In case you don’t know, plein air painting is a French term for painting outside from life, with the subject in front of you. I first tried it in 2013 and quickly discovered it to be a huge challenge compared to studio painting. Despite facing a number of obstacles such as changing light conditions, keeping warm/cool/dry in unpredictable weather and having to transport loads of art materials, I absolutely loved my first experience.
Since then I’ve tried to get outside and paint often.
Spring has arrived so I’ve been making use of the light mornings and squeezing in a plein air painting before work. My office is based at Elephant and Castle so I get an early train into London and set up my pochade painting box at locations that are walking distance to work. Getting a 5.30am train into London gives me just over an hour to paint and get to my desk by 8.15am. I’m painting on 8 x 6″ boards so it’s easy to cover the surface in a short time. The paintings are quite sketchy which I like. Plein air painting forces you to work quickly.
All my equipment fits into a small backpack. I carry a pochade box (another French painting term), paints, turpentine, brushes, rags, a tripod, kitchen towel and some baby wipes. The first time I tried plein air I carried a field easel, large painting box, big bottle of water, spare canvasses, big palette, loads of brushes and more! It was a killer! My shoulders were in agony by the time I found a spot to paint. Back then I would never have envisaged being able to reduce my load down to a manageable backpack of equipment.
Social media and art blogs have been great for learning how other artists work. That’s pretty much how I’ve developed my equipment list and method for painting plein air and also seeing first hand how others do it at some painting events.
I’ve got a couple of really exciting and completely unexpected projects on the way in the next couple of months. I’ll be busy working on them soon and will post about them in the summer. Meanwhile it’s more plein air mornings and life drawing evenings.
Thanks for reading!