Friday, November 19, 2010

Number One Tip for Plein Air Success

copyright Hannah Phelps
Rocks in the Grey and Quiet
oil on canvas, 12" x 12"

I have all too often driven over an hour for a plein air painting trip only to realize that I have forgotten something critical. Try painting on location without brushes, canvas, paper towels - I've even left my easel behind!

Trust me, even if you are a very organized person, the time will come that you will forget something, lose something or accidentally dump out your mineral spirits while setting up your easel.

The best way to avoid heartache in this situation is to paint with other artists. Leaving materials at home turns out to be no big deal because you can borrow something (or everything) from your buddies. As a plein air painter, you learn to be generous early in your career - you know you might be the one to forget your entire paint box next time. 
Over the years I have borrowed and/or loaned:

baseball cap
paper towels
hand warmers

Or you could run into a situation like I did yesterday when you have everything you need, but you wish your canvas was long and skinny.

Wistfully saying it out loud as I looked at the bright ocean before me, my buddy heard me and said, “I have a long one with me - want it?”

Not only did I get the perfect rectangle, but it was a Raymar panel - professionally mounted! I didn’t get something I NEEDED, I got something that just made the day better!

Of course I will make good on the loan, but I am not sure I can truly repay it. Using her unfamiliar canvas stretched my abilities. The pressure of making a nice painting out of the gift also helped me stick with it when I might otherwise just call the whole afternoon a “learning experience.” Like many plein air paintings, it didn’t get done on site, but it is a very good start to what may be a great painting!

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