7 Plein Air Painting Essentials

Plein air painting simply refers to painting outdoors. Artists have been painting outdoors for many centuries, but plein air painting only started becoming popular in the 18th century with the invention of portable paints and other art supplies. Painting outdoors lets you immerse yourself in your subject matter – that’s one of the reasons it’s still really popular. As well as your typical painting supplies, here are 4 plein air painting essentials.

  1. A Seat

You’ll need something to sit on while working. You could always find something like a bench or a rock to sit on, though it might be more convenient to bring a stool or a fold-up chair so you can choose where to sit and work from. It’s also handy to have a cushion or a spare bit of clothing to put on whatever you’re sitting on so you don’t get too uncomfortable.

  1. Food and drink

Have some food and drink with you in case you feel hungry or thirsty while working. You should definitely have at least some food and drink with you if you know you’re going to out there working for a good few hours. If it’s hot, water’s a must; if it’s cold, a nice hot drink in a flask is a must. Be sure to keep your drinking water away from the water you wash your brushes with!

  1. The right clothing

When you’re in the great outdoors, you have to be able to cope with the elements and having the right clothing will help greatly. For when it’s cold, you want a few extra layers you can put on, along with a scarf, a hat and gloves for if it gets really cold. A thick windproof jacket is recommended for really harsh wintry weather. For when it’s hot, you want something you can take off for if the heat starts getting to you; a sunhat would also be good for keeping your head cool. Make sure your clothes are neutral in colour: white clothes can reflect light on to your painting and you’ll find the sunlight can actually reflect some of the colour of really bright clothes on to your painting.

  1. Sunscreen

If you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time, it goes without saying that you should have some sunscreen on. You might only be planning on being outside for an hour, but time can and does fly when you get into the working frame of mind. The last thing you want is to get sunburnt, so plan ahead and make sure you’re protected against the sun, especially if you’re painting at around midday.

  1. Insect repellent

There’s nothing more frustrating than being out in the open and being pestered by insects. No matter where you are in the great outdoors, they always seem to find you, so be sure to have some insect repellent with you. Give your working area and yourself a quick spray and that should do the trick. This is very important because even the smallest of bugs can cause damage to your painting, so it’s best to make sure they won’t bother you.

  1. A Mobile phone

A mobile phone is essential especially if you’re going somewhere off the beaten track. Before you go, make sure your phone is fully charged. There’s nothing worse than ending up lost out in the open and your phone’s out of battery. By all means do go out and explore, but have a charged phone with you just in case you get lost or have an accident and need some help.

  1. A Rubbish bag

There might be bins nearby, but it’s always handy to take your own rubbish bag with you. You can dispose of your waste as and when you need to without getting up to find the nearest bin, wherever that may be. It doesn’t have to be a big bin liner – a plastic bag from a supermarket will do. You should also have some paper towels to help you clean up any mess you make.

Before deciding what you’re going to take with you, it’s important to do some planning ahead. If you’re driving to your location, you can take as much equipment as you want. If you’re walking or using public transport, you’d probably be better off with a bit less equipment. Only take what you absolutely need; if you have the room, take more stuff, but don’t burden yourself.

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ARMETTA fig. 1 Homer


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