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Virtual Plein Air

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Art evolves with new technologies. From new art materials made available from new chemical components, to new ways to make art happen like all digital arts. Traditional art remains alive, but there are also new ways to make traditional art, even if it sounds contradictory. Virtual Plein Air painting is a very good example.

"Plein Air" is French for outdoors. In the mid-19th century, working in natural light as opposed to inside a studio became important to Impressionists and other painting schools. The popularity of plein air painting increased in the 1840s with the introduction of paints in tubes (like those for toothpaste). Before that new technology arrived, painters made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.

Not long ago, if we wanted to paint plein air we only had available those places we could physically go to and this was, of course, very restrictive for many artists who could not go very far from where they lived. Now, we have Google Street View. And this gave birth to virtual plein air.

The idea is, you choose a place you'd like to be at in Google Maps, or use other apps or websites to land on a random location, like MapCrunch or Random Street View. You look around and find the view you'd like to paint, like you would if you were there. Then, you paint it.

There are Facebook Groups, blogs, and YouTube Videos dedicated to virtual plein air painting. Many artists are doing it on their own and showing it on their sites and portfolios. Most of it is done digitally, but it can also be done traditionally. The sharing etiquette states that you share the painting along with the map coordinates, so everyone can go there and see for themselves.

Challenges where someone posts a coordinate and everybody paints their take on it can also be so much fun for those who enjoy these group activities.

If you like painting I'm sure, however you choose to get into it, you'll find this new and interesting avenue for artistic exploration very rewarding. Give it a go!


Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:

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2D, Barbara Din, Digital Art, digital painting, Painting, Plein Air, Traditional Art, Virtual Plein Air
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