I haven’t taken the time to share “my story” with you. No, not the story of my life but the one which explains how I got into plein air painting. I figured there’s no better time than right now to share some insight with you on the subject. I keep it as straightforward as possible. Here’s my story…
My Plein Air Painting Story
I started painting outdoors on location at the ripe old age of 14 or 15 years old, with my dad Robert Cartmell all around New England and it’s islands. We would frequently visit both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The “on-scene” view was simply breathtaking and one that I would get excited to paint on a regular basis. Those were some of the finest memories that I can remember and have kept me going for all these years.
Back in those days, it was simply called outdoor painting or painting on location. This was before the popular term “plein air” was introduced. My mentors, Marshall Joyce, Emile Gruppe, and Robert Douglas Hunter were all in agreement about painting “from life.”
Emile Gruppe once told me in his gruff delivery that “painting outdoors was essential to learn about color and light, and nature is the ultimate teacher.” However, he was also quick to include that “painting outdoors is more than just taking a visual inventory, It’s about seeing color relationships and it is only a start!”
Another statement that Emile Gruppe made to me was one that I’ll never forget. He said, “You cannot call yourself an artist until you learn how to build a painting.” I was also told that “On location painting should be just the start.” The lesson was simple, I was taught to learn how to rearrange the elements in nature to build and improve the painting. It was all about copying the nature and natural beauty.
The term “plein air” was introduced in the 70s and referred to painting on location or outdoor painting. I have tried my best to not buy into the snobbery that surrounds this term. There are many artists that think if a painting has not been done in “plein air” then it lacks value or authenticity. I don’t agree with this at all. In fact, I feel that this kind of attitude is absolutely ridiculous. I believe both “plein air” as well as studio painting should go hand in hand, both serving the same master.
There is no one that enjoys getting out in nature and painting on location or “plein air” as they say than myself, and God willing I will continue to enjoy it for years to come. I hope I have not tipped over any golden calfs because, at the end of the day, it’s all just my humble opinion that I truly care to share with you. Having spent years painting, I feel it’s my personal obligation as an artist to share personal insights as well as the thought process behind my creations. After all, the more that you’re able to connect with the art and my style, the more relatable the work will be to you.
For those interested in checking out my plein air oil paintings, I’ve got a number of them that are available for purchase on my online store. While most of these on location paintings take a significant amount of time, I often try to do landscape sketches on location as well. There’s a specific sketch that’s available for purchase for $189.00. Feel free to check the piece out if you’re interested in purchasing the product.
Feel free to check out some of the artwork on the site. Many of it was done on location, while some were created in the comfort of my studio. There’s something for everyone here.