Outdoor Painting

Outdoor Painting

An endless source of inspiration…

Many art societies organise outdoor painting at different venues during the summer months as part of their activity program. Working outside provides an endless source of inspiration as the subject matter is always changing.

No need to hike everyone up a mountain, a simple comfortable spot such as a community park, city square or even someone’s garden will do just as well as a location for members to capture composition and socialise with their fellow artists. We’ve got some advice to help you get started.

“Plein Air” Painting

When you go out to paint for the first time, it is quite common to be overwhelmed by what you see and absently forget the painting session. So it may be preferable, for a beginner, to start by painting a view from inside, looking out an open window for example.

Outdoor Painting

When you are done with this step, you can start to move outside to a familiar environment. It is often preferable to go out with just one pad to make sketches first. Once you have found a place that you like, just stop and make a series of quick sketches. Don’t worry about capturing a whole scene, look for a bold shape or an interesting contrast of colour or shadow. If you’re planning to work on your composition further at home make some simple pencil sketches to lay a foundation, showing the atmosphere of the place and your impressions on the colours that you see. It can also be useful to take a few photographs. 

outdoor painting

Poole & East Dorset Art Society 

Explore your location

Nothing is more annoying than people looking over your shoulder and making comments while you are working, so it is preferable to find a place sheltered from view. Even professional outdoor painters explore the location before choosing their spot. Assess the location, the light, and importantly the accessibility. A place can have a heavenly view, but if it is not very accessible a long walk would ruin all the pleasure. Ideally you should start close to your home so that you can get used to these unusual work conditions.

Travel Light

To be comfortable on your outings, choose your equipment well, knowing that you will not have every convenience that your studio can offer you whilst still being able to travel light. There is basic equipment for every type of painting so create a capsule kit that is fit for purpose. Dry colours such as pastel, charcoal and colour pencils are light and easily transportable in a bag. The lightest painting equipment will be a small watercolour set, equipped with 3 or 4 brushes, and a little pad or block. As oil paints and acrylic paints are heavier, you should limit yourself to a palette of basic colours.

A little stool is useful because you will quickly grow tired of standing up. The easel is another essential tool, but be sure to choose one made of a light material such as aluminium.

As a precaution, take a plastic sheet or bag to protect your equipment and work if it starts raining.

The last essential accessory is a camera, preferably with a zoom function. It can seem ironic at first, but even for outdoor painting, most of the time the work is still finished at home, not outside!

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5 thoughts on “Outdoor Painting

  1. Hey, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

  2. I read your piece on outdoor sketching with interest. I disagree with many of your opinions.
    I paint almost every day, and outdoors at least once a week, and have done for over two years.
    Here are the points that trouble me:
    1. The idea that onlookers are annoying. Of course everyone is different but in my experience people are invariably kind, interesting and respectful, and add immeasurably to the overall experience of painting outdoors.
    2. Far from ruining the pleasure, a long walk to the location is part of it. However, it can be a nuisance if you are tight for time, as most mothers of young children (ie. me) are.
    3. Most painters do NOT touch it up at home: the painting will almost certainly lose its freshness, authenticity and even the magic if you work on it when the subject is no longer in front of you.
    4. Using a camera is a bad idea: the picture will be different in so many ways from real life, and surely it defeats the purpose – namely, to immerse oneself in plein air and be at one with the environment through sketching – to take a photo and look at it on an electronic screen. What’s even worse is that you end up believing the camera rather than your own memory.
    5. You don’t need an easel. Look through my paintings – not one was done with an easel, and all were done on location.

    I agree with everything else! It should also be pointed out that even the most disheartened beginners will find themselves encouraged by painting outdoors – in my experience, my students are always enthused by their results when they take the step and go outdoors (or indoors, on location). Nothing can beat inspiration, and as you point out, the big wide world is an endless source.

  3. Heather Tilbrook on said:

    Recently, I bought two items from Great Art, on line and was charged more for postage than the total value of the items. There was no warning, whatsoever, that there was a minimum spend. The postage was added as a matter of course, without the opportunity to buy more items to avoid the iniquitous extra charge. I feel this is outrageous and will probably never shop with Great Art again! Other people be ware!

    • Louise from GreatArt on said:

      Dear Heather,
      I am sorry that you are unhappy with your experiance. We do highlight the minimum spend of £39.95 for free delivery to mainland UK on the footer of our website which is visible on every page. If you found at the point of payment that charges had been applied you are able to access your basket to add more items or return to the main website. We also note the basket total as ‘exc. delivery charges’ until the final stage. If you feel your complaint should be taken further please contact customer services at [email protected] and they will assist with your query.

      Thank you