top of page

Pretending to be a Plein Air Artist

All set up for plein air painting with my pochade box

I had a very plein air weekend.

Plein air, for those who aren't familiar is "the act of painting outdoors".

I love being outside and I love painting so I figured it would be a very natural process for me to paint outdoors, however, it is truly not that simple, and after some 'failed' attempts at creating something I would show proudly, I truly have a new appreciation for the art of plein air painting.

I have done a lot of watercolour paintings in sketchbooks as we hike and travel, and I love these! The result is one I keep for myself (and my family) as a treasury of sorts, and it is so neat to flip through them and remember exactly what our day was like when we went on a certain hike or outing. However, I wanted to take it to the next level and set up my acrylics to paint a beautiful landscape or subject in the great outdoors. So, I got a pochade box for Christmas (the beautiful wooden box, easel you see in the picture above), a stay wet palette (to keep my paint from drying out) and some heavy body paints.

I attended the plein air show at the Leighton Art Centre on Saturday for inspiration and inspired I was. There are some truly gifted plein air artists in Southern Alberta. And I have a newfound admiration for them.

Sunday I attended the Charity Paint In for Rowan House at the Diamond Willow Bed and Breakfast. It took me over an hour to pack for the trip...this should have been my first clue that it may not be a simple process...

hiking the property at the Paint In to decide where to set up

It was a magical day to say the least. Our hosts were incredible. They fed us and kept us caffeinated, they toured us around their property and made sure we were comfortable and sheltered (it was a bit of a rainy day). I was with some other amazing artist friends and everyone was great company.

However I quickly got frustrated. I'm surrounded by amazing artists and I could just not get my brush to make something that I liked and it quickly soured the process for me. I realize now that there are a number of factors that contributed to my frustration:

-the light was really flat due to the weather, and this made it hard to get nice bright colours and highlights in our compositions

-the rain made it hard to go too far, as we were always aware we may have to dash our gear back into the vehicle

-I don't usually paint with heavy body paints, stand while painting or paint landscapes...this was definitely too many things to learn on the spot at once

-I felt a bit self-conscious given the artists I was with...lovely women...but so talented

In hindsight I should have picked something smaller to paint, a subject matter of sorts and kicked my critical mind to the curb and just enjoyed the company and the experience. I regret having been so caught up in trying to make my painting look a certain way.

However, after lunch I switched to my ink and watercolour in my sketchbook, we were served wine and I relaxed and enjoyed myself a whole lot more.

All in all it was a fantastic but incredibly humbling experience. On my list of things to do - get out to paint plein air way more often, look into taking a plein air workshop with someone who's style I like and start paying attention to plein air styles I'm drawn to. Stay tuned and maybe next season I'll be at a point where I want to share some of my plein air paintings.

44 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page