Becky Thorley-Fox ‘Why I paint ‘En plein air’

Becky Thorley-Fox

“Working from life is essential to my painting process. For me, it is the most exciting, rewarding and invigorating approach to painting. I would highly recommend giving it a go! Be warned though, you may get hooked!

Painting outside, direct from a subject provides endless possibilities, new inspiration and new challenges. No camera can observe colour, light and movement better than the eye. Translating the experience of being out in the landscape in real-time, leads to an often intuitive and spontaneous approach. It takes intense focus and energy to work ‘en plein air’ to capture the unique and often fleeting moments and light quality. It is always exciting to lay out my work at the end of a trip to see what I’ve caught!

The best paintings come from that perfect state of concentration and engagement, where everything flows. I find it takes both regular practice and getting to know a subject really well, to maintain the ability to work fast and respond quickly. As I work I consider the composition as a whole whilst judging and translating the tonal and colour relationships of the scene into paint.

I never know what the day will bring, every day is different. I love that sense of discovery that comes with always looking with fresh eyes and an open mind. I’m always on the lookout for special moments in nature and light effects that catch my eye- whatever the weather! “


‘Backlit Coast, Llangrannog’, 7’’ x 12’’, oil on board. This was a dramatic light scenario. It was important to work quickly to capture the passing light effect as it moved across my scene. Contre-jour is the French for the term ‘against the light’ which this painting demonstrates, painting directly in front of the light source. I loved the glowing atmospheric effects falling over the coast line, that dazzling water and those glistening reflections on the wet sand. Where there’s water and light- there’s a painting to be painted!

My palette is a homemade, super lightweight and portable fold out tray, that simply slots onto my lightweight aluminum easel. Over the years I’ve whittled the weight of my equipment right down so that I can explore the landscape on foot more easily and get set up quickly.

‘Backlit coast, Llangranog ‘


“I made the transition to solely working ‘en plein air’ around seven years ago and there was no turning back! Painting direct from observation has led me to continuously study light, colour, form, mood, movement and subject interpretation. This leads to constant growth as an observer and painter.

I have begun to occasionally embark on a larger studio piece to develop my plein air studies on a scale that is not always possible from life. The light, tide and mood can change so quickly on the coast. Where possible I will return to the same spot to continue working on a painting when the light conditions are similar.”


‘Sea Legs’, 6’’ x 12’’ oil on board. I loved working on this scene, there had been a number of Gulls stood resting and preening along the rocky edge. Their legs appeared long and numerous from where I was painting through the telescope- there is a fourth Gull behind the three Gulls but I could only see an excess of legs!

‘Sea legs’


What’s on the Horizon?

“Each year I spend a lot of time painting along the coast as it is one of my favourite subjects to paint. I love the ever changing light throughout the seasons and getting to know the coastal wildlife. This year will be no different, inspiration along the coast seems to be as limitless as the distant horizon line! I am still as excited as ever to be further exploring light, atmosphere and wildlife through painting, these are subjects I keep coming back to!

I’m looking forward to scaling up my oil paintings both out in the landscape and in the studio. I will also be further exploring watercolour and gouache (a project I began during lockdown). I have written an article: ‘An oil painters approach to water-based media’ for The Artist magazine which will feature in the July issue, published in May.

I will be embarking on several residencies in 2022 to spend time exploring both Pembrokeshire coast and North Wales/ Anglesey coast. Watch this space as there will be a blog and video clips to share my experiences!”

‘Crashing Waves after the Rain’. 6’’ x 12’’ oil on board. I loved painting this scene, the air was fresh and the morning light crisp. Despite the sunlit patch of sea glowing canal brown, as it so often does after the rain washes the land into the sea, I really love the colours and contrasts in this piece.

‘Crashing waves after the rain’


Close ups..

‘Moving with the Tide’, 7’’ x 12’’ oil on board. Close up’s. In this scene the tide is coming in, the Gulls are on the move and the evening light is setting the pebbles and sea foam aglow.

Becky has recently been elected an associate member of the society of Wildlife artists which is an exciting achievement. The Society of Wildlife artists aims to generate an appreciation of and delight in the natural world through all forms of fine art based on or representing the world’s wildlife.

Becky’s work fits into this perfectly, capturing nature and its wildlife in their natural environments and sharing that world with us through her paintings. 

Becky has also been busy writing articles for ‘The Artist’ magazine with six upcoming pieces which we will share here when available.

Watch this space! 


View a selection of Becky’s Paintings here…