint became available allowing plein air painting to become viable for many artists. In the 1830s, the Barbizon school in France that included Charles-François Daubigny and Théodore Rousseau used the practice to accurately depict the changing appearance of light as weather conditions altered.
In the early 1860s, four young painters: Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille. They discovered that they shared an interest in painting landscape and contemporary life and they often ventured into the countryside together to paint in the open air.
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Today, plein air painting is one of the most popular forms of painting. Thousands of artists have begun this practice by taking their supplies into cities and urban areas to reflect the hustle and bustle of people in their daily lives, as well as to the mountains, streams, forests, and deserts to capture the magnificence of nature on canvas. “I’ve been involved in the arts for more than 20 years, and one of the most exciting phenomena to happen in that time has been the explosion of interest painting outdoors,” says Kelly Kane, editor of PleinAir Magazine, the leading magazine for the plein air community.
In the Oct/Nov. 2021 issue of PleinAir Magazine, Editor Kane notes that the issue shines a spotlight on some of today’s most promising plein air painters. These rising stars were nominated by a selection of well-known artists, gallery owners, and event organizers. With an eye for talent and a desire to pay it forward, our nominating committee recommended nearly 20 artists as significant up-and-comers.
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One of the young up-and-comers of plein air painting is Daniel K. Robbins. Unlike most other plein air painters, Daniel applies plein air techniques to indoor still life composition and interiors with figurative elements. Graduating with a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, he has exhibited primarily in Virginia and works from his studio in Richmond. As Robbins says, “I study the constantly evolving relationship between the natural and the manmade. I present subjects that are ordinary and commonly overlooked with a curious eye. Because I paint from life, I respond honestly and directly to the subject in its environment.” He notes that when he first started painting he didn’t do any painting outdoors. Yet one can see his style in development in some of his indoor paintings like “The Gardener” and the “Dining Room” above. Or, “The Kitchen Window” or “Bedroom in Afternoon Light” below.
However, Robbins’ outside paintings are spectacular also in their use of light. As a photographer using High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique in photos, Robbins’ paintings seem close to HDR photography. For example, see his painting “At Docks End” below that was featured in the Oct/Nov. PleinAir Magazine. Or, his painting “The Rider” below.
Explore the work of Daniel Robbins