plein aire

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Allen K. Umbrella [um] wrote
on 30 Aug 2010 1:18 PM

How do you get over painting in public? I get nervous beyond my studio.

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Antonin2 wrote
on 30 Aug 2010 3:57 PM

Well ... It does take confidence but you get it with time. I would say, if you are really nervous go somewhere nobody will be there or paint looking through your window.

With my short experience I find that people are really respectful of what you are doing and also really nice ! I met some nice people like that ! But yes people get curious.

And also, I know I am no master I do my thing and who cares Big Smile

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on 30 Aug 2010 4:11 PM

When I made the jump from private painting in my studio to painting in public places I too was very nervous.  As it worked out, I went with a couple of friends to a private home and was quite prepared to have my peers look at my work when we were finished.  The good thing about this was that I knew at some point they would see what I did but they were too busy doing their own painting to watch me actually working.  You might want to try that if you can.

Another option is to go with a friend who can sit near you, you'll get used to someone being nearby without the fear of a stranger watching you. 

Finally if you have to go alone, might I suggest you go somewhere quiet and peaceful where you are unlikely to see anyone else, if you can do that a few times you might start to wish for someone to come by and take a peek at what you are doing.

I am sure that after a little while you will actually appreciate people seeing you work, the majority of people will say nothing, many will be complimentary and the odd person might say they can do better ... if they do hand the pallette and brush to them and watch them for a change!


Hope this helps,


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j.b2 wrote
on 31 Aug 2010 8:22 AM

I think everyone is a bit nervous the 1st few times.

Here are a few suggestions to help get over it..

Start by painting out in the country where no one is around.

Start early in the morning when less people are out. I start right before sunrise. This works for city scapes.

I have always fond people supportive and most just watch.

All these worked for me...

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Antonin2 wrote
on 31 Aug 2010 8:44 AM

oh yeah, and an other thing. Paint on 6x8 and 8x10 it is much easier and it will reduce the stress level.

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on 15 Oct 2010 7:50 AM

I used to be very nervous about being judged.  And, this is a little off topic, but I started doing community theater to get over it.  It was fast and easy- baptism by fire- to have five hundred people staring at you and judging your performance gets you some face time fast. 

Also, take a workshop with a plein air master.  Sometimes, having an excuse, like, "well, this is a learning experience and I've paid for it, so I'm going to do it" helps me too.  Finally, I consider myself a student in everything I do, in life.  As a student, I am less harsh on myself, and I can accept even the most rediculous or uneducated comment because, hey, they might have a point. 

And, nobody is immune to comments.  I just had a workshop with Don Demers, a very well established marine master.  He said he was doing a series on bridges in Maine recently and was out early in the morning.  A woman happened by and after watching him for a while commented..."It must be nice to have talent and not have to work for a living".  He said he froze in his mind and was thinking something like, "yeah, that's right, getting up before dawn and standing in the freezing cold dodging traffic and people's off-hand comments isn't work, it's pure pleasure". 

Now, admittedly, making a living from your art is the best thing I can think of, and I do consider it a pleasure to paint outdoors, but dodging attack dogs, maniac drivers, and who knows what else, isn't always fun.

One more side comment.  Often, you can find places like Reservoirs and other conservation areas that contain beautiful scenes and restricted traffic from dogs, ATVs, etc., and these areas tend to have fewer people milling about.  I'm in New England and I just painted an old stone church on a reservoir not far from my house.  No dogs allowed, and I only had a few people stop by- two painters and two photographers.  The photographers were from the other side of the country and we had a nice conversation for about half an hour. 

One other good idea.  Find a friend who hunts.  Some of the best country I've come across was with a friend who's constantly out hunting over his dog.  He covers a lot of ground and knows a lot of pretty spots and farmers already.

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Dan McGrath wrote
on 21 Dec 2010 8:01 PM

I agree with the other posts here, well said. Other points - (1) it helps to have some level of drawing ability to reproduce the scene in front of you, if you've got something sketchy & recognizable, people (more often women than men) will complement you, and (2) kids are great morale boosters, they love that you're trying and anything decent will make them feel good and they'll tell you!   Happy painting!

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dalanarts wrote
on 25 Dec 2010 1:37 PM

Great question Allen,

     I find i often end up picking my locations based on my mood.  Just how shy do i feel that day?  I have actually found keeping headphones on keeps away the occasional chatters/distractions.  It does take some patience to put up with the early viewers who feel compelled to say something like "oh thats very nice" when you have done nothing more than tone your canvas!   Makes you question the honesty of any compliments you get along the way.    I believe I have gotten over some of the nervousness by accidentally painting one of my worst paintings ever in a crowded location.  Since that day i have always felt that theres no way it could get worse than that.  Read a post from another artist who gave a good reminder about what a great marketing opportunity interacting with the public can be.  That might make putting up with the nervousness if you can hand out a few business cards along the way.

