Pastels en Plein Air (Painting Outside with Pastels!)

Hello Everyone!

Since it has been some time since I have had time or energy to post, I thought I would pause to blog about my latest creative drive — plein air painting with pastels!

Many of you know that “plein air” painting is nothing more than painting outside.  Some prefer the term “on location”.  Some lucky ducks get to go to exotic locales to paint, taking workshops with well-know instructors.  Others (like me) 😉 simply seek out the fresh air and sights of more familiar places.

I am a farm girl at heart, so I am drawn to our little farm’s treasures: uncut pastures, farm animals, weathered fences, bird nests in springtime….  It doesn’t take much to make me happy!


(Here is a picture of my set-up….More to come in a future post.)


Though I am new to plein air painting, I am finding that when painting outside my goals and intentions are very different than those I have when working in my little studio.

First, I have no expectation that I will produce any great or /even good pieces of art!

While I have to admit that was a tough one to wrap my Type A personality around, it has done me a world of good to let go of the idea that what I produce needs to be “frameable.”  This is extremely freeing!!  I am coming away with the notion that if it isn’t any fun, I’m doing it wrong 🙂

Second, I am learning that plein air painting is a great teacher. 

I find that as I immerse myself in a live scene (instead of a photo), I see more!

Colors are livelier and values are more accurate than those in the photos I take of that scene.

Of course, I have and will continue to paint from reference photos all the time.  There is no shame in that.

But I am now more acutely aware of the way the camera can distort colors, values, and other things, which means that I can deal with these distortions appropriately when working with photos in the future.

Thirdly, painting out in nature has enormous VALUE!

I treat my plein air outings more like sketching opportunities–a way of taking notes on color, value, and composition that is an enjoyable process in and of itself, but can also be a way of gathering information useful for future studio paintings!

Lastly, painting outside is just a lot of FUN!   

Once I worked out my supplies and my set-up (the subject of my next post), I discovered just how enjoyable painting on location is.

It has become a surprisingly exciting new creative outlet that combines my love of being out in nature and my desire to express my feelings about my surroundings.

(Plein air piece in progress)



  • Do you paint “en plein air”?
  • What medium do you prefer when painting outside?
  • Do your goals, intentions, or creative process differ considerably while painting en plein air vs. in your studio?

I’d love to hear about your plein air experiences!


Till next time, stay creative!!


8 thoughts on “Pastels en Plein Air (Painting Outside with Pastels!)

  1. Your piece is lovely, and plein air painting sounds great! I’ve done some nature journaling outside but otherwise I don’t do much art outdoors. Maybe I should try it more often! 😀


    1. Thank you Allison! Yes, give plein air a try–though you already have to an extent with your nature journaling. 🙂

      I think that part of the initial learning process is to figure out what MEDIUM works best for you outside. For me, though I have done watercolor and other mediums, I prefer pastels. However, I will often focus on going outside to do only thumbnail sketches (in ink, pencil, or charcoal). In those cases I don’t bring anything but my sketching supplies–sort of plein air “lite”!

      Since you enjoy nature journaling, you might check out John Muir Laws tutorials on his blog and on Youtube. He often works in watercolor doing Landscapitos (small landscapes plein air), plants/flowers, and lots of other natural elements, and has a ton of free videos.

      Regardless, I would love to see what you end up trying and seeing what works and what doesn’t!


      1. That’s a good idea to do thumbnails outside! Then I can more easily remember how it looked once I come in to where all my supplies are. That makes sense!

        And ooh, that sounds great! Thanks so much for the recommendation.

        If I try it, I’ll probably include it in one of my art posts. 🙂 Thanks for all your advice!


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