Monday, September 12, 2011

Notes on Plein Air painting

Anitra painting  •  class plein air painting field trip  •  photo © 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls
If you're planning on being a part of the Calistoga Art Center's first plein air paintout (the entry fee is only $25 if you sign up by September 15th), you may want a few tips on painting en plein air (in the open air). So, for you – notes on plein air painting:

  • Make quick thumbnail sketches of your composition before you begin
  • Bring your camera to take photos – the light will change, and it will give you a record of what the scene looked like
  • Wear a hat to provide shade
  • Bring a mister bottle to keep your palette from drying out too quickly (if you're using acrylic paints – Open Acrylic paints give you more drying time, and work much better on a hot day)
  • In some places, mosquito repellant is advisable
  • Don't take too much gear along, especially if you have to carry it a ways from your car
Jennifer painting  •  class plein air painting field trip  •  photo © 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls 
  • Be prepared for wind – you can tape your palette paper down and brace your easel
  • Although limiting your gear is good, an old ironing board makes a useful place to put your palette and water, if you are setting up close to your car
  • If you don't want people to talk to you, and you're in a busy area, ear plugs and a portable radio/iPod helps – even if you're not listening to it.
  • Most plein air painters work very small on location – perhaps 4" x 5", 8" x 10", or 9" x 12". This is because light and weather conditions can change so rapidly - it's easier to get everything down rapidly when you work small. Often, they will use those studies as the basis for larger paintings later. 
  • You can also return to the same scene at the same time a couple of days in a row, to catch similar light as you work on the same painting.
Victoria and Jennifer painting  •  class plein air painting field trip  •  photo © 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls  

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