epic-fails-in-plein-airBy Stephanie West and Wendy Ahlm

Plein Air painting can be a peaceful endeavor, unless you encounter some of these epic fails common to any outdoor landscape painter!


Part of the adventure is finding the perfect spot. Recently, Wendy and I were scouting for the perfect place to set up. It needed to be picturesque, accessible, and blocked by wind. We were driving in separate cars, off-roading on a dirt trail flanked by cacti. Along the way, we ended up driving in a circle. Wendy lost the trail (it was not easy to find) and we ended up a wee bit separated. We thought we lost each other as we zoomed around the desert landscape, when in fact we were just driving in circles on the same road looking for each other.

#2 It’s COLD in the shade

Plein air painters love painting light… from a shady spot. It was a cold December day and we were seeking a sunlit spot so that we could be warm(ish). We looked at several locations and finally settled on a great open area. However, direct sunlight on canvas is not the best way to paint. Colors get skewed and your work looks completely different in the gallery. So, we moved the cars, put up umbrellas and realized (as we froze) that we had just gone to great lengths to put ourselves BACK in the shade after picking a sunny spot. What were we thinking?

#3 Left Behind

Painting outside ‘en plein air’ means our studio has to travel to the great outdoors. Painters have to plan for AND take everything we need, which often results in something being forgotten. Here is a list of the most common things left at home by Plein Air painters:

    • Cell phone chargers – both a blessing and a curse, being off grid is great – unless you’re being chased or get a flat tire.
    • Hats – Ever burn your scalp? Blinded by the light? A large brimmed hat is so important that Wendy often has at least one in her car at all times.
    • Sunscreen – YES, your skin can burn in winter.
    • Spectacles and sunglasses – The only perk of forgetting them is you don’t have to squint if you’ve forgotten your glasses and you REALLY have to squint if it’s forgotten sunglasses.
    • Water – Because no one wants to drink pee. (kidding) Seriously, dehydration leads to bad decisions and is not a good painting strategy.
    • Brush cleaner/paint thinner – Painting with friends helps. Forgetting this item results in a very thick painting day and LOTS of paper towels.
    • White paint – So critical that you might even tuck an extra tube in your paint pack.
    • Tripod or tripod foot – Because holding a canvas in one hand while painting with the other is not fun, and very messy.

Read Wendy Alhm’s TOP 3 Epic Fails HERE >

Stephanie West

Author: Stephanie West

Art can be contagious, like laughter or singing. When viewing art you can feeling it almost without thought. Encouragement is the greatest gift someone can give to an idea. It can arrive in may forms: self inspired; with a purchase; or spoken to someone else. I hope beauty surrounds you.