While many events are going virtual, people working from home, texting loved ones and video chatting friends are going to need to look at something other than a screen! Plein Air Month can still be a go in these uncertain times. Spring is already a great time to capture the world around us.
If you have any creative energy to devote to promotions, consider putting together kits that people can use outdoors while still sheltering in place. Instead of making a trip to a park, local landmark or dynamic city corner, people can try Plein Air and urban sketching from their backyards, balconies, porches or front steps.
Ready, Set, Adapt
There is a lot more to Plein Air than expensive art supplies or hyper realistic drawing and painting skills. Encourage your customers to get spring started despite everything else being disrupted and go on an adventure right at home.
Being at home so much, people may start to notice everyday shrubs, skylines and afternoon light that otherwise went unobserved and unappreciated. The key concepts behind Plein Air and Urban Sketching (observing the world around us and being completely present) reframe sheltering in place. Instead of seeing ourselves as stuck at home, perhaps we can see, if just for an hour or two a day, that we are in our own happening, an artist’s residency, a celebration of mundane, everyday moments. Some of us may develop a strange sensitivity to spiderwebs, and the way the light looks in mid-afternoon spilling across our kitchen tables. Others may notice the way shadows and warmth appear in concert at exactly 7:48 in the morning. City folk might get used to the heavy-handed rhythm of our upstairs neighbors’ desire to reconfigure their living room.
The tools our industry has to offer: easels, sketchbooks, brushes, palettes… invite people to capture these moments, make meaning of them and share them with a network outside of their six foot radius. This is the gift our industry can bring: moments of peace, of meaning making and of connection.
Educational Opportunity: What is Plein Air?
This is an opportunity for people of all kinds of creative backgrounds to learn more about Plein Air painting. Our industry’s innovation (we tip a hat to you, Savoir-Faire!) in the late 19th century actually made Plein Air (pronounced: PLEN air) possible. The development of the box easel, Pochade box and paint tube enabled artists to leave their studios and paint in the fresh air. Plein Air evokes poetic landscapes and hours spent capturing the changing light. It is an art form that pushes painters to be present. But it is also a practice that may seem inaccessible or intimidating to people outside of the niche community of established en plein air artists.
So let’s move that horizon line closer and broaden our palettes, so to speak. Customers don’t have to be oil painters to get outside and make art this coming May. While Plein Air painting was originally done in oil (paint or pastel), take the opportunity this spring to feature slow-drying acrylic color and include a close cousin: Urban Sketching. Urban Sketching is a popular pastime for anyone who enjoys exploring neighborhoods (both familiar and new), observing their surroundings and improving their sketching or painting skills. Urban Sketchers may be professional artists, commuters looking to liven up their train rides or interdisciplinary creatives interested in recording the goings-on in their communities. Learn more about Urban Sketchers and the events, clubs and conferences they hold worldwide here.
Four Kits People Will Love
Here are some ideas for discounted Plein Air and Urban Sketching Kits you can make available for curbside pickup or delivery.
- Watercolor: Feature Hahnemuhle ZigZag Watercolor Books, Koi Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box Sets, uni Pin Fineliners, Art Alternatives Waterbrushes, the White Cartoonist Brush Pen No. 22 by Kuretake Zig and Itoya’s Midtown Pouch
- Pastel: Set out a few PanPastels with soft applicators, a starter pastel set, small panels with pastel ground, Ampersand Pastelbord or a small Canson Mi-Teintes drawing pads with painter’s tape, kneaded erasers and a chamois.
- Oil: Get people hooked with a warm welcome to a medium that might otherwise intimidate! Show off the smallest pack easel you have available with a Bob Ross painting kit for oil painters. Make sure to display any other Bob Ross flair you have in the store, too! Non-reflective painting knives are a great option, as well as the Gamblin 1980 Introductory Oil Set paired with the Gamblin Mediums Travel Pack. Feature the MABEF Pochade box, too. Bonus points: books to help people learn!
- Just For Fun: Consider a bundle for just getting outside and being creative. Showcase some of the more unexpected supplies Plein Air painters swear by. It’s a fun reminder that creating outside is an excursion unto itself and will help customers figure out what exactly they need to have the best experience possible!
Promote these kits on social media: post the landscapes or urban sketches of staff, teaching artists or customers you know who have been sketching their surroundings for years. Ask them to take pictures of the sketchbooks or paintings alongside the materials used to make them. Portable, affordable materials that are easy to use will attract a wider audience. Artwork that features recognizable locations, scenes or events will also intrigue a broader range of people. Showcase these bundles with your marketing content and make it clear your team can assemble and ship, deliver or package to order for curbside pickup.