Partridge painting en plein air in Italy

Special to Find It In Fondrenâ„¢ (Jerrod Partridge)

This week, a group of painters, both locals and out-of-towners like myself, will congregate in Jackson for the second Fondren en Plein Air.


To paint “en plein air” is French for painting in the open air or painting outside. It became wildly popular for its possibilities and difficulties in the mid 19th century with Monet and friends, but it was being done before this.

A few generations before Monet, John Constable, a British painter, was taking his paint out-of-the-studio for more direct observation. John Baskett, in his book Constable Oil Sketches, says …“In some ways Constable’s oil sketches are the surest guide to his artistic and spiritual struggle for self-expression. Most of them were painted on the spot under the direct inspiration of nature. They transmit strong power of suggestion, because they have captured and preserved what were essentially passing manifestations of nature, and changing effects of light.  In these small works, Constable’s genius enabled him to avoid the pitfalls of emotional involvement on the one hand, and on the other of dry literalness. Being relatively small, they did not present the problems of handling paint over a large area, with its attendant risks of losing immediacy. Although a few were used as studies for large-scale works, and others as subjects to be engraved in the English Landscape series, they were, by and large, painted in the first place for the artist’s own pleasure and instruction.”

Painting became sport. It is about the physicality of the action, the competitive attitude of “catching” something someone else missed, and the sheer pleasure of the challenge. It became more about the process than about creating art.

Events like Fondren en Plein Air are important to painters. This type of gathering challenges, inspires, and builds community. Painting en plein air is also a way of relating to space and light through paint which is simply enjoyable to certain people. Because of this importance, it then in turn becomes important to the community and creates a collective social benefit. The community gets the opportunity to witness someone’s unique response to a scene or environment. It can be entertaining to see, somewhat magical and possibly spiritually uplifting. The painter is engaging with the space through slow observation and quick response, and the city itself becomes a muse with a richer story because someone has taken the time to really see it.

Fondren en Plein Air will be part of the events taking place for this year’s Arts, Eats & Beats put on by the Fondren Renaissance. Painters will be “duking it out” at Mayes’ Lake on Wednesday, May 3, and around the Fondren neighborhood on Thursday, May 4. There will be a wet canvas show at Brown’s Fine Art and Framing in Fondren on Thursday  from 5-8 p.m., where painters will hang their work from the plein air event.  The paintings will be judged, and awards will be given… as is the case with any good sport.

Jerrod Partridge is a full-time artist and instructor in Ocean Springs.  He and his family only recently moved there after living in Fondren for nearly 14 years.