Do you want to take your watercolours and go paint out in the wilds of nature, but have held back? Had a few concerns? I used to as well, but now, I love painting outdoors!
6 Tips To Easier, More Comfortable Plein Air Painting
These 6 tips really helped me to enjoy painting outdoors so much more and I’m sure will help many of you gain more confidence to get out & enjoy painting the wilds of nature.
1. Outdoor Painting Supplies, Equipment – Travel Light
Less is more. Don’t load up the truck with all the art supplies. It makes it a real chore…. you’re less likely to want to go again. Speaking from experience, lots of sore shoulders and sore back from packing heavy easel, boxes of paints, brushes, etc. just too much. Not fun.
SUPPLIES: 3 Tubes of Paint. cobalt blue, permanent rose, winsor lemon. spray mister. water bottle. tissues. Niji plastic Japanese water brushpen. postcard size pad of watercolour paper. If it fits in your pocket even better. plastic lid off a takeaway container as a palette. Camera. Voila!
2. Go Early
Setting off early in the day to optimise the glorious morning light and before the heat of the day is perfect. Mid day sun is quite harsh, and the glare is not pleasant to deal with. Its in your eyes, its not a nice light to paint, etc. Going late in the afternoon to catch the sun as its going down is another fabulous option.
3. Start Small
Paint small watercolour sketches. Postcard sizes can be quite effective, fast and easy to deal with when working in the wilds of nature and all the uncertainties that entails. For some, small might mean 8×10 or larger, but keep in mind… there is the wind, the flies and the fact you may be moving spots often. Smaller is easier to work around.
4. Realistic Objectives
I know, we all want a masterpiece! But really, don’t try to ‘finish’ the work outdoors. Most of us will get the paintings near completion, 90% done, and finish them back in the studio. The real aim in outdoor painting is to get out and express that initial fresh free joy that comes from painting in nature.
5. Hunt for a Suitable Painting Location
Scout out the area ahead of time. Get the lay of the land, so you know which spots have shade, benches or logs to sit on, restroom facilities nearby perhaps, whatever it is that would make your painting adventure more pleasurable. Have a back up location lined up. It could rain, there could be a crowd of people, Plan B and Plan C is always a great idea!
If you get unwanted looky lou’s i.e. onlookers making unwanted comments, have some good one liners thought up in advance, to politely steer them away. I’m quite successful with my standard line of, “these are for SALE! I have a lot more in my car, I can bring them all out and show you!”
Believe me, these onlookers will scatter faster than you’d ever imagine. It seems to work faster, when I focus on just how many more I do have. And the starting prices. Just a helpful tip for you to think on.
Try for areas that are not near swamps. This is just my suggestion….. I’ve found them to have some unpleasant visitors. On a more often than not basis. Like too many mozzies, gnats, flies, and of course snakes. Don’t get me wrong. These creatures have a place in the environment….. I just prefer not to be within that one meter zone. Really.
6. Painting Tips
As you are merrily painting and dabbling away in the wonderful wilds, it will become too easy to forget the art basics.
Have a mini Cheat Sheet List on a business card taped to your watercolour pad. On the sheet, be sure to include Reminder notes on the art basics of: tonal values, aerial perspective warm/cools, edge placements, centre of interest i.e. a focal point. This will help you remember, as you paint.
primary goal of painting plein air
Painting outdoors is about conveying the colours and the mood. The spirit of the place and the feelings it evoked within.
We go out to paint in the beautiful fresh air to enjoy nature! It reconnects us to the natural environment in a way that painting from photographs can never achieve.
By painting outdoors frequently, we are also depositing into our “Art Bank Account” for when we need to use our photos as reference …springboards… to paint from. We can then withdraw from our account, from our memories, from our sketches we’ve created, and have enough information to once again create another painting!
Painting outdoors in the wilds, for me and many others, creates a happy place. It is zen. Enjoy.