This past weekend I attended my first public art meet-up in Scotland. The Art Society of Inverness organized a plein Air meet-up in Findhorn, a beautiful coastal town in Moray county. Since it was my first time, of course I over-planned and brought every art supply I owned. So in order to spare you the stress and inner-turmoil I experience while preparing for my first plein air meet-up, I’ll share my experience.
Here are my top 2 tips for your first plein air meet-up:
Tip #1: Pack less, paint more
There’s an old marketing philosophy that basically says less choices equals more sales. The “choice paradox” as explained by Wikipedia says “The phenomenon of overchoice occurs when many equivalent choices are available. Making a decision becomes overwhelming due to the many potential outcomes and risks that may result from making the wrong choice.”
I experienced this in full force while attending my first plein air meet-up. I suppose this is mostly a problem for people like me who love using lots of different mediums – watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, markers. etc. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I packed EVERYTHING. I didn’t want to be “missing out” on the perfect opportunity to use something I love. But this led to unnecessary stress and worry and (intense FOMO).
When I arrived at the location and realized the weather was not in our favor (50-70mph winds) I was in for a sore awakening. I couldn’t set up my pochade box. I couldn’t set up my supplies anywhere exposed to wind.
In the end, my choice was made for me. The only supplies I could use without risking everything blowing away was my wallet sized watercolor palette. I had to keep everything tucked close, secured in place with lots of bands, magnets, clips and clamps.
In the end, this worked in my favor, because a very small portable setup meant I was painting more! I could easily move between spots and paint whatever caught my eye.
So do yourself a favor. Remove the stress of choice and heavy bags. Pack less, paint more!
Tip #2: Familiar doesn’t mean boring
In addition to being overwhelmed with choice for supplies, there’s the choice of subject. For my first meet-up I wanted to enjoy the chance to socialise with other artists without stressing about painting something “good.” I quickly realized that it would be too challenging to draw or paint anything ‘new’ in detail while talking to anyone. Therefor my advice is to stick to familiar subjects at first. Ease into it. For me this meant painting something I’ve painted before: beaches, dunes, and boats! If painting the familiar sounds boring, think again! I’ve painted a the same thing many times, and every single time I find something new and fun to focus on. Think of it more like honing your instincts and familiarity with a subject.
My portable watercolor plein air supplies:
- Nomadic Artist Palette (you’ll have to search for this online to see availability in your own country)
- Escoda Ultimo Tendo Synthetic Travel Brush #10 and #6
- Portable Painter Micro Palette (I used this for gouache and as my small water dish)
- Strathmore Travel Journal (find where to buy on their website)
- Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap
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Want to see/hear more? Watch the video and see what it was like: