Painting Outside Every Day in April – PleinAirpril 2023 Recap

Gouache Forest River Plein Air Sketch by Sarah Burns

You may have heard about art challenges such as Inktober (ink drawing every day in October) and Mermay (mermaid themed art every day in May). PleinAirpril might not be the most popular art challenge but in my opinion it’s the most fun and most rewarding! Why? It combines my two loves: art and nature.

Sarah Burns plein air painting at Lossiemouth Beach Scotland

What is PleinAirpril and how do you participate?

Simply put: Paint or draw outside every day during April.

PleinAirpril is a daily art challenge started by the WarriorPainters (an art group based in California) to encourage artists to get outside and paint from life. Originally it was meant as a way to celebrate Earth Day but quickly become much more than that. Over the years WarriorPainters shared competition rules, prizes, themes, and grew the challenge to an internationally known event. The name cleverly combines “Plein Air” with “April.”

You can participate in PleinAirpril wherever you live. Simply paint outside every day, and share a photo of your result online with the hashtag #PleinAirpril. Of course you don’t have to share, but it’s fun to be part of the community. In fact if you follow WarriorPainters or look up #PleinAirpril on Instagram, you’ll learn about so many incredible artists!!

Gouache tree plein air sketch by Sarah Burns for PleinAirpril

What is the point of doing PleinAirpril?

The main goal of painting outside is to learn how to see true color and light, and practice translating that to the paper. The daily aspect helps to build a strong habit of doing this regularly. Sharing daily results online motivates you to stay committed to the goal (holds you accountable).

This is the second year in a row I’ve completed the challenge and each time I learned SO much about color, light, technique and supplies.

Painting outside is a huge challenge. I honestly believe painting from life is one of the most difficult things an artist can do. Whether it’s landscapes, live portraits, or still life, you are required to distill an immense amount of information into a painting – something that sounds easier than it is. Even if you are an accomplished painter who can copy a reference photo, you will struggle outside. It’s just how it is!

Painting from a reference photo is easier because the camera has already flattened everything for you. All of the information is contained within the border of the image. The camera has captured light as best as it can (or as best as the photographer could) and the colors of the image depend on the camera and editing. Unfortunately even the high end cameras are limited in their ability to capture true colors and light. Typically the highlights are too bright and darks are too extreme and lack variation. But the magic is hiding in the shadows!

Forest Photography by Sarah Burns

Stand in a sunny forest and look around. When you start looking – I mean really look – you’ll quickly realize how complex life is.

It’s up to each artist to decide how much information they want to capture. Realism will require a tremendous amount of study, and to truly understand it and create realistic atmosphere, one has to observe this from life.

My Results from PleinAirpril 2023 (Sketchbook Scans)

PleinAirpril is something I look forward to and plan my entire April around. I devote 2-3 hours per day to it. In addition to painting outside for an hour or so, I also record, edit and share short videos each day. But ultimately the important thing is learning and enjoying the experience.

(Click on a thumbnail to enlarge)

I really hope this inspires you to give it a try. You don’t have to make a masterpiece or even finish every sketch. They can be quick and loose, or as detailed as you desire. It’s up to you! For me it’s most important to 1. enjoy the experience, 2. practice observational skills, 3. practice color mixing (if painting). The actual results are secondary.

I like mixing things up too, instead of sticking to a single medium. Last year I did gouache every day which was great but got kinda tired of it after a couple weeks. So just do what works for you, anything that keeps your spark going!

Watch the Video:

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

5 thoughts on “Painting Outside Every Day in April – PleinAirpril 2023 Recap

  1. When you opened your sketchbook in the video about using a limited gouache color palette, I was in absolute awe! Every one of them is a masterpiece!!! I never got excited about filling my sketchbook or trying to paint outdoors until I started watching your videos. My only regret is not finding you sooner! I follow you on Instagram too but I really don’t post & keep my account private but I might message you a photo of my first plein air painting because I am so excited about it and grateful to you for inspiring me and teaching me THANK YOU, Sarah!!! 😊

  2. Hi Sarah, I’m so in love with these gouache paintings on toned paper! I could look at them over and over and over again. This style of yours is my favorite. And (IG again): these colours! How is it possible to move me so much with these paintings! They are not “dramatic”, or exceptional, or “master pieces” (for me they are, but you know what I mean. :-)), or extremly tricky (like the architecture of cathedrals with all the perspective and stuff). But they are SO eyepleasing, soothing, to melt away in a quiet but deep way. Much love and admiration, Sabine PS: please keep doing what you do and keep sharing.

  3. Wow! So inspiring! Thank you for sharing your painting with us and the many parts of Scotland and your life. It is so much appreciated!

  4. WOW…april work fabulous…thx for doing this for all of us!! inspiring….

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