Dalan Wells

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Jay Babina wrote
on 18 Jan 2011 8:05 AM

One thing you can do is try to organize a plein air group that meets and paints together. Not only is it more fun than painting alone but educational as well. And the group can beat up any one who gives you any bad comments. Seriously, you have to remember that 99% of the viewers know nothing and are really fascinated by the process of painting. And those to do know something are totally understanding of what it's like to create something from nothing. Don't worry about how good you are or what your painting looks like but just focus on the total enjoyment of doing what you love to do. I enjoy talking to people when they stop by to view my work in progress and just tune out any feelings of it being a performance. Sometimes I make jokes like "if you come back later, I'm selling it to the highest bidder over $12,000".

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KatPaints wrote
on 18 Jan 2011 5:17 PM

I went to a community art center and asked if there were any plein air groups. The woman said that there were not, but she'd paint with me. This past summer she was my plein air partner and I am eternally grateful that she joined me because I have fears of painting on my own. It is not so much the comments. I don't get negative comments - mostly other people's life stories of how they were discouraged or blocked in the arts or they tell me of someone they know who is an artist. The biggest problem with observers is that they occasionally can sneak up on you and catch you off guard while your focused on your art. One woman warned me she was coming. That was really nice. One day about 12 people stopped to look. Two people decided to park themselves with their lawn chairs in front of me and have lunch. I guess they felt safe. Yet, It can be creepy knowing someone is looking over your shoulder. If someone does that, step aside or position yourself so that you can still see the person with the corner of your eye. You can also try making a t-shirt with "Keep Away Mentally Unstable" printed on the back. Maybe paint so that your back is facing a wall or bush or something... Just Kidding.

Don't get me wrong, plein air painting is really worthwhile. Just give it a try and spend this winter trying to find a group or a partner. If someone stops by say "I'm new at painting, so I'm still learning." If they say something nasty say "I see" (nice and generic) or if they ramble on----I'm sorry but I need to focus on my painting because the light changes so quickly."or just keep painting -they get that your busy. or turn it around by not responding to a negative comment- instead happily say - "Are you going for a walk today?" "What brings you to this park? Oh well then,enjoy your day." It really has not happened to me  - people generally have a reason for being where they are and they only spend a few seconds or minutes.  Sometimes it is a welcome break and nice to hear good comment. Remember, their opinion doesn't matter, they will be gone quickly and will only remember that someone was painting. They really are not thinking about you or your painting.

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crowdaddy wrote
on 27 Mar 2011 1:49 PM


First off it is normal, and second you can do it.  If you start out in areas that are around people but not right in, later go right around everyone and it will just be an incremental step. Especially if your subject is required to be in crowds then let your passion about your subject win.  I think some of the nervousness is from midstage painting where you have stuff on the paper unorganized and people come up and wonder what it is.  You have to have it , or I do, kinda messed up in order to work to solution or near fineness.  Most people will be quiet and respectful but like the world is today, you'll have people saying all kinds of unrelated, unhelpful things.  I start talking loudly and explaining everything I'm doing, soon they are either all asleep or have disappeared.   Back to work.

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oltyma wrote
on 28 Mar 2011 12:59 PM

to build your confidence you must build on it. each spring i gather all my stuff (for plein air) and go into my backyard . there i will paint any bush or tree that appeals to me. this is to ensure that when i "go public" i have all my equipment with me, if you had to go back into the house for something you were not ready. it also makes you familiar with your plein air equipment which is different from your syudio stuff. my outdoor easel is a liteweight homemade easel which cost about $7.00. once you are sure of yourself and your equipment your confidence has matured. next try to join up with a plein air group in your area. first time you go out leave your stuff in your vehicle and walk around to see what the others are doing. if you have any sort of talent you will find there are some paint as well as you some better some not as your judgement. now get your stuff out knowing you fit in.   oltyma, lower hudson valley and chenango cty, ny pa groups


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firesignart wrote
on 7 Jun 2011 10:33 AM

Try to find a painting buddy...or plug in an mp3 player to your ears and zone in. You forget there's anyone else around after a while!

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on 25 Jul 2011 9:25 PM

Like the other painters here. I would say that confidence it what you are doing and experience will make you more confortable. If you know that you will be around people,paint something that you will be comfortable with and of a size that wouldn't be stressful. Keep the painting as stress free as possible.

Most people are very respectful and don't talk a whole lot. I've only had one person at a show that I had to say "Excuse me, but I don't have much time here and need to concentrate on my painting." She left. I was painting at sunset on the beach.

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