Plein Air painting is not for the faint of heart! You can’t be afraid of bugs (a beetle flew into my head, and thankfully didn’t stay there…it was big), sun & changing weather (you could set out on a beautiful sunny day, end up in a torrential down pour) lack of proper supplies ( I forgot my tri pod, so had to sit down to paint, not a problem, but I sat in a bed of fox-tails!). Civilized necessitities are no where to be found (restrooms, food market), unless you pick a public park, which is smart, but only if it’s where you want to paint. So you need to be prepared…I try to take a limit amount, so I don’t have to carry in a ton. I have a check list:
1. Lunch ( or snacks), water a must, but if you’re like me, I’m rushing through eating to get to that painting, or forget all about the water…it is a must though just in case.
2. Paint box/ Easel…I’ve used them all and prefer the least amount of hassel (good-by Julian easel, too heavy, and takes me forever to remember how to set up). Last year when I painted in France, I bought a 49.00 easel (lightweight) and easy to set up, I like to paint standing up, so I can step back. It was great for travel, and if you don’t want the extra weight, leave it for someone else to enjoy. I’m all about convince, maybe not practical, but for me, I can’t be hampered! DON’T FORGET THE TRI-POD!
3..Then it’s the painting gear, I take a palette knife, a few brushes I like, don’t leave the big brush home, it helps to put in those shapes quickly. I take a limited palette…titanium white, ivory black (makes great, realistic greens), ultramarine blue, hansa yellow light, alizarin red, plus some of my favorites, I always take my charvin sky blue, a portland grey (medium) and anything that is my favorite of the moment…I added the shale from Vasari, great color for darks. For mediums, I take a small containter of gamsol ( 3 oz. bottle that I fill up when I go out) paper towels, and my plastic gloves. I also take handy wipes for clean up at the end…There you go, its all you need…are you surprised?
4. I never leave home without my camera, I’m serious, ask my poor husband, he can’t believe how addicted I am to taking photos! Let me tell you it has taught me composition, I take a picture thinking of shape, and I create my design…gets me in the zone. Also, don’t forget your view finder, sketch book, and sketching pencils/ eraser. I am training myself before I paint to really observe, record it, and draw it out, figuring out the values will help you paint the scene.
5. Last but not forgotten, hat, sunglasses, & sunscreen… also wear neutral clothing (that red shirt is reflecting all the while in your painting, throwing off your color scheme) I wear boring grey, ok, it’s not a fashion show, and I am prepared for all types of weather, if I have to I can make those mad dashes (after many hours on the treadmill) to get out of those nasty storms, etc…are you excited yet to get out there and paint!
Plein air painting is magical, and addicting so be warned! I love to be out in nature, hearing the birds twirp, watching squirrels trying to get into your pencil bag because they think it’s a tasty morsel, all of it is wonderful…then the colors will make you sing. There’s nothing like the real thing, it helps you build up that color memory for all the future paintings you will do. So now you’re ready, have a great time, and let me know what you think!