Many years ago I attempted a little plein air; my then husband and I drove to parks outside the city and I set up my easel and painted for upwards of six hours. It was rather fun, except for the people who would walk over and look at my work and make comments that made me cringe - people who aren't visual artists often don't seem to understand that an artist isn't composing a photograph of the scene in paint. I've always been a very private painter and writer. I don't even like my children around when I'm working. After a few tries, I gave up plein air. Painting and writing are secret acts of the soul.
An art class, or being in a group where a couple of people are drawing (like the contingent of artists at poetry readings here in Toronto), is okay - these on-site sketches are rough notes that can be completed in the privacy of the home.
Last Thursday a friend of mine was posing at the Art Gallery of Ontario - the AGO does this every month, and he's been asked to pose for 3 months now. I was determined, really determined. It makes a difference to him to have a friend come, and I understand this.
My bag full of my favourite supplies, good paper, compressed charcoal, Cretacolor oil pastels, I trudged from the streetcar stop up to the Gallery, but swerved, and stopped a snack. And then I sat in a food court across the street for an hour. An hour! I had some delicious spring rolls from a Vietnamese take-out. I couldn't bring myself to go in to the gallery. Another friend who had gone last month said thousands of people walk by and look at your drawing and make comments like you're not even sitting there. She said wear ear buds, listen to music, ignore them. Yet I just couldn't go in. The trembling was greater than. So I sent my friend who was bravely posing a text and a photo of the Vietnamese take-out with apologies. He was really touched I had made it that far and tried for an hour to make myself cross the street and join in with the crowds.
Maybe another time.