Plein air painting and drawing

Plein air painting and drawing

Plein air painting and drawing in the landscape.

I love being outdoors, in any weather. Like they say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather… only bad clothing’. Painting and drawing outdoors, en plein air, has now become a key part of my painting practice, so I try to get out as much as possible. I am very lucky to live within a short walk of Chorleywood common so I spend a lot of time on there, and there are a few favourite painting spots which I re-visit.

Plein air painting.

When I am painting the initial aim is to get the general impression of a light effect or atmosphere. This needs to be done within a couple of hours, before the light changes too much. I work on small canvas panels which I make myself, or gesso primed board, or primed water colour paper. Sometimes I will revisit a spot two or three times to develop a painting further, if the light is consistent. Some of these small panels then become the basis for a larger piece of work which I develop at home.

Plein air painting and drawing

My first pochade box.

This is my first pochade box, which was converted from an old wooden box with a hinged top. I added wires to hold the top at various angles, cut a couple of boards to fit and use as palettes. I could fit only one wet painting inside and everything was separated by little metal shelf-supports from ikea. Screwed to the underside of the box is an aluminium plate with a screw-thread hole for a camera tripod. It was useful for a while but it wasn’t very steady if the tripod was set too high.

Plein air painting and drawing

Windrush easel, when it was still clean.

Plein air painting and drawing

On the bank of the river Chess.

Plein air painting and drawing

Easel plus brolly. Turns into the Cutty Sark if the wind gets up !

The Windrush easel came next. This is a lot sturdier, but also a lot heavier. Sometimes the weather changes the light a little too quickly, so I might have two paintings on the go. For example, whilst making one study of a misty view a thick bank of fog rolled in, obliterating one view but making another.

Plein air painting and drawing

Changing weather – two paintings on the go.

Plein air painting and drawing

A quick block-in of the light effect

Plein air painting and drawing

Added board to reach my eye level

Recently I’ve been adding a second painting board, under the one I’m painting on, to bring it up to my eye level. This is useful when painting sight-size so I think I will be on the lookout for a taller, more lightweight easel. I talk a little more about painting on Chorleywood common, at top common ponds, in another post Painting on Chorleywood common with Bonzo. Also, you can see plein air paintings and larger studio Paintings here.

Plein air drawing.

Equipment and portability is much more straightforward when drawing en plein air. I usually carry a couple of different sized hard-back sketch books of acid free cartridge paper, plus a pocket full of pencils and sharpeners etc. My favourite pencil at the moment is the Cretacolor sanguine oil pencil. This is slightly waxy so doesn’t smudge so easily. If I’m in London I can usually find something to lean my sketch book on. If I am out on the common I use a lightweight folding chair. Here are two examples of drawings made in Trafalgar Square, London. They each took approximately thirty minutes to make. Click on the picture for an enlargement and further details.

sanguine drawings trafalgar square london no.1

‘Trafalgar Sq No.1’

sanguine drawings trafalgar square london no.2

‘Trafalgar Sq No.2’

If you would like to see more, please check out my Drawings here.