What is en plein air painting?

Painting en plain air is the practice of painting outdoors, capturing people, landscapes and scenes in natural light – rather than painting indoors from reference sketches, photographs, life models and so on.

1. Dress accordingly and travel light

First, prepare to take or wear layers of clothing to avoid colder-than-expected or steaming hot conditions.  Second, think minimalism when packing your art supplies. Do I need 20 brushes or can I bring just 3? Can I work with a limited palette instead of bringing 30 tubes of paint? Do I need an easel or can I make one with the supplies at hand?

2. Keep the process simple 

Limited palettes rule when it comes to travelling light. You will just have to plan ahead. Visualize want kind of painting and colors you want to do before heading out. You don’t have to make it complicated. Relax and have a fun attitude.

3. Plan and schedule your time

Are you planning to make finished paintings while you’re out? Or loose sketches? Or something in between, something that’s more than a sketch but that still requires work back at the studio?

Most people are so busy nowadays that they can’t find three or four hours “out of nowhere” unless they consciously pencil those hours into their schedule. It is important to make time for you! This is one of my biggest tips when it comes to art : I need to schedule in my “me” time and so should you!


4. Plan how to transport

I personally use a backpack because I am already used to hiking. A good Pochade box can be really useful, not only for packing your items but also to act as a small easel.  You need to decide what works best for you.

5. Plan on wildlife

In that way, painting outdoors is a little like camping.  Bug bites, wildlife, unexpected weather conditions, or a dog walking without a leash at a park. Plan for ticks (use repellent), pack sunscreen and the like.  Clean up after yourself and carry everything out. Leave no trace behind.

6. Don’t be hard on yourself

You will have to deal with your natural self-consciousness. You may have people walk by, stop and look and ask questions. You also can’t be a perfectionist and be hard on yourself. En plein air is an experience. It is a time for learning and discovering things. And most of all, a time of relaxing and fun!


Keep being Creative!

Bobbi Shaw












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