When plein air painting, one of the most enjoyable and
facile medias I've found to work with has to be watercolors. Hands down. The
supplies are minimal, you can paint quickly and move from place to place making
sketches of what catches your interest, and the paintings dry so quickly that
there's no stress involved when it comes to packing up and moving out.
||A Break in the Weather by Jim McFarlane, watercolor painting.
But there are a few learning curves that artists can hit
along the way when painting outdoors. That's why I want to share a few tips
straight from the brightest plein air
artists in the biz so we can all paint
with confidence when we are painting outside.
Jim McFarlane focuses on using a limited number of values when
he wears his plein air painting hat. It requires you to link areas of similar
values together, resulting in larger shapes and sounder compositions.
McFarlane also encourages painters to be opportunistic-look
what is around you and take it as a visual gift. If there are unexpected views
or situations, make the most of them. Don't get bogged down in preconceived
ideas about how you want the painting session to go before you even leave the
The first question McFarlane always asks himself is,
"Where's the sunlight?" That becomes the white of his paper, and from there he
knows that anything that isn't sunlight at least gets a light value, which is
especially helpful with shadows that move so quickly when you are painting en
|China Camp Village by David Savellano,
watercolor painting, 14 x 21.
It can be a jungle out there, and one way San Francisco
artist David Savellano stays focused when plein air painting is to write down
the title of the piece before he starts painting to maintain a sense of purpose
and continuity throughout the process.
Savellano also cautions artists to forego multiple layers
when painting outdoors. Instead, he encourages focus on painting with the
fewest expressive brushstrokes that you can manage, and trying to get values
and colors right the first time. It may not happen that way all the time, but
it is a goal worth striving for.
For more survival tips for watercolor painting inside and
outside the studio, a subscription to Watercolor
is what I would recommend. There are great instructors passing along their tips
and trade secrets, and in the Summer 2012 issue that you'll receive with your
new subscription you'll find David Dewey's newest watercolor paintings give
coastal landscape painting a modern makeover, and see how
artist Amy Arnston paints water with water. Enjoy!