Plein Air Painting For Beginners-The#1 Thing

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Written ByTerry Ouimet

Plein Air Oil Painter, specializing in mountain landscapes


January 31, 2022

Hey painters, I recently took my 13 year old daughter Kate out to plein air paint for the first time. I thought to myself, what’s the single most important lesson that I could teach her right when she is starting out?

She is very gifted at drawing, but as you know plein air painting is very different. So, would I focus on values? color mixing? drawing and composition?

Nope. None of those.

The most important thing I could convey to her is  painting what you see and not painting things by name. You have likely heard this expression (Paint what you see, not what you know.) but here is why it matters so much to me. Authenticity and originality.

Even experienced plein air painters (myself included) fall into the trap of painting “A tree, a barn, leaves, or a building.” If I’m not careful I’ll find myself studying the leaves on a tree and then try to make my leaves in my painting look the same.

I told Kate that it’s not important to copy and replicate what you see out there in the scenery by trying to “Paint juniper bushes or replicate barn wood”.

Kate Ouimet plein air painting

I told her when we get home and look at these paintings and other people see them, we will have done well if they can feel the chill in air and the nostalgic feeling of an old barn up in the mountains. That’s what makes people like paintings. That’s what makes people want to buy your paintings. The connection.

Do you have a special worn out brush for grass because it helps you paint “blades of grass”?

When we don’t let our subject matter dictate our brush strokes, I really believe that our paintings come alive and create a memory, mood and impression for our viewers. Authenticity. Originality. 

This is why I plein air paint. To get up close and personal with nature and put my impression of that moment in time on canvas for all to see. The way I want it to come across to viewers, what it felt like. Not trying to copy it. I could just snap a cell phone picture and leave if that were the goal.

terry ouimet plein air painting RIDGWAY CO

Terry Ouimet, plein air

If you are interested in seeing me coach Kate through this old barn scene and talk more about this subject, please click the link below on this newly released YouTube video. If you like the video, please hit the thumbs up button and leave me a comment or share the video, it really helps my channel. Thank you in advance.

I hope this is a good friendly reminder for all of us to paint what we see out in the landscape and our interpretation of it. Ultimately I believe this will result in our best work.

Take a browse around the Learning Plein Air channel and see if some other videos interest you, hit the link below.

Learning Plein Air YouTube channel

Learning Plein air YouTube Channel

Consider subscribing to the channel if you want to join our rapidly growing community of beginner plein air oil painters, we would love to have you!

God bless, see you up in the mountains

Thanks for your time and support,


How To Paint Trees For Beginners- 3 Easy Plein Air Tips

How To Paint Trees For Beginners- 3 Easy Plein Air Tips

  So you’re struggling with plein air painting  trees and could use some helpful techniques? I’m going to give you 3 easy and actionable tips to paint better trees en plein air , regardless of your style.   Tip #1  Avoid Too Much Contrast Between Light &...

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