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Beginner’s Plein Air Tips for Adventuresome Artists

Whether you’re a beginner just trying to get started or an experienced artist looking for some inspiration, these plein air tips from accomplished painter Nikki Frumkin will have you painting landscapes on your outdoor adventures in no time.

Get the Right Art Supplies

The right supplies are the ones that work best for you. That can mean you use a Bic pen from your kitchen drawer or a $12 waterproof pen. Figure out what you enjoy using and go with it.

Watercolor painting of watercolor painting supplies
Nikki’s recommended art supplies.

Here Are My Go-Tos for Landscape Paintings:

  • A sketchbook or a scrap of watercolor paper
  • Watercolors in a pan (meaning the colors are dried and hard, not in a tube. This makes it easier to clean up.)
  • A water brush. This brush has a reservoir of water in the handle so you won’t need a cup of water to wash your brush in. Just squeeze the handle to push water through the bristles. Great for Leave No Trace.
  • A few tissues to blot your painting and dry your paintbrush
  • A pencil with an eraser
  • A waterproof pen
close up of artist with water brush and paints
A water brush and watercolor pan are Nikki Frumkin’s go-to supplies. Photo © Shawn Murphy.

Have Fun!

Being outside or traveling is about adventure, freedom, and fun, and painting can incorporate all three. Grab a friend to paint with you. Laugh at your accidents. Forgive yourself if it doesn’t work out perfectly (because it never will), and just make something. Anything. You’ve got this!

artist sitting with her painting at Mt. Rainier
Nikki Frumkin painting at Mount Rainier. Photo © Shawn Murphy.

Do It Again (and Again)!

Painting can be challenging, especially if you are new to it. Painting outside adds an extra challenge. Don’t give up if it’s hard or if it doesn’t work out the first time. Keep trying.

watercolor painting of Mt. Rainier from Nikki Frumkin
Nikki Frumkin’s painting of Mount Rainier from Spray Park. Photo courtesy of Nikki Frumkin.

Take Photos of Your Art

Find the right balance between enjoying the place you are in and painting it. Sometimes sitting on a warm rock while you paint the mountains for hours on end is what you want. Other times, you have miles to cover and things to see. On those days, take five minutes to make a quick sketch. Think about capturing the energy of the place rather than what it looks like. Then take a picture so you can finish your painting at home if you want to.

watercolor painting held up against nature backdrop
Take photos of your art! Photo © Nikki Frumkin.

Happy adventures! Want more ideas and inspiration? Visit Nikki’s website and follow her on Instagram.