Plein Air Painters Are Out — Most Are Real Painters, But Some Aren't!

Plein air painting in which artists take their canvas, easels and paints outside and capture life as it happens and changes, has grown tremendously in California. On any given day its possible to see plein air artists out in fields, on beaches, sidewalks, and in wetlands, being inspired and creating images on canvas.

With any legitimate craft comes opportunists who figure out a way to turn the public's fascination into cash- and plein air painting is one such craft. In Newport Beach and Laguna Beach where plein art is hugely popular, there are scam artists who set up easels and finished paintings they are trying to sell. They pretend to be painting, though there is never a wet brush, no wet paints, and when they perform brush strokes, they are merely doing it for show to try to get gullible tourists to buy inexpensive, manufactured paintings, price negotiable.

Tips to buying authentic plein art:

Ask the artist for a business card or information on how to contact him or her to make an acquisition.

Look at the brushes and easel to observe any actual paint being applied.

Watch the "artist" brush strokes to see if the person is painting, or if the piece is completely finished.

Observe if the artist is merely standing around next to his wares rather than actually painting.

Don't rush into buying anything. Most legitimate plein air artists in California won't be eager to sell an incomplete painting out in the field. They are generally working and not trying to sell at this stage.

Don't challenge potential cons once you are on to their game. If the supposed painter becomes belligerent and angry that you are asking too many questions, or questions that might expose them, walk away.

Don't waste your money on the manufactured art unless you really want it and the price is cheap. Similar, affordable knock-off souvenirs can be purchased at nearby stores or even in Big Lots for a lot less.

Summary: If you are seeking authentic plein air art, California is filled with world renown artists painting in that style. In Ventura a plein air group goes on location weekly to paint scenes around Ventura County. And one of our favorite plein air painters, Bill Anderson, sells his California plein air paintings and the works of other plein air artists in his Sunset Beach gallery. Call: 562- 592-4393. Location: 16812 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, CA. Call to for an appointment to see world class plein air art, or visit on Fridays & Saturday 1-9 p.m.; Sunday 1 - 6 p.m.

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