When it comes to the hustle and bustle of my daily life, sometimes I feel as though I just need to get out and try something new—and honestly, don’t we all? One activity that can take us outside our daily routine is plein air painting, which can benefit both new and experienced painters alike.
It’s all about finding the perfect outdoor spot and translating nature as you see it onto a canvas. I find this relaxing, because there are no requirements regarding technique or detail—ultimately, it’s the experience that counts. That being said, you can do a few simple things to maximize your success, which is why I’ve created a list of beginners’ tips for painting outdoors.
1. Pack Light
Plein air tends to require a fair amount of foot travel, and you don’t want to be weighed down by an abundance of supplies. I recommend that you find an easel that will fold into a suitcase; you can find easels at a fair price at most craft stores (and don’t we love any excuse to go to one of these?).
As for the paint itself, a limited palette is your best choice for packing efficiency and for creating a strong foundation to work up from. I also recommend that you take the minimalist approach with your brushes—simply select a few favorites to keep on hand.
2. Catch the Light
When you go on your first few outings, it’s best to choose a time of day during which the light isn’t going to drastically change. I say this because frequent changes in lighting can ultimately cause your painting to lose its focus.
3. Make a Minimalist Sketch
The most fun thing about creating a basic sketch is that you don’t have to get too detailed. If you do, you may lose daylight and have too much activity on your canvas. Try to sketch out only the general shapes and leave the rest of your work to the brushes.
4. Practice Painting Large Areas
Just as with your sketches, you’ll likely be blocking out large areas of space with your paint. Many artists begin their processes with a tonal wash, which is essentially a light coat of paint that covers the entire canvas and sets up a color scheme for your work. Practice painting large sections at a decent pace using large brushes and paying attention to your timing.
5. Look Up
When you’re painting, it can be easy to become lost in the world of your canvas. The point of plein air, however, is to work off of live nature. Be sure to look up every couple of minutes to keep the world you’re translating fresh inside your head and to truly add life to your canvas. This is the time to step back, take a breath, and enjoy the world around you. After all—you deserve it!