Plein Air Painting – or Painting Outdoors

Plein air painting or painting outdoors on location is quite a different experience than painting in the studio. If you haven’t tried it, you should. You may even find it quite exhilarating.

For the most part, the painting is generally done in one sitting. Also, usually painted direct as opposed to first laying in an under painting. It is not unusual for an artist to add to, or finish a painting in the studio. And one may even go back to the site a second or third time. If you do go back, you should go back on the same kind of day, and at the same time of day.

Most plein air or outdoor paintings are of the smaller sizes; 16×20 inches or less. However, there is really nothing to keep you from doing a larger paining outdoors. You will need to consider the elements and the time. A smaller painting can be done in a much shorter time. Also, a windy day can be quite challenging.

A large canvas in a good stiff breeze can readily become a sail. In which case you might cosider anchoring the easel with a strong cord. Tie it to a heavy weight, or perhaps some permanent object.

You can always use the smaller plein air painting as a basis for doing a larger painting in the studio.

What To Take

Some of the things you will need for painting outdoors besides the usual canvas or panel, paints, medium, solvent, brushes and rags are,

  • an easel – there are several kind available. I use a sketching easel, and at times, a pochade box.
  • a disposable paper palette with thumb hole. 9×12 is a good size. Don’t forget the bag clips to keep the papers from flying around. Of course, some paint boxes come with a wood palette.
  • a chair or stool, if you prefer sitting to paint.
  • a viewfinder is a handy gadget to have. There are several kinds available. I prefer to use an old 35 mm slide that I’ve cut out the bad picture. It’s a handy size; (easily fits into my pocket). You can make one from a piece of card stock, or you can form one with your fingers.

You might want to take some kind of snack and or beverage, especially  if you plan to be out all day. I would suggest taking only what you can carry in one trip from your vehicle to the painting site.

Dress for the climate, several layers if necessary. That way you can adjust for changes in the weather. A wide brim hat is good for keeping the sun out of your eyes. However, if you can find a shady spot, that would be better.

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Plein Air on Location

Try to get out and do some plein air painting. I’m sure you will like it. However, always be aware of you surroundings. Since this location was on a street, I had to be careful when stepping back to observe the painting. Luckily there was not much traffic.

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