• Communication: Check your email one hour before meeting at plein air location to get latest update from instructor.
Make sure you have the instructors cell number on your charged phone.
• If it is cool and cloudy that's fine, but rain cancels.
• Wet grass or ground cancels.
• Temperature below 70º cancels
• Temperature above 85º cancels
• High winds cancel
• We will be out in the field between two and three hours. Make sure you use the restroom beforehand as it is unlikely we will be near restrooms.
• You will need some kind of lightweight portable easel and your art supplies.
• We will be painting near our vehicles, or walking on level gravel path for 15 minutes to other locations.
If you have never plein air painted before, here are a few essentials:
• View finder: Take a piece of mat board or cardboard and cut a 4" x 5" square out of it, like a little window frame that you can view through to see your scene:
• Bring a sketch book. It is very helpful to sketch your scene before you paint it. And it is quite possible you will spend most of your time sketching. Here is my sketchbook and the painting that followed:
• Use a small canvas or board, size about 8 x 10 or 11 x 14. Pre-paint the surface a medium value, neutral warm tone, not too dark. It MUST be dry before you arrive to paint:
Map to Center for Urban Horticulture:
Click map to enlarge then photo it with your phone.
Center for Urban Horticulture website:
Bathroom facilities are open M-F, 9am - 5pm
Map to Woodlawn Park (near the Zoo but not at the Zoo)
1000 N. 50th, Seattle, WA
Click on map to enlarge then photo with your phone
Plein Air Pack List
Check off items when they are packed and ready to go into vehicle:
____ Backpack or other means of transporting supplies.
____ 2 - 11 x 14 Primed boards
____ 2 - 8X10 Boards
____ Clean Gamsol, in jar and ziplock bag
____ Baby oil
____ View Finder Window Frame
____ Paint Pochade box
____ Box easel
____ Swatch cards
____ Reading Glasses
____ Field Stool (if sitting)
____ Sketch book
____ Pencil, eraser, Sharpener
____ Masking Tape
____ Sun screen (if sun is expected)
____ Empty wide mouth jar
____ Flash Light (if expecting to be out after dark)
____ ground cove (if painting on wet ground)
____Phone - charged (for communication and taking reference photos)
Reference Photos if not painting from life.
____Trash bags for paper towels
____ Water bottle
Plein Air Basics
Preliminary Notes By Patrick Howe
In my indoor studio, 9 out of 10 paintings are finished successfully. However, in plein air painting maybe 1 in 7 is successful. That is because plein air painting naturally has potentially limiting factors, like a limited or inadequate point of view, weather and uneven ground, etc. Therefore let the enjoyment be in the experience not the end result.
As a regular routine, occasionally search for, and collect plein air painting images. Review the samples an hour before going out to paint, or bring them with you. Notice their composition, tonality, and value structure. Then see if you can bring those qualities into your plein air painting.
Prime Canvas or Board
It is helpful to arrive at the painting location with your canvas or board primed a warm neutral color, like a warm gray. This makes painting much easier than starting with a white surface.
Bring a couple of canvases or boards. Keep them small-ish. My default plein air painting surface is a wood panel that is 11” x 14”.
Scene Selection: Using the Window Frame
The outdoors is a huge place. The first thing to do is to define the boundaries of your vision. For that, use a window frame cropper. Scan the scene through the window frame until you see a portion of the landscape you wish to paint. Cropping the scene is your first act of composition.
Make sure your window frame is the same proportion and orientation as your canvas.
While looking through the window frame, make note of where the landscape scene touches the edges of your window frame. That way, after you place the window frame aside, you can reposition it again to the correct place by aligning the the landscape to the edges of the window frame.
Make two or three thumbnail sketches of the scene. The sketches should be composed of approximately 5 to 10 of simple shapes. Shade in the shapes so you capture their value. When sketching, focus primarily on major shapes, not details.
Notice if there are elements in the actual scene that you may want to edit out, like a telephone line, etc. Just because you see something in a scene does not mean you must paint it.
Select one of the sketches that best represents what you want to paint.
Transfer Sketch to Canvas/board
Redraw your sketch onto your canvas. Your thumbnail sketch is your road map. Make sure you have drawn your sketch onto your canvas before you start looking at the landscape to paint. That way you will be sure to retain the compositional structure you created in your thumbnail sketch.
For the beginner it is often helpful to paint your scene in black and white only, or a warm tone like burnt umber and white. Color adds a complex dimension to painting. Temporarily eliminating color makes the process easier.
Block in Major Shapes
Paint from the background to foreground, and light color to dark color. Leave out all skinny, spindly elements until the very end. Avoid having to paint around skinny things like tree branches.
Painting at Woodland Park Sept 2015
Mike Pepe and Hattie Grant