Monday, June 01, 2009

MAM Poll June: Which is your preferred media for painting plein air?

In April we found out what subjects people like to paint and last month we found out which media people like to use when drawing or sketching

On the first day of summer, it seems appropriate for the Making A Mark Poll for June to take a look at which is our preferred media for painting - plein air. Hopefully we'll get lots of tips from people about painting plein air too!

Next month we'll look at painting in the studio.

For the purposes of this poll I decided we probably needed a little definition here.

So I'm suggesting that a painting executed plein air is something that is
  • not a quick sketch
  • not a drawing
  • probably covers all or nearly all of the support being used
  • possibly a plein air study for a studio painting
  • possibly a painting which will go straight to a gallery!
Media options for painting plein air

So - what are the options? There are lots of options and they all have their pros and cons - hopefully we'll hear a bit more about those from your perspective in the comments.

The painting plein air media options in the Opinion Poll are as follows:
  • traditional oils
  • water miscible oils
  • alkyds (fast drying oils)
  • acrylics
  • watercolour (pans and tubes)
  • gouache
  • casein
  • artist quality ink
  • tempera
  • soft/hard pastels
  • oil pastels
  • mixed media
You can find the poll in the right hand column - underneath all the smiley faces of my blog 'followers'.

I find most artists tend to settle on one media for painting outdoors - although they may use more when painting in the studio. However as last month, the poll allows multiple responses based on media used on a regular basis rather than those you might use occasionally.

The Poll finishes early on 30th June and I'll post an analysis of the results later the same day. Then the next poll on painting media used in the studo will start on 1st July.

Why do you like your chosen media?

Please comment - I'd love to hear about why you chose the medium you now work with.

I'm also hoping we might be able to encourage a few more people to try painting plein air this summer. So - how about a few tips?
  • If you're a seasoned plein air painter and have the time please can you highlight any tips you have for using your chosen media plein air.
  • If you're new to plein air painting can you please highlight any issues you've encountered with your chosen painting medium - positive or negative - and how you responded - and whether it worked!
  • If you're thinking about plein air painting for the first time please let us know what's stopping you!
Note: A very long time ago I used to paint more in watercolour - and the images in this post are sketches by me - in watercolour - of artists plein air painting in watercolour - in Goa, Prague and Bali respectively!

Making a Mark reviews......


  1. I have tried various things over the years. Watercolour is fun but can dry too quickly - or too slowly - depending on time of year and weather conditions. However small your box/palette of colours there always seem to be so many bits to handle and rarely the place to put them! In recently times and especially on holiday I have taken to using an A5 hardback spiral bound pad, an automatic pencil (one where you click up a bit more lead as needed) with colour added by using watercolour pencils, adding water where needed with one of those brushes that have a water reservoir in the handle. I have a set of 3 like this from Royal Langnickel, which were relatively inexpensive -

  2. If there's nowhere to sit down (and set down) I use watercolour pencils. If I have the luxury of, say, a picnic table, I prefer a small watercolour palette that will fit in a Ziploc bag if I have to more on.

  3. I have gone outside for years with some Derwent Sketching pencils and/or assorted colored pencils.I usually use a 9x 12 Strathmore charcoal paper spiral bound pad. I now have a number of pads filled with drawings that I can refer to. Sometimes I will use Canson paper for a colored background. I have found this type of outdoor exploration to produce satisfactory results and to be very enjoyable. Sometimes I use watercolors, watercolor pencils , markers or oil pastels. I have made the decision to paint oudoors this year in addition to using my regular materials. I am going to use Chroma Atelier paints. I have had one session outdoors which has helped me make the necessary adjustments . I can now see that I need to use the Masterson-Sta Wet palette instead of a self sealing one and the Slow Dri medium. I work with acrylics as my primary medium in the studio and I have no problems yet outdoors I need more open working time. Chroma Atelier seems to fit the bill and they mix beautifully with rich color.

  4. Had first plein air attack last month while visiting the California Central Coast (Morro Bay). When I could set myself up, I liked using a limited watercolor palette or oil pastels. I brought the OP's, but only used them once. Otherwise, I stuck with watercolor pencils or water-soluble graphite for sketching. We were on the move quite a bit.

  5. As a number of the comments made so far have commented on sketching, it's maybe worth commenting here that:
    - last month's poll was about sketching and
    - this month's poll is about painting plein air.

  6. I answered "traditional oil paint" in the poll, but I would like to add a comment. I am actually using alkyds (fast drying oils) for my Titanium white. As white is often mixed with other colours on the palette, it helps speed-up drying time for the whole painting. This is really helpful if you are travelling and painting a number of works. The panels or canvasses become touch dry after 3 or 4 days.

  7. Terrain and weather dictate medium choice, and I used them all and enjoyed them all. The experience is always satisfying no matter the medium chosen, I've yet to ever have a regret!

  8. Yesterday's blog post was on this very subject :>) I'm doing a series and this first one features oils

    Like Tina I use all sorts and it depends on subject, weather, how far away from the car I'm painting, whether it's a 'serious' painting day or a quick sketch when with family etc etc

  9. I can see that "the nice weather" has led to a spate of posts about painting plein air! :)

  10. Traditional oil paint is my choice which suits the weather here in the UK as it’s not affected by the rain although some of the acrylic primed canvas is till you get the first coat of oil on.
    Tips for painting in the rain drill small holes in the draws of your french box easel or the draws fill up with water and the labels come off the tubes of paint! Carry tent pegs and guy line so you can tie the easel down as the rain is often accompanied by wind.

  11. My number one media for plein air work is oil on a panel, no larger than 16x12". I also enjoy soft pastels on Canson paper. Gouache occasionally, and I do love to do serious charcoal plein air work when I want to capture the light quickly.

  12. Ive painted plein air for over 30 years. I am currently working with M.Graham oils but, painted WC for 25 years.
    My organization International Plein Air Painters sponsors the Worldwide Paint Out.
    Register free at
    Click on 2009 paint out.


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