Try watercolor sketches for a quick and simpler way to do plein air painting
Does the thought of setting up an easel with all of your oil painting kit outdoors make you cringe? For many new to plein air painting the inconvenience of carrying much equipment and and materials can make an outdoor adventure seem daunting. Oil paints pose problems with cleaning up with hazardous solvents too. There is another option using watercolors.
It is true that once you have an oil painting system in place plein air painting becomes simpler. However watercolor painting gives you all the benefits of plein air with a fraction of the equipment and materials. I recently took my standard watercolor kit and reduced it further until I could have it all fitting into a small should bag.
The kit consisted of:
What about the paints? I selected a range of watercolor paints and squeezed sufficient amounts into the folding palette before setting out. Another option of course is to use watercolor pans, but I prefer tubes.
All of this fitted into a small sling bag. An easel? I had an MDF board that is about A4 in size to which I could tape the paper with masking tape. The board also doubles as a backing board in my carry bag to keep the contents safe.
With this light kit I set out to the beach and was able to complete a sketch quickly and easily. The quick drying watercolors made the finished product easy to transport. Watercolor painting lends itself to quick and spontaneous work, which is ideal for plein air painting. It encourages quick thinking and commitment, but you can still plan your composition beforehand using a pencil.
This approach can be used for informal journals, sketches or more resolved watercolor painting. The choice is yours. The experience is a lot of fun too. There is less focus on setting up and more time to get on with the painting process itself.
Try watercolor journaling as a way to break into regular plein air painting. I am sure it will be a fun experience.