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Masters of Plein Air Academy®

Los Angeles, United States

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Masters of Plein Air Academy® is a private institution devoted to the special genre of Plein Air Painting. Using techniques grounded in traditional art, the academy progresses through the drawing and painting process using the methods of the High Academics, the Hudson River School and the California Impressionists. The academy does not emphasize the face and figure to the extent that a traditional atelier does because they are focused on the landscape. Nonetheless, especially in the beginning, the academy does stress portraiture, figurative work and the still-life (after all, the landscape is nature's still-life). The modern plein air process is a testament to the artist's skills, including the abilities to observe, measure, draw, compose, simplify, condense and render a believable, representational work of art, on site, within two or three hours. Like anything else it is next to impossible to simplify and condense without thoroughly understanding what students are simplifying and condensing. Plein air artwork has advanced significantly since the days when such works were considered mere field studies. Plein air paintings, as rendered today, are complete works of art in themselves.


The facility is truly unique among art schools. As part of a 9,000 square foot residential estate it contains a collection of Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist and Representative Art that is invaluable as a reference source. The warm climate of the location allows all work to be conducted outdoors on the grounds or under the covered patio, complete with skylights and wonderful north light. As classes progress the studio moves to many storied outdoor locations: Malibu Beach; Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, Point Lobos, Carmel and Monterey. Students will truly enjoy their learning experience at the school.


The program of instruction begins with a step-by-step journey through the 5 P's of drawing: Perspective, Proportion, Placement, Planes and Pattern. Using these concepts students learn to set forms into the window of our canvas utilizing the laws of nature and light. Students learn to see nature, study natural effects and set down their observations in their artwork using dimension, contour, gesture and light. Of all these elements, light is the dominant factor. Only through light, which produces all tone, color and appearance, can artists produce a true representational image.

Studnets begin the drawing process by exploring basic two-dimensional geometric forms. These are easy to draw and they are used to introduce the concepts of shape, perspective, light and shadow. Students move on to complex three-dimensional forms before progressing to draw the still life and the human figure. A variety of aids are used to assist the figurative learning process including casts, skeletons, manikins and models. Students begin with charcoal and paper and progress to painting on canvas. Students learn to use the elements of underpainting, grisaille, wet-in-wet, layering, glazing and expressive brushwork to enhance the painting process. Since the plein air depiction of human and animal forms is usually more distant, students focus less on anatomical detail and much more on gesture, perspective and placement within the window of our canvas. Finally teh students are practiced and sure enough to work solely on aesthetic and creative elements under the belief that it is the purpose of the artist to make nature better.


All of the academy's instructors are professional artists engaged not just in teaching but in actively creating, exhibiting and selling their art in the open marketplace. Their accomplishments include long histories of recognition by their peers and other members of the art community. They are all formally trained. Their individual achievements can be viewed on the academy's website.

Cheng Lian, Figurative Painting - Cheng Lian demonstrates and teaches using his award winning style of painting. He walks through the strategies of painting the figure and incorporating the figure in the plein air painting. He emphasizes the importance of drawing and gesture in making the painting come alive.

Karen Leoni, Instructor, Plein Air Painting - Karen Leoni reveals her special skills and methods of incorporating architectural and floral objects in the plein air painting. In the process she discusses the importance of light in shaping and depicting these elements. Her outdoor floral scenes are vibrant and compelling.

Edward Duarde, Academic Director, Instructor, Drawing and Landscape Painting - Edward Duarde walks the student through the techniques of the High Academics, the Hudson River School Artists and the California Impressionists.


Coursework is offered during the Spring and Fall Semesters. The acadmey also offers Art Immersion Experiences (one to three weeks) and Workshops (two to three days) throughout the year. Please visit their website for more information.

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Course languages English
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Masters of Plein Air Academy®

Los Angeles, United States

The Real Warmth of Winter by Cheng Lian

Still Life

Landscape Study

Weathered by Karen Leoni

Santa Fe River with Water by Edward Duarde

Haystack by Cheng Lian

Sunday Afternoon by Karen Leoni

San Joaquin Sunset by Edward Duarde