Joshua Cunningham is an award-winning local painter, who paints en plein air, which is French for “in open air.” This means that he brings his easel, paints and brushes outside and paints the landscape as he sees it, shifting light, shadows and all. Many plein air painters prefer to paint in the warmer months, but Cunningham braves the Minnesota cold in pursuit of his craft.
“The realization that I’m painting something that I had no idea existed 10 minutes before I started or the way the light unfolds as you stand there and watch it—it kind of seems like it’s nothing, but if you give it a moment or two of vulnerable thinking, you realize it’s everything,” Cunningham says.
Cunningham judged White Bear Center for the Arts’ Into Nature Plein Air Competition in August 2023 and shares his thoughts on what makes plein air so appealing to so many. “The most beautiful part of plein air painting is actually its accessibility for everybody,” Cunningham says. “All you need is the willingness to go outside with as little as a piece of paper and a pen, or a paintbrush and a canvas and some paint, and connect through that medium to the world around us.”
Ellie Fuelling is the communications manager at White Bear Center for the Arts. Learn more about classes, programs and events at whitebeararts.org.