Watercolor Plein Air Step 4

Venice Santa Maria Della Salute Plein Air watercolor painting

Everything in its Place

My plein air set up has a tray that holds my brushes, as well as my palette and water. I keep a towel in my hand to adjust moisture in my brush.  The better organised you are the less time you will waste looking for things, while your paper is drying fast.

Minimise distractions

This one is obvious, try to set yourself up somewhere where you will not be a bother for others. I have generally found people to be very considerate of me while I paint, and as I teach I generally don’t have a problem talking while continuing to work. But if you place yourself were you will be in someone’s way you will just create problems which will hinder your painting.

Venice Santa Maria Della Salute Plein Air watercolor painting
Venice Santa Maria Della Salute, plein air watercolor painting

Finishing in the studio

Sometimes you may run out of time (daylight) while painting plein air, or the weather could interrupt before you can finish, or maybe you are aware something isn’t quite done in your painting. In these cases and many others, remember that you can leave it until you are back in your studio where you have time and a more controlled environment to finish it off. The painting above, fig 4, was mostly finished on site but as I painted it in the last 30 minutes of sunlight I had to leave off placing the gondola until I was back at home.


When you paint plein air, you may not always produce great work. Though some of my best and certainly most enjoyable work has been done out doors, one should not feel every painting has to be a winner.  The important thing is to be out there observing and absorbing the real world while you paint.

I did a painting in Venice last year and while I was painting there was some beautiful music coming from one of the windows on the canal, a local art teacher came up to me and we talked about painting and paper quality.  He had very poor English and I had even worse Italian but we still enjoyed each others company. I also had a broken English chat with a lady from one of the Eastern European countries.  All the while I kept working on my painting. It also started to drizzle once or twice! I had a wonderful time and even though the painting was a bit overworked (the drizzle was a contributor here) it was still one of my most enjoyable moments in Venice which will remain with me forever.

Author: Joe

Owner and adminstration of the Painting With Watercolors website and forum. I am a professional watercolor artist, though I also use other mediums including pen and ink. I also enjoy playing with computers and the internet so this website is a bit of a hobby of mine.

4 thoughts on “Watercolor Plein Air Step 4”

  1. Thank you for posting all this information on plein air painting! I was finally able to access it. I think my computer was not working properly before and that’s why I could not get on here before.
    I am a very beginner with painting outdoors and quite discouraged, however your tips are very helpful.
    Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you very much for all this valuable information. I have gained much more from this site than from video tutorials.
    I am very grateful to you for such wonderfully clear explanations. I am looking forward to starting some plein air watercolurs.
    I particularly like the fact that you said not every work is going to be brilliant but that even a great artist as yourself can enjoy the moment. !!! Thank you.

  3. Great tips. I’m inspired to find a secluded spot this weekend to practice my first plein air watercolor. The towel and spray bottle ideas were also helpful! And the FUN IS IMPORTANT-if we do art without making relationships and good memories, we might as well be robots. I’m glad you had that drizzle time in Venice!

  4. I just came home from painting outdoors. My painting was so so, but the evening was beautiful. I decided to look for some tips before I go out again tomorrow. I’m glad I found your plein air tips. Thank you!

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