5 Expert Plein Air Painting Tips to Help You Become a Better Artist
Plein air painting is a rewarding experience that allows artists to capture the beauty of the natural world in real time. However, it can also be challenging, especially for beginners. That’s where these 5 expert plein air painting tips come in! By following these tips, you can improve your skills and create stunning paintings that you’ll be proud of.
Here are 5 plein air painting tips that will help you improve your skills:
1. Find a subject that inspires you.
Inspiration is more important than talent because it allows you to connect with your subject. One of my favourite paintings is when I spent a few hours looking for my inspiration while everyone else was painting, once I found it, the scene became a study for my first award painting. When teaching, I preview the locations so I know my students will have inspiring subjects to paint and easy access to restrooms.
2. Make sure you are comfortable.
Do you want to sit or stand? Are you in the sun or shade? Are you out of the way of other people? It’s a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen. I actually prefer drawing and painting on my lap, but I use a Plein Air Pro easel when teaching watercolors en plein air.
3. Start with small thumbnail sketches.
A few approximately 1” x 2” thumbnail sketches to plan your design. This will help you decide if you want a horizontal, vertical or square painting. Decide what is your painting about? Is it about the sky, the land, a building? Once I decide on my design, I will often select my colors for color harmony.
4. Take a photo of the scene.
The sun changes the scene every 10 minutes so you want to capture the value shapes. If you draw in the shadow shapes you’ll save the shapes for when you start painting. Plus, if you want to fine-tune your painting back in the studio you will have a reference photo.
5. Draw out and paint your subject.
You could paint on a watercolor block or in a watercolor sketchbook. Let go of creating a perfect painting and just think of it as a study. This takes the pressure off and you can just enjoy the process.
Take in the scene with all your senses as you have a personal life experience. Most plein air paintings take 1-2.5 hours – it’s best to stop early rather than over do it. You are often finished before you think you are.
Plein Air painting can be challenging compared to working with photos. Each plein air experience will make you a better artist as you draw and paint from life. Decision making, dealing with changing light, changing weather conditions, set up and take down will become easier the more you paint en plein air (on location).
Keep a positive attitude as you paint and remember, it will usually look better to you when you get home. I will often paint in a watercolor sketchbook and let my paintings tell the story of my travels and experiences.
Plein air painting is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. But by following these 5 expert plein air painting tips, you can set yourself up for success. So get out there and start painting! You may be surprised at what you can create.
If you’re interested in learning more about plein air painting and experiencing the beauty of Sicily, I encourage you to enroll in my upcoming workshop, Watercolor Journaling and Fine Art Painting in Western Sicily. This workshop is perfect for artists of all levels, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn from two experienced plein air painters.
We’ll be painting in some of the most stunning locations in Sicily, including salt pans with windmills, vineyards, and olive groves. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the charming town of Marsala and enjoy the delicious Sicilian cuisine.
This is a great opportunity to learn new techniques, improve your skills, and create beautiful paintings that you’ll cherish for years to come. I hope to see you there!