Problems painting plein air with watercolor

Artists often have trouble painting plein air with watercolor.  The reasons for this are many so I have written this article to offer some help.

My first attempt at painting outdoors was a total disaster leaving me quite depressed about the whole subject.  However I figured there were many successful artists that did paint outdoors so there had to be a way.

After doing some research I found that I had done just above everything you should not do if you want to paint successfully outdoors with watercolor.

Venice San Giorgio Maggiore Plein Air watercolor painting

Venice San Giorgio Maggiore Plein Air watercolor painting, May 2010

I was trying to paint in the middle of the day, in 40+ Celsius heat, with a strong wind blowing, the sun streaming directly onto my paper, on quite a large sheet!  No wonder my first attempt produced an overworked flat rendition of what I had set out to achieve.  There was no way I could produce a clean flat wash as I kept running out of paint due to the heat drying my paint mix in my pallet too fast.  I had a very small pallet at the time.

So now we have seen what not to do, let us know look at how to do it right.

What to paint

When you first start painting plein air the temptation is to try and include everything you see. However it is much better to pick as small section of the scene and focus on that rather than trying to paint the whole panorama.  Also paint small at first until you are more comfortable with the problems associated with painting plein air.

Continue to next step: How to paint plein air with watercolors