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.

19 Comments on “The Trials of Painting Outdoors

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. I’ve yet to paint outside like this but I did sketch once at Disneyland and yes it was uncomfortable but awesome.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

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