With the fall colors beginning to touch the trees, a group of Pratt students spent time in Fort Greene Park near the Brooklyn campus painting its nature, landscapes, and city views. Their undergraduate introductory painting class is led by Chris Wright, adjunct professor-CCE of fine arts, who always incorporates this experience of creating in the open air into the early part of the semester as a break from the more intensive studio work.

“Working plein air exposes the students to another way of approaching their process where they have to work quickly towards completing a painting,” Wright said. “Rather than being more methodical in their approach like with the still life, outside they are working more directly, responding to nature and changing light, shadows, and weather conditions over several hours.”

A person with a painting palette in one hand and painting on a sketchbook with the other

What they captured on their easels propped up on knees or backpacks are the impressions of a moment, where the light is ephemeral and the shadows shift. Wright, who is a longtime faculty member and Pratt MFA alumnus, regularly paints outdoors in New York City and elsewhere as part of an ongoing plein air travelogue, capturing everything from storage tanks along Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal to the grand vistas of Yellowstone. He explained that the students frequently come back to the studio with ideas for bigger paintings from their quick, small sketches, in which they are rapidly gathering information through color and form. 

“Often this is a student’s first time painting outdoors, and it has a big impact on how they think about everything related to their process and I notice changes in the way they think about color and speed when they return to working on their still life painting,” Wright said.

Below are more of Wright’s photographs from this excursion to the park where the students used art to respond to what they saw on a September afternoon.

A person sitting in a park and painting
A person looking at a painting
A person holding a painting
A person sitting on the ground and painting
A person holding up their painting to show to the camera
A person sitting on a lawn and painting