When I started plein air painting a few years back, it was all chaos and heavy things. It is still a bit chaotic, and there are still some heavy things, but I have learned along the way. Here are some tips and ideas in case you are interested in oil painting in the great out doors:
The Location (subject)
- You are going to need something interesting to look at. Vistas are good. Roads draw the eye through a composition pretty easily. Fences can be fun. Abandoned buildings are something to consider. You will probably encounter trees and get to know them well.
- You need to park off the road.
- You may need shade. The shade may move as the sun changes position.
- Lovely nature sounds can be inspiring. I once painted next to a golf course that had a lovely tinkling fountain. I felt like I could stay there all day listening to the water.
- Posture and comfort matter. If it is absolutely important to have back support when you paint, you may be lugging around a largish camping chair. I found that if I was not comfortable, it effected my ability to paint. The desire to sit in a comfortable chair is one reason I don’t venture too far from the car.
- Temperature matters. If it is going to be really hot, try painting in the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when the light is the best anyway. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and water are a good idea in the summer. If it is winter, you may want to experiment with layers, insulated pants, down jackets, and painting in a car. Once I start painting, I don’t move a lot, so it can get very cold.
- Bugs can be seriously treacherous. I paint in Kansas a lot. Kansas has chiggers, mosquitoes, and ticks. You do not mess with these critters because you could get really itchy or worse (Lyme disease). Usually, I am all into natural things, but I get covered with chemicals and clothing to avoid bugs. If anyone out there has found something that really works (especially for chiggers), let me know.
- Always try to bring less stuff. French easels are cool looking, but sorta heavy unless you have one of those mini ones. My friend paints out of a hunting bucket seat. Although I have not yet converted, I think he is pretty cleaver. He puts his paints and supplies in the bucket, and sits on the cushioned lid. Lightweight aluminum easels can be good too, but then you must consider the wind. You can lay out your paints on your palette ahead of time, so that you don’t have to lug them with you.
- The wind can be very strong. If you have hair, you may want to secure it. If your easel is lightweight, you may want to weigh it down. Also, make sure your painting is clamped tightly because there is nothing like having it go face-down in the dirt after hours of work.
- Snacks make it fun. It is nice to have a high-protein snack after painting.
- Have fun! I love being outside, especially when I am well-prepared.
What are some of your favorite places to create?
Do you like to create in nature?
What are some of the obstacles you have encountered, and how did you work around them?
Have you ever been bitten by chiggers?