Plein Air Painting: Finding Your Commitment and Accountability

28 Oct 2013
I met my friend Greg while plein air painting at a paint-out last summer.
I met my friend Greg one Saturday
morning for a plein air
paint-out. We painted
together several times last summer.

This past Saturday was a beauty. The weather was warm enough to be outside comfortably, the light was sparkling, and it would have been a fine day to paint en plein air. Would have... if I had painted. But I didn’t. Instead, I went to a meeting and then spent the afternoon on the computer, completing a project I had volunteered for.

Like many of you, I’m not a full-time artist and I find it challenging to make time to paint. I have a day job, and it seems I’ve made a million commitments to do other things as well. I’m sure some of you reading this have other time constraints, too, like spouses and kids who want and deserve your attention.

The weird thing is that instead of savoring the free moments and rushing out to paint when I can, I often find myself letting those few golden opportunities slip by. It’s also easy to take a pass on creating opportunities by simply not planning for them. And then I lament the fact that my skills are just not progressing. Does this happen to you?

If so, I have two ideas that may help. (Truthfully, I’m writing this to remind myself of good practices that I need to re-engage!) The first is the institution of at least one Sacred Day--a day or evening every week that is reserved exclusively for painting (painting in the studio or painting outside--but definitely, solely painting!). Saturdays have always worked well with my schedule, but I’m thinking of claiming Thursday evenings, too. I simply let my family and friends know that I’m not available on my Sacred Day, and an amazing thing happens: They respect it and plan around it. And so do I!

Plein air painting titled On the Little Miami by Jennifer King
A piece I painted during a plein air
painting paint-out.
My other idea is to set up your own series of plein-air paint-outs and invite fellow plein air painters who live nearby to join you. I’ve done this for the past two summers in a row. Each April, I created a calendar that listed where I planned to paint every Saturday morning from May to September, and then I sent it to all the local plein-air artists I knew, asking them to forward it on to more artists. And for extra security, I specifically asked them not to RSVP. That way, when my alarm went off on Saturday mornings, I had to get up and go no matter what because I knew someone might be waiting for me out there. There were some days I ended up painting alone...but I was painting! It was a surefire way to hold myself accountable, not to mention a great way to have fun with like-minded artists in my community.

So what do you think of these ideas? They’ve really worked to keep me steady in my commitment to paint regularly and improve my craft. So how do you handle your time conflicts? Got any great time management ideas of your own that you can share?

--Jennifer


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Comments

LBTaylor wrote
on 2 Nov 2013 8:31 AM

This article so resonates with me! I'm a beginner painter (mostly watercolor pencil) but it is a passion of mine. Like you, I have other commitments... my own business, church ministries and volunteer work, plus family and friends to love and care about. The idea of making a painting appointment is a great one. And, I love the idea of a plein air "play date". It sounds like such a great way to meet other local artists. Of course, I haven't delved into plein air painting, yet, but maybe this is the sort of thing to move me in that direction....

on 2 Nov 2013 12:23 PM

One plein air group I belong to has a back-up location for inclement weather.  We meet in a Starbucks in a central location that allows us to paint inside.  Since I live in Southern California, we can paint outside all year long so this Starbucks doesn't get all that much use...but it does have it's moments!  In a colder climate or an area without a cooperative coffee house you could meet in a garage with a still-life set-up as your back-up location.  Just a thought anyways...

John_Edwards wrote
on 5 Jul 2014 10:53 AM

My kids are all grown, I've been in a forced retirement for the last four to five years. I am an artist, a musician, and a writer. As this list would have it, I am an artist first, but with the creative nature many of us have, its hard to draw a line in the sand as this article suggests we should to make time for our passion(s). To say I paint all the time though has yet to be seen. As an abstract artist I can throw paint at a canvas and call it good, as a writer, not so much so. Every word and sentence structure is thoughtfully considered as I look for balance between research quotes and my own thoughts in a non-fiction reality.

Its hard to set time aside for the three creative branches I have going, chiefly because they are all from the same tree. As I have a writing project on my desk, I am looking at a silhouette painting I am working on; while my guitar sits ideally by waiting to write another song of praise. So what I do is inch along. I like to set up a day or days where I write a complete chapter, freed from this anchor, I can focus on drawing or painting. Writing songs come quick. Always with a melody in my head, BAM! Its done and I can get back to any other loose end's I have laying around. Good article, thanks for the ideas.