Plein air painting involves creating art outdoors, departing from the confines of a studio to capture the essence of the landscape. Originating with the French Impressionists, plein air artists use portable tools like paint tubes and easels to paint "en plein air," or in the open air. The practice involves sketching for design improvement and color notes, sometimes aided by photographs taken on-site.

Today, plein air painting is a thriving trend with artists participating in paint-out excursions and year-round workshops. The experience is seen as powerful and rewarding, echoing the sentiments of the earliest plein air painters.

In the realm of plein air techniques, understanding different light sources is crucial. Direct sunlight, overcast conditions, and night lighting each pose unique challenges. Techniques for capturing water in landscapes, such as oceans and still lakes, involve understanding color relationships, movement, and reflections. Plein air painting requires quick and deliberate execution due to changing environmental conditions, emphasizing organization, color accuracy, and a systematic approach to the composition.

Plein air often uses tools like palette knives to pre-mix colors, maintain an organized palette, and methodically lay in the composition, working from the background to the foreground. The goal is to capture the spontaneity and freshness of the scene while being intentional and organized in the painting process.