Plein Air Painting

BY Molly Driscoll

Eastham Elementary School  

Project Description

I would like to get stand up easels for the students at my elementary school so that I can take my classes outside to paint during the spring and fall months.  Our playground has recently become the site of a beautiful community garden that could serve as a perfect study for units I am currently teaching on Georgia O’Keeffe and famous Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt.  The essence of Impressionist painting is to capture the changing light and natural elements outside, so it seems counter productive to try and describe this experience while inside looking at images on a screen or in a book.  Especially when we have such wonderful natural resources right outside our door.

We are so lucky that our school is located within the Cape Cod National Seashore.  With both Coast Guard beach and Nauset Light beach less than a few miles away, another dream I have for the easels is to use them at the beach.  Artists travel from all over the world and pay lots of money to participate in painting workshops here, I want my students to be able to have this experience and feel a connection with the rich artistic and cultural history of the place they live. Feeling the wind, smelling the fresh sea air, hearing the waves and birds–these are all essential parts of the plein air painting experience and would make for some wonderful memories for the budding young artists of this community.   

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

The addition of a sturdy set of easels would have a broad impact on the entire student body of my school and would be an exciting new addition to what I am able to do with my curriculum.  Success would be gauged by the quality of the painting experience gained by my students, and by the many new opportunities and units of study I will be able to expose them to.  I will also be able to use the easels year after year with all different age groups.

Benefit to the students and the school

Having these easels will add a whole new level of authenticity to my art curriculum and to my students experience as painters.  They will enable us to get outside of the classroom and actually paint like the Impressionists!  We’ll be able to observe and make connections with the elements of light and shadow, texture, line, space, color and form as they exist in the natural world around us.  My hope is that once they are exposed to this way of closely observing what is around them, that they will begin to make observations and connections on their own outside of school, when no one is asking them to. Becoming an artist is a life long process that begins with the way you see things.  The plein air painting experience could be a wonderful catalyst for my students to start seeing their world in a whole new way.  And they would have fun!

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

I would like the easels to be part of my spring supply order this June and to be used starting the 2016/2017 school year.