2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Have a Successful Plein Air Experience

'Along the River'         5x7        oil on panel
Plein air painting can be frustrating. One of the premises of my workshop last week was how to take plein air from frustration to fun.  There is one word that sums it up......SIMPLIFY.  If you want to get the most out of the experience you need to start with this word in mind. Simplify everything!  Your supplies, your expectations, your paintings, your goals.

I know I used to make the whole plein air thing much to complicated. Especially my supplies. I was so afraid that I would need something so I filled a tall office cart so full of supplies that I couldn't even find what I wanted. Not to mention how difficult it was to drag the cart around and how long it took to set up!


  • Simplify your supplies. Try to limit your palette and support size. Ideally if you can fit your supplies into a backpack (rolling or not) you will have enough and be happier with your lighter load.
  • Simplify your expectations. Plein air is valuable. Think of the experience itself as the goal. Lower your expectations. Don't plan on completing framable masterpieces. Instead plan on enjoying the time out in nature gathering studies. Remove the pressure and have fun.
  • Simplify your paintings. It is tempting to want to put everything in the painting. So much is inspiring and it is often overwhelming. Simplify and do a few smaller studies.
  • Simplify your goals. Set mini goals for your plein air excursions. Don't try to accomplish everything you want right away.

'Riverside Delight'          5x7      oil on panel         ©Karen Margulis

I am new to oil painting. I think I only attempted plein air with oil once a few years ago so I approached the weekend with the midst of a beginner. I decided I would only work with oils but would start by painting things that I was comfortable painting with pastels. I didn't try to accomplish too much and just enjoyed taking baby steps. I SIMPLIFIED! I worked small with a limited palette and painted close up flowers....things I know best. I simplified my goals and only expected to have fun. And I did!

I finished 10 small studies this weekend

'violet'        5x7    oil on panel

1 comment:

beagle said...

These oils are so soft, beautiful and dreamlike! I love them!