Cindy Briggs


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Painting En Plein Air – TOP TIPS for Beginners

painting en plein air

Painting En Plein Air – TOP TIPS for Beginners

I remember my first plein air experience, I had way too much stuff. If you pack less, you’ll paint more is what I’ve learned with over 25 years of painting en plein air. Watercolors are the easiest medium to travel with because you can quickly set up, paint, then pack up and go.

Supplies you’ll need

– Folding watercolor palette with a lid – my 18-well Heritage or Miello Palette works great for all of my paintings on location or en plein air. – Squeeze in watercolor paints from a tube about four days before you travel so it can dry. – 140#cold press watercolor paper, about 8 x 10 or smaller in a block, journal, or even postcard size. (I like Fabriano, Arches, Dick Blick, Canson) – My favorite brush: the Dynasty Black Gold 311 size 4 Quill Brush available on – A mechanical pencil .7, plus kneaded eraser – A squishable watercolor bucket – Some paper towels All of this should fit into a large ziplock or shoulder bag. You don’t really need an easel or stool. Just start with the minimal basics.

Find your painting spot

Before you even start painting you need to find something that inspires you. Then find a comfortable spot to sit in the shade. Or vice versa. If you aren’t comfortable, you probably won’t have a pleasant experience. Once you get settled, look around and see what might be easy to start with. Don’t paint an entire village. Instead, think about painting a window or a door. Start simple.

painting en plein airStart drawing and painting

Think of your painting as a study. Let go of trying to create a masterpiece and just have fun with lines and color. Give yourself a limited timeframe so you move it along and don’t lose your light. Look at your subject and try to simplify it into just a few shapes then block those in. Then take your pencil, put it on the paper, and see if you can draw with a continuous flowing line. Once you are satisfied with your drawing, erase any unwanted lines and start adding watercolors. Relax into it and just enjoy the process. Take in what you see, feel, hear, and paint a memory.


When you capture your point-of-view and experience, you’ve created a colorful memory while painting en plein air.



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