I was able to be a part of the Augusta Missouri Plein Air event at the end of April this year and had an amazing experience. I got to meet so many artists that were willing to share their experiences and advice on plein air painting, got to become a part of the landscape in an absolutely beautiful setting, and enjoyed every minute! Augusta Missouri is known as having the oldest vineyard in America! Older than the Napa Valley. There are vineyards, hills, ancient trees, quaint old village- like streets, ponds, idyllic country scenes, barns and old stone fences.
If you have never ventured out with your watercolors to do plein air painting, and admittedly- I was one of a very few of the watercolor "gang" - It is worth giving it a try. At the very least, you will gain spontaneity in you work and get over some of your obsessive hang ups with perfectionism. There isn't time to be a perfectionist out in the sun and wind! The demands of painting with water and paint out in nature require that you must condense everything you know about painting into a small window of time. Which is intimidating, but so incredibly valuable. You are forced to find the essential. Some tips before you go out
1. Do your homework on site and prepare thoroughly before ever picking up your paintbrush.
2. Use a viewfinder, and follow the instructions it gives, matching it up proportionately to your paper, dividing it into quarters, so that the composition you choose remains constant on your paper stays on track throughout your painting. I got mine at Art Mart.
**I found this incredibly helpful, instead of "eyeballing" everything, you have a guide right there on your paper of the center, top and bottom of the scene you want to paint.
3. Do several value sketches and compositional thumbnails, and then begin your painting. This is a very important step. Do not skip it.
4.Do not go at this unprepared. You need STUFF!
1. A good portable easle and chair if you choose.
2.Tape, scissors, a head light( for night painting),
3.Clamps for windy days, an umbrella for sunny and rainy days. Glare is a killer!
4. A small, portable palette and a couple of paintbrushes
5. A few basic, transparent paints.
6. A can for water, small spray bottle and extra water bottles.
You need to choose solid , even ground for your easle. It took me a couple of times to realize this doesn't have to be a comedy routine, chasing after papers, dropping water cups, easles falling over, you get the idea. So don't worry if you have a hard time at first, everyone does.
5. If you find you don't have another more experienced plain air watercolor pal, watch a few YouTube videos just to see the rhythm and approach of artists who do this kind of painting often.
If you are used to studio painting, be ready for a faster, looser technique. For instance, have an idea of how you want to lay down the sky and clouds quickly, deal with shifting light and shadows, and leave out extraneous details.
The main thing is to go out and enjoy the experience. What a gift to be able to go meet other artists, all learning and teaching and sharing, and do it in beautiful surroundings. Plein air painting will stretch you artistically, and although it can be intimidating, it is well worth the challenge. It is all about valuing and enjoying the process, getting over perfectionism in our work, and pushing ourselves to embrace the essential in our painting.