Our Mission

The Mission of the Tucson Plein Air Painters Society (TPAPS) is to encourage and support artists who work primarily outdoors, directly from nature. To that end, we seek to raise public interest in plein air painting and offer a forum for established, as well as young and developing artists, to continue the Plein Air tradition. We provide opportunities to practice our craft along with other plein air artists, learning through personal interaction, formal demonstrations and workshops. We encourage community connection and seek venues to display and share our work with the public. (th)


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The Plein Air Tradition

When Plein Air painters are out on the roadside or in a natural setting, Plein Air painting is more easily described to the inquisitive observer. Outdoors we have a ready demonstration at hand and little time to talk. So we offer the short story.

When Plein Air artists are in a gallery or show we are often asked to explain Plein Air painting to our viewers. In those halls the long story is needed. At least that is my tendency. Plein Air painting has evolved over the centuries through many countries.

Plein Air artists today work and study directly from nature. I often say that we are similar to scientists in that we learn by observing the natural order of things. But really, we can be found painting a still life, a portrait, or a cityscape just about anywhere outdoors at anytime of day.

What we intend to capture from direct observation is the effect of light (sun, artificial effects of nighttime or reflected) on these subjects. Painting landscapes outside in the open air had its origins in the Netherlands. The word "landscape" has its own evolution; it comes from the Dutch word "landschap", which refers to a region or tract of land.

Earlier, the Greek and Roman artists represented nature on their floors and walls using a stylized form generally without showing direct light. The religious narrative paintings of the Renaissance and other art movements can be jumped over until we arrive at the Netherlands during the 1500's. Artists here first began to venture out of their poorly lit studios into the open air. They were the artists who initiated painting the pastoral beauty of the land from direct observation.

Soon after, Italy became a popular place for inspiration. To this day, art connoisseurs around the world love an Italian landscape painting. Then, of course, we have the French Impressionists with their "Je ne sais quoi", who exponentially added to the concept of painting sunlight on an object.

Our influences are the Impressionists like Claude Monet, Camille Pissario, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisly. They are the artists who pushed the color boundaries. Moving on, we note that Plein Air artists today have also been affected by Cezanne and Van Gogh, who both carried outdoor landscape painting further. They focused on the foreground, middle ground and background as important components of an outdoor composition

We must include in this discussion the mid 19th century Barbizon School of romantic landscape painters. Because it was painters like Corot, Rousseau and Millet who considered landscape painting to be "the" aesthetic ideal that then provided emphasis to the genre.

What we have today in the Tucson Plein Air Painters Society is the "Best in the Southwest". We paint the wild beauty of the American West, with its vivid light and dramatic effect on color. We paint urban cultural, industrial landscapes and architecture, as well as our natural surroundings.

Our ideal paintings push all of the aforementioned tenets and more. Plein Air artists vary in style from those who tend to be realists, to those who prefer the more abstract. Our mediums vary as well. What we focus on are the value changes, the various contrasts, atmospheric perspective and how outdoor light illuminates our chosen subject. We are the Contemporary Landscape Painting Art movement of today, en Plein Aire.

-Janine Manemann