en plein air

Painting with water colours in the great outdoors.

We are big fans of turn of the 20th C educator Charlotte Mason, at the Pear Tree Skool. She was a slightly older contemporary of Maria Montessori, who believed that a child’s education should be experiential, immersive and alive. While I wouldn’t say we’re hard-core Charlotte Mason, I do like to borrow from her treasure trove of educational tools whenever I can.

Since today was such a beautiful day, and we’ve been doing a fair amount of book work lately, it seemed like a good time to insert a little Charlotte Mason-style learning. She was a big proponent of nature studies – from a science perspective as well as art. She encouraged allowing children to spend lots of time outdoors to explore and better understand nature.

She also advocated using quality materials and tools in arts and crafts. So we bundled up my Rowney artist grade water colour paints, some water colour paper, a little jar of water and headed out to the park.

Rowney water colours.

This was actually our first foray into water colours. Generally when we paint we use acrylic, but it just seemed like a water coloury sort of day. I had purchased the paper for them back in September and, now that the year is almost over, it seemed like we better crack that pad open.

Mr. Pear Tree, the artist in the family, took the lead in today’s lesson. He led us to a spot in Ben Lee Park that we affectionately call “Wolsey Hill and Ammers Hill” (best explained in a future post) to do some en plein air art – that’s French for painting in the open air.

Draw what you see.

It’s also called peinture sur le motif in French (“painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees”) in French. Say it once, to yourself.

Painting becomes an adventure when you do it outside.

Or al fresco art, if you prefer Italian.

They explored, in a really basic, elementary way, composition, forms (lots of round lines in today’s vignette), details, colours and foreground/middle ground/background. Oh, and how to move the water colours around the page.

Here’s what the finished product looks like:

Water colour paintings.Elementary school project: paint what you see, as you see it.

– Mrs. Pear Tree xxxxx

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Loved this ! What a great activity for a nice afternoon!
    Thanks for sharing – it was enjoyable to read all about it!!
    Thanks for sharing!!
    Elsie M…….

  2. Hi Elsie, thanks so much for stopping by, and leaving a comment! Glad you enjoyed the post – it was a fun morning 🙂

Comments are closed