Chair With a View 8"x10" oil on canvas panel
If you’re eager to try painting outside, but don’t have any special plein air gear, don’t worry. You probably can do it with gear that you already have, as long as you don’t try to go too far from your car.
Let’s talk about the most important components: an easel to hold your painting, and a place to put your palette so you can mix your paint. Any lightweight easel will do, even if it’s a table top model. In that case you'll need a table to put it on. A card table or folding camping table works great. Or you can choose a location where there are already picnic tables, like a local park. In fact, there’s no reason not to try painting outside in your own backyard, on your deck or patio, or the lawn, at whatever table you already have out there. Put a piece of plastic on the top if you want to keep it clear of paint spills.
Two easels that are easy to set up anywhere.
You can paint standing or sitting, that’s up to you. Standing has the advantage that you can step back to see what your painting looks like a few feet away, you get more exercise, and you can see farther. Sitting has the advantage that you can use a table for your easel, you have more room to spread out your gear, and it’s not as tiring.
Now for a place to put your palette. If you’re using a table, then you’re all set. You’ll need your palette to be smooth, so tape palette paper to a board that’s a bit bigger. That will keep it from being blown around by the wind. I sometimes use the back of painting panels that are still in their plastic for this.
If you don’t have a table that you can sit at with your legs under it, a folding camping chair and table work well. This is how I paint on our boat. You'll need to lower the painting holder on your easel and to sit, but that’s preferable to using that type of short table with an easel in the standing position. In that case, you would have to lean down too far to reach your mixing surface. Believe me, your back will not be happy with that method!
A backyard table can work with a table top easel, or a folding table with a chair and full sized easel.
So if you’re painting in your backyard, what can you paint? Try something simple at first, an empty flower pot will work well. Your gardening tools might be fun. I’ve even painted a lawn chair. Go for something that won’t move, and place it in an area where it gets good sunlight and makes a nice shadow. That’s a great composition to start with.
Paint what's in your backyard. And change the color if you want to.
Start with something simple, like an empty flower pot, and then move on to more complicated outdoor still life options, like these.
Once you get a feel for painting outside, you can think about gear made specially for that purpose. HERE's a blogpost about the gear that I use.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.