On Location | Plein Air Painting Tips for Watercolorists

Three pros—Richard Sneary, Brienne Brown and Glen Knowles—share their best tips for watercolor plein air painting in the June 2016 issue of Watercolor Artist. View a gallery of their work here, along with some bonus pointers, and learn more plein air painting tips in the June issue, available now at northlightshop.com in print or as an instant download, and on newsstands beginning April 19.

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Plein Air Tips from Richard Sneary

BUDGETING TIME:

I’ll often set my alarm for 1½ to 2 hours, but because I’ve been plein air painting for so many years, I can tell from the sun’s position how much time I have to get the scene down. I try to focus on what interested me to begin with—the light and shapes.

CHOOSING A SUBJECT:

Look for interesting light effects and elements that offer the best composition possibilities. You also want to choose a subject that best captures the character or feel of the place.

Carrie (watercolor on paper) by Richard Sneary | plein air painting

Carrie (watercolor on paper) by Richard Sneary

Under the Elm (watercolor on paper) by Richard Sneary | plein air painting

Under the Elm (watercolor on paper) by Richard Sneary

 

 

Plein Air Tips from Brienne Brown

ADJUSTING TO CHANGING LIGHT OR WEATHER CONDITIONS:

When the shadows, people or cars move, my value sketch comes in handy for reminding me where those elements were. If it starts to rain or the weather turns ugly, I grab my stuff and run. I’ve painted many times under the hatchback of my car.

UNIQUE REWARDS—AND CHALLENGES—OF PAINTING YOUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT:

I’m from Utah, so I’ve had to adjust my palette to compensate for all the green in Pennsylvania, where I now live, as well as learn to accommodate for a wide range of drying conditions depending on the humidity. Needless to say, summer in Pennsylvania isn’t my favorite plein air painting season. Nevertheless, I’ve fallen in love with the atmosphere here; you can see and feel the air, which is simply wonderful to paint in watercolor. Also, I love historical architecture, which this area has within easy distance of my home.

Lining Up (watercolor on paper) by Brienne Brown | plein air painting

Lining Up (watercolor on paper) by Brienne Brown

Sharing Memories (watercolor on paper) by Brienne Brown | plein air painting

Sharing Memories (watercolor on paper) by Brienne Brown

 

 

Plein Air Tips from Glen Knowles

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PAINTING ON SITE AND IN THE STUDIO:

For me, the process is the same. I start all my watercolor paintings en plein air and finish them from memory in the studio. I have practiced watercolor this way for so long that I have a hard time incorporating photographic reference. I generally refer to photographs only once or twice a year.

SPECIAL PLEIN AIR SUPPLIES:

I only use watercolor when I’m painting on location so I don’t keep a watercolor setup in my studio. I simply set up my outdoor kit in my studio to finish a painting. I use a lightweight Stanrite aluminum watercolor easel because I like to hike to out-of-the-way locations. I have an aluminum and canvas folding chair and an old-fashioned TV tray, on which I set up my triangular ColorWheel palette, water container and cellulose sponge.

Hidden Pool, Big Rock Creek (watercolor on paper) by Glen Knowles | plein air painting

Hidden Pool, Big Rock Creek (watercolor on paper) by Glen Knowles

Gateway to Tuscany (watercolor on paper) by Glen Knowles | plein air painting

Gateway to Tuscany (watercolor on paper) by Glen Knowles

 

 


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