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Saturday Fireside Chat – Plein Air or Studio Painting?

 stefan baumann saturday fireside chats - image of artists istting around a campfire at the grand view ranch, mt shasta, california

Plein Air or Studio Painting?Old Pump House by Stefan Baumann

This week I finished several studio paintings of the property located behind The Grand View Ranch. I have also been thinking about the hurricane in Florida and all the people who had to leave their homes to go to safer areas to wait for the storms to pass. I hope that when they return home all is not lost.

My heart goes out to all of you, and I send wishes that you all have a safe trip back home. The air in Mt. Shasta is filled with smoke like all of California and it is a constant reminder that our ranch is venerable to fire. I can relate to your fears and hope that we all are able to resume living the lives we love.


Around the campfire tonight, we were talking about what is preferable – Studio painting or Plein Aire painting, and I took a moment to share my thoughts.

When I first started Plein Aire painting, the term “Plein Aire” was not even used. When we painted outdoors, we called it “painting from nature.” Very few artists painted in a studio, let alone painting in nature, in Lake Tahoe where I grew up. As a child, I took painting lessons from artists who visited Lake Tahoe, and one of these teachers insisted that we paint from life. I often thought that my painting was the worst painting that was ever painted by any artist dead or alive.

My painting, “On The Truckee River” soon had the infamous reputation of being called “The Bad Dream in Green”. When my mother saw my painting, she told me that she would never pay for another art class EVER!  It’s a good thing that my mother was very kind, and before long, she forgot the incident and I was able to resume my painting classes.

Plein Aire paintings on small canvases were first created to allow the artist to sketch information at the location and then take them back to the studio to be painted on a full-sized canvas. When the “Impressionists” showed up, everything changed because they believed that the only way they could add light to the painting was to see and paint light on location. However, they were often challenged by the reality that light changes every 7 minutes.


Most people who want to learn how to paint on location don’t really understand that painting an oil painting outdoors in 7 minutes is impossible. Many skills are needed to paint outdoors and it is challenging to master. It requires years of practice, yards for canvas, and tenacity to learn how to paint on location. Once you learn how to paint outdoors, you have a skill that allows you see and enjoy the beauty in nature and enjoy the social connections that spring up around plein air painting,


Studio artists also have to master the craft of painting. Many studio artists paint from “still life” setups in the studio and others work from sketches and photos. Often, studio paintings are more crafted with brush techniques and color balance. Some studio artists do traditional paintings from sketches painted outdoors, but their works are usually larger in contrast to the many small paintings done  en Plein Aire. Also, studio paintings often demand a higher cash value when sold.

The method of painting does not matter; outdoor, in the studio or both. The important thing is that we create art, and art done any way is better than not having art in your life at all. My suggestion is to do both ~ paint in your studio and go out and see the light in the world. And if you paint outdoors, go back to your studio and expand on what you have seen – paint something bigger and grander than you have ever imagined! Art is the greatest gift that god ever granted mankind! Don’t waste it!

PS: If I had listened to my mother, I would not be writing this now!

In my classes, workshops and coaching I give answers to the question: “What is that?” Once you learn to “Paint what you See” then the next step is “Paint what You see!


I invite you to attend my workshop in October to get a in-depth understanding of what “Paint what You see” means, along with many more insights that will improve your art forever! 

To enroll in my October 20-21-22 2017 Workshop, type in or go to

I have coached many students over the years. My goal as a coach is to help students discover their own style by instructing with a method that allows them to grow as they are. If you want increase your knowledge and skill to bring your art to the next level, I invite you to watch my YouTube videos, consider phone coaching with me, or attend a workshop in Mt. Shasta where we discuss art, passion and life with other artists around the campfire. All the information is on my website,

There are some openings for my workshop in October, go to my website today !

Call me for information on workshops or coaching 415-606-9074

Paint with me in Italy the fall of 2018!

The Grand View | 1151 Maple St., Hammond Ranch, CA 96069

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