I will be teaching a plein air oil painting workshop at Assington Mill in Suffolk on Saturday 17th September 2016. Based at a 17th century watermill in 70 acres of private nature reserve, it would be hard to find a more perfect location to hone your outdoor oil painting skills.
The one day course on Saturday 17th September 2016 will cover the follow topics.
Setting up outside
Working methods and techniques
Finishing paintings on location
Getting your wet oil paintings home again
All for just £95 with the added bonus of delicious home-made lunch in the farmhouse kitchen, biscuits and cakes throughout the day.
For those already familiar with outdoor painting this is a great opportunity to paint at this fabulous location and for those a little nervous of working in public this secluded landscape is perfect. We will have the freedom of this 70-acre private nature reserve with stunning views.
People often ask about the best equipment for plein air painting so here is a look at my kit and some links to suppliers.
I have two kinds of easel that I use outside: a French Easel and a panel/palette holder on a tripod.
The French easel is the one that looks most like a traditional easel. It’s made of wood, has a tray on the back to rest my brushes, brush washer/turps can etc. There is a drawer at the front to store tubes of paint and the palette sits on top of this. It’s a very versatile piece of kit that can support anything from a tiny board a few inches high to large canvas four feet across.
I also have a more lightwight kit in the form of a Palette/Panel Holder from Open Box M. This sits on a tripod with a quick release plate and has a small shelf for brushes, dipper etc. A spring clamp system holds panels up to 20 inches across.
The tripod I use with my pochades and Open Box M panel holder is a Velbon Ultra Rexi L. It’s light weight, packs up small and is very sturdy. The legs are able to open out wide which is great for setting up in windy locations and when set up normally it takes up very little room – ideal for street scenes. I recommend using a tripod head with a quick release plate as that allows you to set up and dismantle your kit quickly. I have found a small Manfrotto ball head is ideal, it’s compact in size and rock solid.
I have been painting out in the snow again so thought I would pass on a few tips to keep you warm on your winter plein air painting trips.
The key to staying warm when you are painting in the cold is to dress in layers. Several thin layers will trap more warm air than one thick layer and can be easily adjusted to suit changes in temperature. Start with a synthetic (or silk) base laser with long-sleeves – I use Paramo‘s excellent and seemingly everlasting thermal clothing. Next, a number of thin mid-layers, fleece jumpers etc, and finally a water/wind-proof outer layer.
A lot of heat is lost from your legs, so fleece-lined trousers like those made by Craghoppers and Rohan will really help to keep you warm. Otherwise, get some long-johns. A pair of waterproof over-trousers can be useful too if it is raining or windy, or just as an extra layer on very cold days.
Don’t forget to wear a hat! Mine is fleece lined and waterproof, with a peak to keep the low winter sun out of my eyes. Most importantly it has ear flaps!
I usually wear gloves to paint in winter. I use thin liner-gloves. These are designed to be worn inside mittens or over-gloves but they are warm enough to be worn on their own and thin enough not to interfere with brush handling. If it is very cold I will wear another thin pair over the top.
A thermal neck warmer is a great asset. If your neck gets cold you tend to hunch up your shoulders – making it difficult to paint. Avoid scarves if you don’t want the end to dangle in your paint!
The secret to warm feet in the snow? Make sure your boots really are waterproof. If the damp gets in your feet are going to get cold. I use Muck Boots which are completely waterproof and have a good solid sole. Avoid ordinary wellies, they might be waterproof but they are not designed to keep you warm. If you wear leather walking boots make sure they are regularly treated to maintain their waterproofness. Thermal socks are essential and it’s important to make sure your boots are big enough – you should be able to wiggle your toes even with a thick pair of socks on.
As well as having the right equipment it is also important to make sure you have food and drink with you. A flask with a hot drink can be a life-saver, but don’t forget that even just drinking water will keep you hydrated which in turn will help your circulation and keep you warm.
After an hour and a half working on this picture my feet were just as warm as when I started and if it wasn’t getting dark I would have carried on with another painting.
I rarely paint inside, prefering to work ‘en plein air’. This week I have been painting some larger studio pictures from my location studies so I thought I would share these photos taken around my studio.
Click to view full size. See below for details of my favourite suppliers of oil painting equipment and materials.
I always use the best quality materials when I am painting. Here is a list of my favourite suppliers and what I buy from them:
Bird and Davis The UK’s oldest artists’ stretcher frame manufacturers and suppliers of best quality linen canvas.
C Roberson and Co High quality oil painting mediums and gilding supplies. Founded in 1810 – past customers include Turner, Whistler and Sargent!
Cornelissen and Sons Artist’s Colourmen since 1855. The best looking art shop in london. Brushes, goldleaf and other bits and pieces.
I am frequently asked for advice on painting outside, sometimes by beginners, but often by quite accomplished studio painters. The following tips are replies to questions I have been asked recently.
How do you deal with people watching, negative comments or groups of teenagers? I will be painting in the centre of town!
Most people won’t even notice you! Those that do generally don’t stop for very long, its usually a quick glance and they carry on walking. You will get very few negative comments – I get, perhaps, one a year. I think your own personality will determine to what extent you talk to or ignore people when you are working. As for groups of teenagers, I find that they generally impressed with what you are doing. Its quite cool to be an artist.
Do you find that you sell a lot more work due to the interest in your painting on site ?
I have been invited to show in galleries and exhibitions by people who have seen me painting outside.
Have you any tips you can give me about setting up etc ?
It can be a bit nerve-racking the first time you set up in public but just go for it. Set your gear up and look as though you’ve done it for years – no one know’s any different.
If you are in London I would suggest setting up half-way across Waterloo Bridge. You will find that, as most people crossing the bridge are going somewhere, they won’t stop to bother you and you will quickly get used to people being around while you are working. It sounds like an ‘in at the deep end’ approach but most people will completely ignore you. If you set up outside a pub on a sunny afternoon the drinkers will have plenty of time to stand around and make helpful suggestions.
Some artists try to hide away completely when they work outside, but you probably won’t get the best view point. Be brave and choose your location to give you the best picture. I am quite happy to set up my box easel outside the National Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square (photo above) or on the South Bank on a busy afternoon.
I use a half box easel with a good padded shoulder strap. I think a full box easel is likely to discourage you from walking very far.
Everything I need goes into one bag, it contains:
6-8 boards in different sizes
a box to carry the wet panels
Low odour white spirit
a small jam jar with lid for cleaning brushes
T-square, useful for straight edges especially the horizon in seascapes
food and drink, hat, gloves etc
One important difference you will notice when painting outside, compared to in a studio, is how fast everything changes. Work small and don’t spend more than 2 hours at a time on a picture. Ideally 1 1/2 hours is about right or the shadows/weather/tide etc will have changed too much and you end up with one picture painted over another. You can always go back another day but in the UK you will be lucky if the light is the same for two days in a row.
If you have any questions or tips to add please leave a comment.
Lavenham Hall Gallery
16 - 24 Spetember 2017
Denton Fine Art
I'm pleased to now be showing with this prestigious new gallery in Lavenham, Suffolk.
Paintings are available directly from me in Suffolk or from a small number of Fine Art Galleries in London, Cornwall, the South of France and the Isle of Wight.
Prices range from £350 - £3,000.
Please visit the 'Galleries' or 'Contact' pages above.