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Traveling, Sketching & Painting in the Great Outdoors

When I arrive at my painting location I always grab my sketch book and start to look around. 
After a bit of wandering something usually grabs my eye so I stop and set up my gear. If its at all possible I like to paint near my car, then I don’t have carry a bunch of stuff and I can set up in minutes and get started.
I do two or three sketches right away. I use ink, gray markers, charcoal and now my latest newest sketching tool is a mechanical pencil! I love how smoothly it moves over the surface of the paper. 

I paint in watercolors, acrylics and oils. I learn a lot by painting the same subject in different mediums. 

After I do several sketches I like, I usually pick one and use that one as the “map” for my oil painting.

It isn’t unusual for me to go home after a plein air outing and paint a watercolor after I’ve finished an oil painting on location. 

I think the most important thing I’ve learned from painting in plein air is that my eyes always see everything differently than the way a camera does.

I never got into a habit of painting from photographs so when I decided to paint landscapes I just went out side to do it.

It was a shock to go outside at first. I didn’t have any painting equipment so I just grabbed an aluminum easel from my studio and threw my paints in a canvas bag and lugged the whole thing out on location.


When I saw the potential of painting outside, and thought I might really like it,  I broke down and bought the cheapest gear I could find.  I found a Julien french easel on sale for half price.  

Little did I know I would become totally hooked on plein air and I would only want to paint outdoors !

I didn’t sketch when I first painted en plein air.  I was always in such a hurry, afraid the light  would change and I’d better grab it fast.   
At some point I started sketching. 

The sketches evolved from a way to get familiar with a location, to a way of seeing the location intimately, to seeing the sketch as a unique part of the whole outdoor process and a finished statement in its own right. 

I went from painting exactly what I saw, to interpreting what I saw, to transforming what I saw…


I really like to go out and paint in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions…

I look at how other painters handle winter scenes, lighting conditions, rainy weather… 

I especially like seeing how artists painted the same or similar landscapes  that I paint…
So of course I love looking at any of the great painters who lived in or came to paint in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

And I love looking at the Russian painters work as they  painted some great winter scenes…

They painted some snow scenes that make my locations along the coast look like a temperate climate… 

I’ll often be on a location and think of another painter who painted long ago in the exact same spot I’m standing in… once I was in the White Mountains looking for a place to paint so I pulled off into a road side rest area to look around.  I glanced up at the mountains above me and saw a totally familiar sight, but I knew I’d never been there before.  As I stood there staring I realized I’d seen a painting of the scene in front of me that had been painted in that exact spot 100 years ago…
TO SEE VIDEO CLICK HERE…

1 thought on “Traveling, Sketching & Painting in the Great Outdoors

  1. Hi Mary.
    Nice blog post. I like your story of discovering plein air. So true regarding what we see vs. what the camera shows. Great w/c’s and sketches.

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