The Trials of Painting Outdoors
Leave behind the comfort of your home art space—whether kitchen table, corner desk, or complete studio— and you’ll soon find an immediacy and sense of discovery that come from working directly from nature. Granted, you’ll be trading comfortable seating, fixed light, and a full suite of art supplies for less certain conditions. But you’ll be able to observe details, see colors, and experience your subjects firsthand in ways that will make your artwork more vibrant and alive.
At least, that’s the ideal. This week, however, painting outdoors brought significant trials: bright sun dried my paint too fast in the garden and the most annoying and insidious bugs attacked me one evening while painting irises. Was it worth it? Of course. But I’ll forever look at these irises and see myself swatting bugs in vain with a paint brush.
Tips and Techniques- Try different approaches to painting. Here, I’ve used my go-to ink sketch followed by watercolor for In the Garden and then painted directly with watercolor with no initial sketch for the irises. The bugs forced me to work quickly and let the paint run freely, which led to some nice mixing on the paper. You can see that my session with the irises was cut short. This could use a bit more definition, but I wanted leave it alone and perhaps start over, without the bugs.
Could it be that the bugs were muses, forcing this rapid impressionist approach? Far more likely, they were just bugs. But I really like the result.
Doubtful muses; but they did have an impact.
Seeing your painting of irises made me smile. I too tried to paint a group of iris from a neighbors garden. The sun was so bright and intense that it was hard to see. New mulch and surrounding plants brought bugs in abundance! I tried to paint without sketching but gave up after a short time. Today, rain prevents me from returning. I will go better prepared next time.
Your irises are lovely!
I’m going to cut some and bring them inside!
I’ve yet to paint outside like this but I did sketch once at Disneyland and yes it was uncomfortable but awesome.
Good for you. Sketching at Disney must have been hard with the crowds. Try a quieter setting.
Love the spontaneity of the irises and totally understand the bug issues!
It’s interesting that sometimes they aren’t out at all and you can paint for hours. Just not this week. I liked the spontaneity of the process too.
Yes, you just have to be willing to be quick and not be in complete control and bugs do help with that…lol
Lovely artwork – I especially like your Iris flowers… like how you just let them, “be.” 💗 I sometimes overfuss with watercolor… ☺️
Fussing is easy to do. Have you tried doing direct watercolor- no sketch? I found that it really challenged and changed my typical thought process. I’m eager to try it again.
The irises are fabulous! The looseness is delightful, your natural sense of composition is still there to make the painting work.
Thanks Anna- It was a very worthwhile experiment, even if cut short.
I too really like your iris”s so fresh and clean and perfect just how they are.
Can I ask please what paper you use, the paper looks so white.
Thanks Mair- I use a hardcover Stillman & Birn “Beta” sketchbook with white paper. I like it for both ink and watercolor.
Thank you for that. I’ll try one next time.
There’s a lot to like in any case – the mix of color on the buds is strong, and the falls and standards are separated beautifully (something that for some reason can be hard with photography).
Ha, ha. So good and bad memories.
poison ivy, Virginia creeper, wild grape.