Tips and advice for painting outside. They are leaving the studio and the atelier, savoring the concreteness of the space, colliding with the light and the infinity of the sky, trying to paint what, at first glance, would seem impossible to put on canvas. One cannot help but think of Plasson – the painter who opens the novel, Ocean Mare, by Baricco – who with his easel (“anchored with thin ropes to four stones placed in the sand”) stood in front of the sea, “Like a sentinel,” making only completely white canvases, not understanding where the sea began. Of course, not all artists who dedicate themselves to painting outside have to face the same philosophical obstacles as the extravagant painter outlined by Baricco. Still, one thing is sure: painting outdoors is not as easy as it might seem at first sight. Not many people manage to give their best outdoors, face-to-face with the landscape and with their easel for drawing.
What does it mean to paint outside?
The French expression ‘outside’ literally means ‘in the open air. From this premise, it should already understand that it is a mistake to consider this term as a synonym for ‘landscape.’ Painting in the open air, far from the usual four walls, does not simply mean painting a landscape. Moreover, that can also be done in your atelier, with the help of memory, imagination, some photographs, or other paintings. Painting outdoors, reproducing on canvas what we see beyond our painting easel, means relying on your own eyes and studying light as it would be impossible to do indoors.
Observation is essential for painting outdoors
Think about it: to paint a dormant field, a fallow field, in your studio, you would certainly use – and without a doubt – some shades of brown, helping you in the case with a bit of green to bring back the few blades of grass that have sprung up. Here and there. By placing your painting easel in front of a fallow, however, you may find that no, brown alone is not enough and that you need a little red, a little orange, and yes, maybe even a little. Dark blue: those plays of light inside your atelier would have been simple. And again, painting outdoors reminds us that nature does not have those defined contours that we use as a representative convention from an early age. It is not all here, as there, face to face with our illuminated subjects and in the shade, we finally realize, and really, that one color does not eliminate the other, and that indeed the colors shockingly influence each other.
Outdoor painting, from Turner onwards
But who was the first to carry the painting easel, the palette, and the other accessories for painting on their shoulders, to go out into nature to paint from life? Well, one might think that this habit was born in the seventeenth century, together with landscaping spread. You would be wrong: it should be emphasized that until the nineteenth century, the artists were careful not to leave their comfortable studio. The first to routinely leave the atelier was William Turner, not surprisingly a forerunner of the Impressionists, remembered today, thanks to his oil and watercolor works, as ‘the painter of light.’ The artists of the école de Barbizon then moved along its wake in search of greater realism in the surroundings of the Fontainebleau forest, portraying rural areas and nature live. And it is from there that some of the main protagonists of Impressionism then took off.
Painting outside: choosing the right painting easel
As we have already seen in a post dedicated to the various types of painting easels, the choice of this accessory for painting is by no means as evident as you might think. Those who want to indulge in outdoor painting must equip themselves with an outdoor painting easel, which differs significantly from studio models. No products that are too heavy, therefore, and no studio easels with wheels.
The characteristics of the easel for outdoor painting
The painting easel for outside painting is light and slender, designed to be opened and closed, lengthened and shortened, and placed on uneven ground. Therefore, these trestles have comfortable telescopic legs with adjustable inclinations to adapt to any terrain and any light condition. The simplest and most basic models are limited to offering support for the canvas, whereas others are enriched by a box for the colors and a top to support the palette. However, those looking for maximum agility should choose the simplest and most slender easels to exploit the freedom typical of this painting tool fully.
Tips for painting outdoors
Those who are used to working in their studio could certainly feel intimidated or uncomfortable once they have placed their easel in the middle of nature. To make your next outing less traumatic, more fun, and more productive, we want to give you some tips for painting outdoors.
Fast does not mean in a hurry
First, painting outside means speed because you need to capture the moment with your brush like a camera would. But this does not mean rushing: it is entirely out of the way who thinks that the Impressionists always finished their landscapes in one session. On the contrary: the great masters often returned to the same place in the following days, taking care to choose the same time to ensure the same lighting conditions.
Other practical tips
Another essential information section is not to burden your baggage of colors, canvas, and easel with water for acrylics or watercolors. Unless you are in the desert, the water you will find on the spot will be fine. Turner himself used water from the nearby sea for his marine paintings. Finally, we advise you not to wear sunglasses, however clear: those lenses could only alter your vision and, therefore, your painting.
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