We have a beautiful evening here at the end of summer. I’m going to show you how I approach this, one of my favourite scenes. I’ll be teaching you about designing with large organic shapes, how to use premixed greys to paint faster, using colour variety within those big masses, how I use warm and cool colour contrasts and how to make the colour more vibrant than nature, how to use a variety of brushwork to create really rich textural paintings, which includes using a palette knife and also under-mixing your paint, as opposed to overtaxing it. I’ll also teach you about creating dynamism in your painting using soft edges versus hard edges, and we’ll learn about atmospheric perspective, big light effects and lots more.
First of all lets look at the easel setup. I love painting outdoors, but it is harder than painting in the studio, mainly because you’re racing the sun, or the weather, so whatever setup you use outdoors has to be really efficient to use otherwise you’re making it harder than it needs to be.
So here’s a few things I do to make it easier painting outdoors. First off I have a good sturdy easel that carries my paints and brushes and palette inside it. It’s all there ready to go for when I feel the urge to come out here and paint. This is a french box easel.
The next thing I have is a big mdf board to tape my canvas to. Sometimes I’ll use a canvas board, but usually I use this canvas that I buy in a big roll, cut the size I want and then tape it to the board. There’s another online video showing you how I do that. Using this big board is great for a few reasons. Firstly, if there’s a lot of bright light in the scene this board really helps to cut down the glare into my eyes, so that helps me see the colours on my canvas better. That one’s really very important.
Also, when I’m finished the painting I can carry it around and put it in the car without worrying about paint from the edge of the painting getting smeared over everything.
Lastly, when it comes to photographing your painting to put it on your website or whatever, it helps to have it on this big board because again it blocks light coming from behind the painting causing which would cause the camera to underexpose the shot.
Something else that can help is a painting umbrella to stop sunlight (or rain or snow) from falling directly on the canvas. Great to have, but not good in strong winds. If you do use one of these, a word of warning, ALWAYS remove your umbrella before you step away from the easel for lunch or for a chat. Even on a seemingly calm day. That’s what the wind waits for, for you to step away and then it says ‘Aha!’ Woosh. And then it’s 30 minutes cleaning up your painting and your brushes and your palette.
Ok some other things, I have my plastic bag here for the paper towels that I use. Always tape the bag down or put a rock or sand in the bottom so the wind won’t blow it up onto your palette, which normally sits on the tray of the easel. Also, squeeze the paper towels flat so they find it harder to reel off in the wind.
Oh and here’s the biggy. If you can at all, try to make sure you place your canvas in the shade, so turn it away from the sun or go under a tree, or use the umbrella, whatever you have to do to get the canvas in the shade. If you don’t do that and you’re not used to it your painting will end up very dark, because it’ll look fine on the easel in the sunlight which is really powerful light, but get it back home indoors and it’ll look really dark. Trust me on that one.
Of course you don't need to head outside to learn from this project, but I recommend getting out there at some point. Outdoor painting is scary, but exciting, and in the end, so much more rewarding than studio painting.