Plein Air Pleasantries

One comment I haven’t heard yet is “plein air painting is a great excuse for shopping!”   The goal is to accumulate as much high tech gear as you can, go trekking outdoors to some God forsaken place, set everything up and then discover you forgot the bug spray!  I’ve been a bit skeptical of plein air painting.  I mean, really, who can paint a great painting outdoors when the shadows and weather are constantly changing?  It’s a drill in how fast can you paint before the rain pours or the sun sets.

Okay, so I tried a few outdoor painting adventures in the past and found it difficult to set up my nice BIG table, layout my pastels, get comfortable and actually put pastel to paper as I was constantly worrying about my table blowing over or my easel getting knocked down.  Then by the time I had trekked back and forth a few times and had my mobile art studio set up on location I found I needed a bathroom.  Darn it all.  But, slowly I acquired a good tripod, a small pastel box with easel and a few weeks ago I purchased a very comfortable lightweight fold up outdoor chair.   After my latest shopping adventure, I found I could now put most of my gear into a backpack and make only one trek to that “perfect” painting spot.  I was ready again to hit the great outdoors and give plein air painting another go.

So off I went to spend a weekend with a terrific group of painters on the Texas Gulf Coast.  What I discovered this time is that it’s not all about the painting.   Sure, some exceptional paintings may be the result of a day’s painting outdoors but the real adventure for me is in the people and the enjoyment of being outdoors in God’s country.  Plein air painting to me is much more about the camaraderie surrounding the adventure of painting outdoors.  It’s similar to elementary school playground time but only for adults.   While there are times when I am engrossed in painting there are plenty of other times that I enjoy taking a break and walking around to see what other artists are painting.  It’s amazing to see how different artists interpret the same view.  The public also enjoys voicing their artist opinions, which are always positive, and that’s a wonderful way to feel encouraged even while working on a painting that you know will end up in the trash.

It’s taken a while but I feel I am finally there and ready for the next outdoor painting adventure…hopefully it will be within walking distance of a potty!

PSST Dune resized


  1. Liz Czerewaty says:

    Can I quote you on this…love it… “It’s similar to elementary school playground time but only for adults.”

  2. artfulsharon says:

    Of course! It’s quite true……

  3. Sharon, you wrote the story beautifully and graphically. Plein air means a looser style, and the dunes painted suited you. Love the underpainting.

  4. Vicki Smith says:

    Thank you for a delightful and true description of plein aire painting. What kind of box are you using?

    • artfulsharon says:

      I believe I have a Heilman backpack box. I have had it for a few years and now I think this is the perfect size as it fits right into a backpack (as it should). Recently I purchased the easel that goes with it and it makes a great set up with a tripod. In the photo there is another pastel tray from a plein air pro set up but I don’t care for it as much as the Heilman box. The plein air pro tray has a bouncy feel to it.

  5. This is too funny 😀 and it sounds like a fabulous time!

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