Saturday in the Park
This blog has an ongoing series of #WatercolorScience articles about how different types of weather affect your painting, even if you work inside. Extreme Heat & low humidity: We're Having a Heat Wave & I Started This Heat Wave Freezing Temperatures: When Winter Comes Howling In Humidity & Rain: Lost in a Fog
If you want to paint en plein air (fancy art term for outside) you will need to consider the weather as well as a number of other factors. Let’s begin at the beginning.
A Super Beginner’s Guide to Painting Skillfully Outside
Painting outside is more different from painting inside than you may realize. What you bring to paint, what you bring for yourself, where you go, how you sit… Everything has to be thought out in advance. Start with figuring out what you want to bring with you & then do a test run at home. I tried out my potential art kit while sitting on my tiny porch. This helped me realize I had completely forgotten a waterproof pen & water for me to drink.
The following lists are just suggestions – I don’t carry everything on them, & sometimes I pack extra things. I don’t have a car, so generally if it won’t fit in a backpack, it doesn’t go in my kit. Luckily enough there are several parks with chairs & tables nearby, so I can skip carrying in my own furniture!
Kit For Painting
- Waterproof pen(s)
- Brushes: sizes 2,6, & one from 99¢ store.
- Jar with a tight-fit top for water
- Cloth to wipe your brushes on – a tshirt rag or old athletic wristband is reusable
- Paper towel – there’s nothing like it for dabbing at watercolors – tuck it in your wristband or under your paint while you’re working so it’s less likely to blow away
- Easel or Clipboard or Table (or plan on working with a sketchbook in your lap, like I do)
- Small DIY travel palette. This has black & white gouache & will someday have 3 primary watercolors in it, but I need to buy more tube paint for that.
- Paints, of course! I used a watercolor paintbox for the test. I will bring watercolor markers when I’m not working right on my porch, as they take up less space & use less water. I got lazy here & grabbed the paint that was already out.
Things to Think About
If you get impatient, like me, bring enough paper so you can work on multiple paintings at once. That way you can switch between them, leaving ample time for each painting to dry before you continue. I generally have 4 rectangles of paper taped into my sketchbook, so I can keep it open & just rotate to a new painting.
If you are pressed for time, consider painting at home & save the excursion for another day. Remember, if you try to pack up wet paintings they will be ruined by the time you get home! I walked home carrying an open sketchbook once because I ran out of time. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was quite annoying.
Another option to consider is using a “wet panel carrier”. It is a small briefcase-like box that (can you guess?) carries wet paintings. You can probably buy one, but you could also DIY one. You could even kick back, relax for a couple weeks until I make one, & then read my future blog post about it! (I’ll add a link here when I write it)
Kit For Humaning
- Seating of some kind (even if you work standing up, you’ll probably want to sit at some point!)
- If you like to listen to something while you work, wear your most stable headphones! This is not the time for ill-fitting earbuds you are constantly adjusting.
- Bug spray
- Lightweight jacket
- Umbrella or wide-brimmed hat
- Backpack (or a reusable shopping bag, whatever you’ve got) to carry it all
- Camera – the one on your phone will do just fine!
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. It's going to change not only person-to-person, but day-to-day. Water is the most important thing here. Your paints will dry faster outside & so will you! Make sure you bring plenty of water to drink, even if it isn’t hot.
One More Thing To Think About
Be prepared to carry everything you need in & back out again. This is a literal ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’ scenario. Many articles that I have read advise using ‘found water’ & ‘found objects’, but only do this if the location you picked specifically allows it! Also be aware of what might be in that ‘found water’. How might various pollutants affect your paints & brushes? This is always a concern, but especially after massive flooding or near construction sites.
OK, we’ve got our painting kit together with our water & sun protection. Now what? How do we actually paint outside? We’ll cover that in a future article. When? I don’t know. Southern California is getting hit by a tropical storm, we’re about to go into another heat wave, & we literally had an earthquake as I edited this paragraph. This #EnPleinAir series will continue in a few weeks.
Next Tuesday’s Karin Wanderer Learns will be my 30th article! It’s going to be about Pizza & the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (My 20th article had my favorite vegan cake recipe.) I never intended to make KWL into a baking blog every 10 weeks, but I’m happy it’s turning out this way. See you then!
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- All pictures posted are my own work.
- All reviews are my own unpaid & unsolicited opinions.