about us


gallery links


 our staff

Jean LeGassick

 Plein-Air Passion
by Jean LeGassick

PROFILE ON JEAN LEGASSICK, Plein Air Magazine, Dec. 2004 issue

"Plein-air Passion"
By Jean LeGassick

Plein-air painting is definitely my passion.
Since I was a tiny girl, I had always known I would become an artist of some kind. With a degree in art from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, I followed a career in commercial art while dabbling in fine-art painting on the side. It wasn¹t until I took a plein-air class with Michael Lynch in 1990 that I suddenly knew what I would do with the rest of my life and that plein-air painting
was how I wanted to spend my time-- ALL of my time! The light went on & I was born as an artist at that moment.

That light still burns brightly. I can't think of anything finer than jumping out of bed or my sleeping bag, or rolling out of my camper in some remote place, and strapping on my backpack full of my painting supplies,
then hitting the trail to find the scene that will excite me so much that I MUST paint it.
I am hooked. To be outside in the greatness of nature, experiencing it first hand, brings me happiness and a sense of contentment that studio painting doesn¹t offer. I have always been a nature girl. I love to hike, camp, and study the flora and fauna of every place I find myself. I used to carry
bird books and binoculars, wildflower and butterfly guides, tree keys, and magnifying lenses in my backpack as I tramped through the wild areas I loved to explore. After I started carrying my heavy painting equipment on my back, those other things were jettisoned one by one. Now I study nature by directly painting her.

A photograph doesn¹t tell me what the breeze felt like on my skin, how it
rippled the grass and sounded in the trees, or how the clouds tumbled and turned. It doesn¹t tell me the scents of that day and place, or what the air temperature was. And it certainly doesn't tell me how it felt after I hiked for miles over rough terrain to get to my painting location-- how alive I felt at that particular time. Somehow all these elements get mixed up with the paint and applied to the canvas. That is the freshness and immediacy that people talk about when they describe plein-air paintings.

Every summer I mule pack into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, or other ranges across the west, and camp out for 10 days or more at a time. This way I can be in very remote spots to capture that beautiful first warm light, or paint late in the day to capture the "alpen glow" I love so much. I also travel extensively in my truck and camper, camping out every night so I can be immersed in nature as much as possible.
I prefer to rough it rather than
to stay in motels and hotels.


So nature, the wilder the better, is my favorite subject. About 90% of what
I paint is purely landscape, but I also enjoy occasionally seeking people things to paint-- actual persons, or architecture, boats, agriculture land, cityscapes, etc. These are exciting subjects for me because, instead of nature's usually subdued palette, they allow me to paint with more vibrant color. These scenes also help keep my drawing skills honed. It's easy to get lazy with the landscape; nobody knows a particular ridgeline's exact angle. If I paint a street scene, however, my rendering of the perspective better be close to perfect. It keeps me sharp and on my toes.

I also like to teach occasionally to pass on this plein-air passion. It's good to give back what my many wonderful teachers gave me. I try to keep my students enthused as they struggle to juggle the many things necessary to make a good painting in the midst of working outside. Mother Nature dishes out challenges of wind, heat, glare, cold, rain, snow, bugs-- you name it!

I get discouraged sometimes after a particularly rough day, like the time a
gust of wind from hell picked up my whole easel and blew it onto me-- the painting, my palette, paint thinner-- making a horrible mess. However, I recovered my composure and I went on to paint other paintings that day. When I got home and set up these paintings to view, I was reminded again why I love the experience of painting nature firsthand: They had that freshness and truthfulness that only plein-air paintings can offer.

Whether or not I return home with great paintings, any discomfort or trouble fades in comparison to the feeling that I really accomplished something important and vital. In addition, I spent an exhilarating day outdoors, celebrating in paint the incredible beauty of our world.

QUOTE:How do I know when the painting is done? That's easy! When I start getting
tired and find myself not looking at the scene much anymore but just noodling around with the paint, then I know it¹s time to stop! It's better to have a rough but exciting painting than ruin all the good stuff by overworking it.