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Joseph Paquet Painting Studio

The Living Experience: Why Paint Plein Air?

Forward to the Salmagundi Club 'Why Outdoors?:The Plein Air Painters of America' exhibition catalogue. Written by Joseph Paquet

“Why not just take a photo?”

All of us have heard that question while painting outdoors. The fact is that even the finest photo will never be a just substitute for the Living Experience of painting on location.

The Living Experience is first about connection. Being enveloped by nature affords the artist an opportunity to radiate all of our senses outward and creates multiple points of contact with a particular experience. The more senses the artist engages, the more potent the encounter.

The Living Experience is also being subject to an environment we cannot control, giving us a healthy sense of our place in the world and a measure of humility. Through humility the universe reveals itself.

On a very practical level, the Living Experience gives us the chance to have friction imposed upon us. Friction forces the artist out of numb comfort into a wakeful appreciation of the moment.

The Living Experience necessitates working quickly, allowing the artist to access intuition and to experience risk. Clarity and economy are the poetry of risk, and through them the artist opens the door for a chance to experience spirit.

So, to those who reject the values of connection, humility, friction, and risk in experiencing spirit, I say, “Yes, just take a photo.”

To download the page from the exhibition catalogue, click here.

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Download the open letter as a PDF