Monday, July 27, 2015

The Perils & Pleasures of Plein Air Painting

Without a doubt painting on location has its advantages, obstacles and amusing experiences. Plein air painters must have an adventurous and flexible spirit. 

It appears I am a weed whacker magnet along with other gardener tools (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and chain saws). Countless times I've  painting to suddenly find myself surrounded by more gardeners and machines than you'd believe. I usually stick it out until they move on. Who would have thought that while visiting Stone Henge I would share the solitary location with a man armed with a weed whacker, but he found me! Most of the time I’ll wait out the noise and debris but sometimes it’s not worth the dirt in my eyes and art supplies.

Sometimes an unexpected surprise comes your way. Judy Schroeder and I were on a sketching trip to central California. We stopped in the small town of Los Olivos for a quick sketch. The morning was very brisk. We were bundled up and sketching away. Suddenly I spotted a man walking very quickly towards us. This isn’t always a good thing. As it turned out he was a chef. He was delighted to see us sketching his

restaurant. He went back inside and proceeded to bring us two hot mugs of fresh tomato bisque soup. It was delicious! When we finished he welcomed us inside, gave us two new mugs with his restaurants logo and offered us a show at his restaurant. 

I spent a couple weeks in Prague sketching many of the historic sites. In the  

enter of town is the clock tower. The best view was directly in front of a gelato shop. There was only enough room for the shops tables on the narrow sidewalk. I ordered a small gelato and set up to sketch from the comfortable view of the table. Within a few minutes a large delivery truck pulled up in front of me and completely blocked my view. Instead of waiting for him to move I stood up and walked a few feet to my left. When I looked back my gelato was GONE! The shop keeper saw the look of surprise on my face and brought me another gelato. Not only did I ended up with a sketch but two serving of gelato. Sometimes we must suffering for our art (wink).

Animals always add a little entertainment. I’ve had dogs drink my paint water and try to eat my paint. A cat snatched my sketchbook strap and took off in a dash up the block only to return fifteen minutes later looking for something else to take. 
While painting in the Arroyo a bluejay became obsessed with me. He spent a good twenty minutes dive bombing and screeching from an overhead tree. Eventually I figured out what he was after… my paintbrush. I held out my arm and he landed on it. He proceeded to explore the shiny metal portion of the brush. Once satisfied he took off not to be seen or heard again.

No matter the obstacles I face along the way...I love Plein Air!  I'd rather be out in the elements surrounded by the noise, dust, people, animals...than inside. I love the comforts of my STUDIO but it can never replace the joy and energy I get from being out in the world, En Plein Air!

I'm in a show at the Brea Gallery, Into the Light: Plein Air invitational. August
1st - September 13th. If you're interested in seeing the works of 14 plein air artist please visit the link for details. Into the Light

Next Summer I'll be teaching two plein air workshops in Provence, France. June 11-18 and June 19-26, 2016. If either date interest you...visit my website's Workshop Page.

Happy Painting!


  1. Brenda, what beautiful experiences and you share them with such joy. I form happy pictures in my mind as I read and enjoy your art work. Thank you for all the wisdom, beauty and encouragement to bring to us to get out and get our art tools working. See you Aug. 1st Judy

    1. Judy, Looking forward to the workshop, too. So much to share, sketch and paint. I can hardly wait. See you soon...

  2. Yes, we love all of those challenges! Just had the dog nose in my paints last Saturday. Thanks for the neat tidbits! See you soon~

  3. I was so glad to see your post pop up in my inbox. Your sketches and paintings always brighten my day. I also enjoyed your plein air adventures, especially your story about the bluejay. How cool was that?!

  4. Your adventures encourage me to do more plein air painting! Thank you Brenda.

  5. nice to read about your plein air painting experiences. and see some more of your sketches.

  6. Love your stories, espeically the blue jay and the chef. How fun

  7. Brenda, your paintings are an inspiration! And finding you was serendipitous. I was looking for answers on transparent vs. semi-transparent paints (you cleared that up thank you!) and I found you. I'm currently living in NW Arkansas and am just shy one year of joining the watercolor world. But the magic part is 8 years ago I left Brea behind. Would have loved to see your work at the Brea Gallery. In any case, I am bookmarking your site. You have a lot of good information here!

    1. Stacy, thank you for the delightful kind. Hugs