‘Plein Air Paint-Out’ brings outside perspective

Kaitlyn Hughes | Staff Writer | Lars Kuehn struggled to paint in the outdoor setting, but as a life-long art hobbyist, he was determined to conquer a new aspect of his craft.

Kaitlyn Hughes | Staff Writer

Art isn’t so much the things you see, but it’s the things you allow others to see.

This sentiment from nineteenth-century French Impressionist Edgar Degas guides local artist Tyler Gedman in his natural landscape painting. Gedman was joined by more than 60 other novice and advanced artists at Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media’s “Plein Air Paint Out” painting session on the Mellon Park lawn.

The event gave participants an ‘outside’ perspective on art.

According to the hosting art center’s website, “En plein aire” is a French saying which translates to “in open air.” The phrase is used to refer to the art of painting outdoors.

Local artists Joshua Hoffman and Tyler Gedman attended the event to share their knowledge and love for the craft with the art community.

The two studied art throughout college. Hoffman worked an office job until 2020 when he was laid off. This prompted his decision to become a full-time painter and begin selling his plein art.

Gedman is a freelance plein air impressionist, and he teaches art at Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport.

Gedman explained how specific art equipment makes the plein air painting process go smoother.

According to the artist, oil paints are preferable to fast-drying acrylic paint. A pochade box (a lighter and transportable easel), paper towels and a painter’s bag create a recipe for success.

Although these were the tools Gedman suggested, all participants were required to bring their own arts supplies. This led to a variety of equipment throughout the park, with some even bringing drawing utensils.

Gedman shared that the proper paraphernalia does not go far unless paired with the correct technique.

“A good painting is a painting of effects,” Gedman said. “Whether that be the effect of how colors change over distance, or the effect of light and shadow. It should never be about things and objects and places.”

According to Gedman, though having the correct materials and strategy does come in handy, the entire process is about progress.

Gedman enjoys the progressive aspect of art because there is never a goal of perfection.

“From the first mark they put to their canvas they want it to be perfect, and it just doesn’t work like that. It’s about evolving,” Gedman said. “Painting is sometimes like life. It can be a big mess at the beginning, but then it’s a series of corrections, after corrections until you get it where you want it to be.”

Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media recognizes that art is progressive and encourages artists at all skill levels to join in on the events and classes that occur.

Hoffman and Gedman enjoy coming to art-related events to not only inspire others but be exposed to differing perspectives.

“It’s about going to a place where other people have a similar appreciation for the same thing you’re doing,” Hoffman said. “Coming out to events like this or teaching gets you out of your head and helps you solidify what you’re doing.”

Those who did attend the event were excited to join the local community in their craft.

Susan Kahle and Jamie Hamm attended out of a love for art, but also with a hope for finding their people.

“It’s been frustrating not knowing other people who do [plein air painting],” Kahle said. “We haven’t found a Pittsburgh plein air group, so we were excited when we saw this.”

Hamm added that not only does a strong art community bring current artists together, but it also encourages people wanting to create to try out the craft.

The attendees told The Duke that Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media is a great place for beginner level artists due to the numerous classes they offer in painting, drawing and ceramics.

The organization is also an outlet for people to enrich their art as a hobby.

Lars Kuehn loved to paint growing up but ended up going to school for business.

Kuehn became a board member for the organization and attends an oil painting class every Tuesday Kuehn said.

Not used to painting outside, the Paint Out raised some challenges.

“It’s much harder because you have less space. Everything is crammed,” Kuehn said. “The weather is changing. More wind, less wind. More sun, less sun … Reality changes all the time.”

According to Gedman, overcoming challenges is a part of art, and every painting presents a different challenge.

There are times where painting seems effortless, while there are also instances where the process is a complete battle.

Each of the paintings from the weekend’s event will have a chance to be entered in the organization’s fall exhibition. Entries will be judged by Pittsburgh’s most well-known plein air painter, Ron Donoughe.

Aspiring artists can dive deeper into many mediums with the Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media or attend future events like the “Spring Artists’ Market” on May 4. More information can be found at their website, www.pghartsmedia.org.

The overall mission of the art center is to expose people to art by educating and engaging them through various opportunities.

“With art you can work toward something that feels like it has a higher purpose,” said Hoffman. “With art it feels like you’re moving around to just acknowledge the greatness of existence.”