Plein Air Painting

Plein air painting! A painting genre that is a favourite of Monet’s Art Supplies as it is truly what Claude Monet was known for, especially the painting of light on landscapes.  Is there a better time than summer to take to the outdoors and experience the joy of painting outside?  We think not!  Here are a few tips for plein air success!

What to Bring

  • An easel or pochade box that is strong enough to stand up to the elements but light enough for you to carry. Check out this article for the easel preferences of dozens of plein air artists.  Some of them offer low-cost, do-it-yourself ideas on how to put one together.
  • A selection of paints. If you are a watercolourist, consider a paint box of pan watercolours with a built-in palette for mixing.
  • A wooden palette for acrylics and oils and a metal mixing palette for watercolours
  • At least one brush. Consider using travel brushes.  They were made for plein air!  A toiletry bag for brushes.
  • Water for washing and an airtight jar with a lid to take away waste water for disposal.
  • Cloth rags
  • Pencil and sharpener
  • Paper & canvas

Remember, everything you bring, you will need to carry, so keep it light.


painting outdoors

The Artists Network has great descriptions of techniques for painting light, water and clouds.

The Virtual Art Academy has detailed descriptions of plein air techniques.

Learn from a Master.  There are many workshops available that focus on the specialized techniques of plein air painting.  Check out Plein Air BC , the Ontario Plein Air Society, or the many other plein air groups for workshops and other resources.

Use your time wisely.

  • Take pictures for fine details to complete later.
  • Prepare your palette in advance.

Check out beginner landscape plein air painting here.

Be Careful Out There

Plein air painting safety measures

It’s never recommended to venture out into the wilderness by yourself but if you do, make sure you tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.  If you are in bear country, wear a bear bell and consider carrying bear spray.

Nothing stops creativity faster than sunburn or bug bites or dehydration.  Be prepared.   Adequate water, lots of sunscreen, a shade umbrella, a hat and natural bug repellants from essential oils will keep you in a painting frame of mind.

Favourite Plein Air Painters

Check them out for inspiration!

Claude Monet

One of the Impressionist pioneers, Monet is said to have painted the same scene at different times of the day to capture the variations in light.  His interpretation of the changing shadows throughout the day is unsurpassed.

Tom Thomson

Often associated with the Group of Seven, Thomson’s landscapes capture the beauty and colour of the Ontario landscape in the early 20th century.  His untimely death at the age of 39, leaves one wondering how much more he would have produced had he lived.

Georgia O’Keefe

A 20th century painter, she was known for her colourful New Mexico landscapes as well as cityscapes and flowers.