En Plein Air

“Oh to love what is lovely and will not last…”
Helderledge- watering cans

En plein air sounds so much more savvy than painting outdoors. I suppose that’s why artists prefer the French expression, which literally translates “in the open air.” Regardless, working outside is my preferred way to draw and paint. Despite the challenges of sun or wind, changing light, occasional insects, and less than comfortable seating, I love the directness of capturing a scene live. I love the freshness of working on the spot. I love translating experience to paper.
Thacher Park Overlook- plein air

I thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of spending nearly an entire day yesterday painting outside. If you are inclined to paint from photographs instead of en plein air, I highly recommend you give it a try!

20 thoughts on “En Plein Air

  1. Jean – Thank you for coming and spending a day painting and sketching at the Overlook yesterday! Glad you enjoyed your time there!! Laurel

  2. I love your journal entries – i too love to paint directly in a journal – it feeds my soul and makes my heart sing. I’m always in search of the perfect watercolor journal – do you have one that you like a lot? I’d love to hear about it. Thanks so much for sharing your journey and your journal.

    • Hi Mary- Thanks for writing. Glad to enjoy your journalling, too. I have used a variety of journals and each have their pros and cons. I use a combination of watercolor and ink, so I am always looking for the right balance of smooth paper that can take watercolor well. I also like a hardbound book (though I used to use ringbound), so there are many factors that go into getting the right journal for you! I am currently using Stillman & Birn journals. I like both the Beta and Zeta series books. I use 5.5×8.5″ hardbound, but they also come ringbound. Beta paper is a better for watercolor, but absorbs ink quickly. Zeta paper is smooth and great for ink, but also good with watercolor. I have also used Canson and Strathmore watercolor journals, which are good for watercolor, and Moleskin watercolor journals, which are okay, but not great. You can order Stillman and Birn journals online. Just google search them– they have a variety of other high quality sketchbooks, too. Good painting to you!

  3. I really love your lettering! It enriches your beautiful sketches. Do you have any hand lettering books to recommend? I would like to be able to reference different styles. Thanks!

    • Hi Linda- Thanks much! I started out with the basic Speedball Textbook. It’s widely available and has lots of different caligraphy styles, instructions, and samples. I also like The Art of Calligraphy by David Harris. It goes through the history of various letter forms, but also includes alphabets, techniques, and great samples from historic texts. Another good one is Illuminated Alphabets by Patricia Carter. It has really nice sample alphabets designed by the author, as well as design ideas. Good luck!

  4. These are lovely, especially the watering cans! You have a good eye to see all those colors in the metal. Great work!

  5. An online classmate in Sketchbook Skool provided a link to your website/blog. Your colors are so fresh and vibrant. May I ask what brand of paint you use? I’m really enjoying your posts, hoping to become as proficient as you are one day.

    • Thanks Joan! What a nice note! I use mainly Windsor & Newton watercolors, though my quin gold is Daniel Smith. The secret to fresh watercolors, though, is not so much brand, but not mixing too many colors together. I use a pretty limited palette– about 12 colors, and I may use only four to six for many paintings. But because I use the same 6-12 colors all the time, I know what they do, how they mix, and what range of values I can get from them. I see a lot of folks starting out with a lot of colors, but I think that can be a recipe for difficulty. Check out this blog post on “keeping it simple” and you’ll see the colors I use. All the best! https://jeanmackayart.com/2014/09/18/just-the-basics-2/

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