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How to Create Successful Plein Air Paintings II

The western skies at sunset are dramatic and beautiful at this time of year.
The western skies at sunset are dramatic and beautiful at this time of year.

Before I was swept into my busy summer schedule this past June I began to share my story on how I started my journey into plein air painting.  I was a studio painter for many years before I ever stepped outdoors with a paint brush and paints. Painting out doors changed me in many ways. As a studio painter I painted abstracts. I worked with oil, acrylic, watercolors, collage and assemblage.  Outdoors I work with markers, pens, pencils, oils, watercolors and acrylics. Studio painting was about materials, expression and  experimentation, with no model or subject matter to look at. The process was all about paint and form. Plein air painting is about materials, expression, interpretation and experimentation, and I have a constantly changing subject to paint. And that subject surrounds me!

Marsh Clouds. 8x10" Available.
Marsh Clouds. 8×10″ Available.

When I first started to paint on location I kept the paintings to remember where I painted  and how I handled the conditions, not because I liked anything that I painted. My paintings weren’t even close to what I hoped to capture of the scene in front of me.  I used to bring my paintings home and line them up on the floor in front of the couch.  I’d ask my husband what he thought of them. He’d look them over and encourage me to keep at it. One of his early observations was that from across the room they looked good. Only when you got up close could you see what a mess they were. I realized then that at least I was getting the form and value right.

I began to keep track of my progress, took notes and started to make a sketchbook of all my plein air locations. I showed my plein air work to other painters and received some good feedback, then continued on. I wanted to paint outdoors as skillfully as I painted in the studio.

I painted as often as I could. I went out in all kinds of weather and in every season. I painted lots of small paintings and I read as much as I could about landscape painting and the plein air process. This took some time and I painted a huge pile of paintings. I took a few workshops locally. I read lots of books recommended by other painters and I started taking a few plein air workshops.  It was here that I noticed a big difference in the way each painter approached the process and handled the paint. I also noticed that all these instructors were primarily studio painters. I was improving en plein air but felt I really needed to study with someone who was a very experienced outdoor painter. I researched and read everything I could about plein air painting. This was how I found a small group of instructors who were experienced in painting outdoors.  These instructors only taught in the western US  and usually taught just one workshop a year. So after trying for 2 years to get into a workshop  I managed to secure a spot in a 10 day intensive with Scott L Christenson in Idaho and Wyoming. This proved to be a key step in my progress and practice of painting outdoors.  To be continued…

Painting on a warm November day in a quiet, sunny location.

I love teaching my new studio class. We are going deeper into explorations of color and techniques. I love watching my students really gain insights and develop their skills. Their speedy growth is amazing me. They are on their way to becoming good, solid painters.

I am opening up enrollment for my new Tuesday Studio Class. Since there is enough interest, I am adding on a class.  If you spoke to me or emailed me regarding a spot in my FILLED morning studio class please contact  me ASAP if you would like to be in this afternoon class (2-5pm). If you work with oils, watercolors, gouache or acrylics and are interested in joining us send me an email.


 ALL LEVELS WELCOME : Beginner to Experienced

Class is ongoing in 6 week sessions. There is one make up class every session for (sick/ice/snow days) if needed.
Class size is limited so early registration is suggested.


PLEASE NOTE:  Class size is limited. The response has been immediate when I have listed a class opening. As of now I am not advertising this class publicly, I’m only sending notifications to my email list and blog.  Please contact me if you want to be in this class as registration is now open. Everyone who is on my wait list will have first option to register for this class.


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Sketchbook Class At Sanctuary Arts

Sanctuary Arts & Green Foundry is an art school and foundry in Eliot, Maine. The school offers great classes for adults and children. The foundry is a fine art sculpture and teaching facility that is famous for fabricating the Robert Indiana HOPE sculpture for Obama at the Democratic National Convention.

This is where I am teaching a sketchbook class for the winter semester. The main building was a church. Christopher Gowell a well known sculptor, owns and runs the school.

Here is the main entrance to the class rooms and studios . Steven Lee sculpted the head planter near the door.

Here is the large studio where I hold my class. The windows are 2 stories high. There are lots of sculptures in various stages of completion.

Here are my wonderful students hard at work. They are sketching with ink. This class prepares them for sketching and painting while traveling or out and about in the world. It’s about how to do art while smack dab in the middle of your life and end up with something nice. The class helps one establish good habits for sketching and painting. Its about learning to see and developing a good critical visual sense.
This is a multi stage exercise using parts of landscapes images to depict form and compose a design. Here the students were using watercolor on ink sketches completed earlier.

Here we are doing an exercise that we would do after coming in from a day of traveling and sketching when we couldn’t paint on location. We add color or water to ink or watercolor pencil sketches using our notes and fresh memories of what we sketched that day for reference.

These exercises are fun and require their full attention. And water soluble, move able ink is one of the best things an artist can use for quick, great value sketches. Here is one of those great watercolor pencil sets with 100 + colors. For color notes on location it can’t be beat… unless you have the time and a spot where you can to set up and actually use your paints!