7 Tips to Help You Start a Plein Air Painting Practice

Summer is the perfect time to get outside for some Plein Air painting. This pastime is a wonderful way to improve your studio skills while enjoying the great outdoors. Here’s a few tips to get you started in your own Plein Air practice:


1. Scout out your location ahead of time

This allows you to have an idea of what you want to paint so you can be prepared with the right color paints and gear. It also allows you to spend more time actually painting and less time trying to figure out a location.


2. Make an appointment                

It is difficult to carve out several hours to practice your art. Don’t approach your practice with an “if I have time” mindset. Block out the hours on your calendar and treat it like an appointment. Plein Air painting is your gift to yourself.


3. Dress appropriately

You may be outside for hours. Be prepared with sunscreen, a large brimmed hat to shade your eyes, and layers that you can easily take off or put on as the temperature changes. Avoid wearing white or bright colors that can reflect onto your painting.


4. Remember to bring water

If you’re doing watercolor or acrylic, don’t forget water for rinsing your brushes and a separate bottle for drinking. You don’t want thirst to cut your session short. If you’re painting during cool or cold weather, remember to bring a thermal container of a favorite hot beverage to keep you warm.


5. Make choices in your subject matter

When you're outdoors, the visual information around you can be overwhelming. You won’t be able to paint everything so reduce the scene in front of you by selecting a portion you can manage. Framing the scene with your hands or using a cardboard frame template can help you determine a good composition.


6. Be patient with onlookers

People will naturally be curious, which can make you feel self-conscious. If they want to talk to you, address them politely. “If you don’t mind I have a limited amount of time before I lose my light.” “Thank you for your suggestion. I might try that next time, but right now I’m happy with what I’m doing,” or similar responses will help encourage the curious to move on while you remain relaxed and focused.


7. Be kind to yourself

Taking on a new discipline can be frustrating at first. Remember that growth comes through struggle. The more you practice, the better you’ll become and the closer your paintings will come to the picture you had in your head. You may find your first time out you didn’t bring enough supplies, the next time you brought too many. It will take a few outings for you to learn what you really need and that’s okay. Remember every accomplished Plein Air painter was a newcomer once.

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