The Inner Critic and Perfectionism While Plein Air Painting

Plein air painting is magical because the very process needed to create these kinds of paintings also happens to be an excellent way to bypass the “Inner Critic”.

We can then find joy and spontaneous expression in our art.

In the process we learn quicker, produce much more interesting paintings and generally enjoy ourselves as little children do before they become concerned with having to have things perfectly perfect in order to be satisfied.

This speed of action and the more intuitive painting that happens as a result allows us to park our “Inner Critic” someplace other than where our easel is set up.

We can then paint freely without that nagging little voice harping at us that “it isn't good enough” or “there is something wrong with it”.

When we first learn to paint, our Inner Critic holds us in its sway and can be rudely disruptive to our self confidence and sense of joy in the art creation process.

So much so, that fledgling artists become paralyzed by the sense of “not being able” to paint. As a result, many stop and never paint again.

Personally, I get much more enjoyment from seeing a painting that is a little “off” in the drawing or some aspect of it's technique and quite prefer it to a technically “perfect” painting that quite often, leaves me cold as far as feeling and emotion goes

Perfectionism is the enemy of spontaneous expression and will rob you of all joy.

So we need to think about art as we did when we were 4 years old. Pablo Picasso always tried to put himself in this mental place when he painted.

Don't Be Intimidated – It's Just Paint

The very point of plein air painting is to capture our emotion and excitement about the scene and the changing light and then to leave it alone.

Taking the painting back to the studio and then “redoing” it so that it no longer resembles what was the “truth” on site, is, in my opinion, a cruelty to one's Muse.

The painting then becomes a Studio painting and is no longer a Plein Air painting.

Doing a few brush strokes for highlighting purposes once the initial layer of paint is dry is OK. And then we stop, back away from the painting and put the brushes down.

This is why we do small paintings only while out in the landscape. We don't have many hours or days invested and can move on to do another piece, using what we have learned from that first attempt.

The idea is to play and have fun with the paint. Don't be intimidated – after all, it's just paint

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