Tomorrow I’m meeting with some of my students at Ballymoney Beach for bit of plein-air painting. For most of them it is their first outdoor painting experience so I thought I’ll write a short post with few tips.

I have started plein air painting about 3 years ago and the beginnings were very difficult. It is so different from studio painting! There’s always changing irish weather! There’s dogs drinking your water! There’s a difficulty of finding subject! But if you stick with it it can be very rewarding experience.


Take only what you can carry.

Plein-air painting means that you have to get to your locations, carry your stuff everywhere with you. So limit your art materials to absolutely minimum. It is hard leaving home all your lovely brushes, just to take only 4 or 5, one pencil (there is really no need for more!), only couple of tubes of watercolour paint (absolutely minimum).


Make sure you are dressed for the weather.

Have your hat on in the summer, don’t forget to tie your hair on windy days and have lots of layers in winter. Wear comfortable shoes. If you have difficulties standing up for long periods take a nice portable stool with you.


Prepare everything at home!


Get ready by stretching your paper or attach it to the board, that means you don’t need to take paper tape (less to carry). Clean and refill your painting palette. Pack everything in an order you going to be using it ( no point leaving your pencil at the bottom of your bag!)



Give yourself plenty of time!


There is nothing worse then trying to paint to a tight time frame, so don’t schedule your meeting for later in the morning. Give yourself plenty of time to finish your painting and enjoy it! It ususally takes me from 2-3 hours for a plein-air painting, but you have to count in that it will take you some time to find your perfect spot and to set up and pack up after.


Start simple!


Don’t pick busy cityscape or crowded beach for your first painting, people really never sit still! It takes time to develop quick observation skills to capture people. Start from quiet landscapes and gradually introduce more people in your artwork.

River walk plein air

That is few rules that I follow, but what else would you need?

You might find this list helpful:

  • easel
  • board
  • paper
  • paintbox ( brushes, paint tubes, pencil, eraser, sprayer)
  • paper towels
  • water in plastic bottle (usually around 1 litre)
  • tape
  • hat, bobin, sunglasses
  • easel tray
  • containers for water (plastic cups)
  • plastic bag for rubbish

Instead of an easel I’m using a lightweight camera tripod with tripod plate attached to my board. I have made an tripod tray myself, I’ve seen online other watercolourist using it. I have used light and durable foamboard and cut out openings to fit the plastic cups that I’m using. For my support board I’m using another piece of foamboard (gatorboard), It is so light, perfect for outdoor painting.





plein air

My plein air equipment





In my paintbox

Inside my paintbox

brushes, paints, putty eraser, toilet roll, sprayer, pencil, white pen and business cards :)





2017 art painting watercolor beach ballymoney by Kate Kos - Forever Young

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