PAINTING IN THE STUDIO OR IN PLEIN AIR
Is there a difference? Of course! In the studio you are either painting from imagination or from reference photos. Artists who paint outside say that the colors you see and paint are much closer to nature since photos distort color and value. This is true. It may be more work to paint outside or in plein air, but there are rewards for doing so.
One reward is you are getting in the fresh air and hopefully sunshine and you are communing with nature and hearing the birds and animals. Another real benefit is that you are seeing the real world in natural light. This can make a huge difference in your work. Try painting a scene outside and then take some photos as well. You will see when you compare the photos to your painting that there can be a big difference between the two. They may not even look like the same place. Especially since our eye can see clearer and sees so much more detail than a camera can!
Also, if you like people there will be plenty to meet! People love to stop and watch you work and will talk to you as you work. Some become art critics! "Oh, I see you've captured the depth and light beautifully!" one man said to me once. I just chuckled to myself and thanked him. I have even had my picture taken as I painted, not sure why, but ok. If you don't like this then I suggest that you find an out-of-the-way spot or more secluded area to paint. Sadly, here in St Augustine artists are very restricted as to where they are allowed to paint. It is so sad, but it is what it is. The fines can be really high if you choose the wrong spot. The city has a map with areas marked for artists, and there's a lot of artists here. Rural areas most likely don't have the same type of restrictions, but you would need to be careful not to block traffic or trespass on private property without permission. If you are ever unsure it is best to ask about restrictions. When we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway I asked the park rangers at one of the stops. Thankfully there are none as long as you don't block traffic or go into dangerous areas. I set up along a river at one of the welcome areas and started work. It wasn't five minutes before the aforementioned gentleman stopped behind me and watched for awhile. I could hear rustling as people stopped and took pictures but he wanted to talk. I try to keep conversation fairly brief and keep working as I talk. They eventually get the point. It has never bothered me, but some artists really want to be left alone.
You will need to take only the bare essentials unless you work right by your car. It can be really hard to carry an easel, canvas, paints, brushes, a chair, umbrella, water, paper towels, etc, etc! If you use oils, you will need to have a special carrier for your canvas to protect it on your way home. Especially if you must hike a ways back to your car. In fact, it is best to have as little as possible to carry. Blick Art supply carries plein air easels and supplies as well as other artist websites. One artist recommends a french easel but cautions that you should spend at least $150 in order to get a sturdy one. Others use lightweight folding easels with paint boxes that hang on them. This can cost a few hundred dollars to outfit, but they are really nice! Just Google plein air supplies and you'll find plenty to choose from, even backpacks to carry it all. Also most artists paint on smaller canvas when in outside, but not all. That is really just your choice. I mentioned not long ago a couple of artists to follow on Youtube that work in plein air in my blog entitled IMPRESSIONISM VERSUS REALISM. They are both very good and have lots of ideas!
Personally, I'd love to always paint in plein air, but it isn't feasible. So I take a lot of photos and paint from those when I have to. I must say though that painting outside is so much fun that you just might become addicted!
Every April, our local art association sponsors a "plein air paint out" for a week. They open up more areas in town to paint than are normally allowed, and the paintings are offered for sale at the art association. At the end of the week there is an art show of the best paintings. It is a big deal and a fellow artist friend and I are considering joining it this year as a team. Not sure though as to whether my schedule will allow it because it does require a lot of time. We'll see.