Second-generation plein air painter Carrie Curran
Second-generation plein air painter Carrie Curran introduced us to the scene she painted for Plein Air Live

The fifth annual Plein Air Live kicked off this week with our “Essential Techniques Day” on Tuesday, March 5. An annual favorite for painters, we’ll spend this week learning new things, making new friends, and really gearing up for the remainder of the event (more on that later!).

We want to thank the sponsors we heard from today, including Sennelier featuring Yves-Marie Salanson, Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, and Blick Art Materials featuring Susan Kuznitsky; with special sessions (and offers), they truly are an important part of Plein Air Live.

Hosted by Eric Rhoads and Kelly Kane, here’s a glimpse at what you might have missed (sign up at to join us for the rest of the week, now through Friday!).

Highlights from Plein Air Live: Essential Techniques Day

One of the easiest and cheapest things you can do as an artist is to sketch, said Zufar Bikbov. He added that it’s also one of the most important things you should do because if you can’t draw something, you probably won’t be able to paint it – especially if you want to create realistic art.

Zufar Bikbov's plein air sketches
Zufar Bikbov’s plein air sketches

Jim Wodark explained how to compose a painting (outdoors or inside), including tools to help you create a strong landscape composition.

From Jim Wodark's Plein Air Live demonstration
From Jim Wodark’s Plein Air Live demonstration on composition

Whether she’s working with watercolor or oils, Poppy Balser uses a similar limited palette. In her lesson, she took us on a deep dive into understanding color, including hue, chroma, and value, as she painted a still life of an onion from a photo reference with strong highlights and shadows.

From Poppy Balser's Plein Air Live lesson
From Poppy Balser’s lesson

Pastel painter Lisa Skelly joined us with an outdoor demo from Laguna Beach. Fittingly, her session focused on how to paint the beautiful waves and surf, with a focus on composition, value structure, and shapes.

From Lisa Skelly's on-location Plein Air Live demo
From Lisa Skelly’s on-location Plein Air Live demo

Second-generation plein air painter Carrie Curran joined us on location from Scottsdale, Arizona, overlooking the Sonoran desert during the golden hour of sunset. When painting outdoors, she tells us, “You never know what’s going to happen, but it’s fun.”

From Carrie Curran's demo
From Carrie Curran’s demo

Mike Hernandez used a toned paper from Strathmore and started his work with a light sketch of basic shapes to follow. You don’t have to use toned paper, he said, but it allows you to skip the step of creating a wash and gives you a middle ground for values.

From Mike Hernandez's demo
From Mike Hernandez’s demo

Daniel Marshall said that the biggest impact on his art career came when he began painting en plein air. In his Essential Techniques session, he guided us on the basic supplies – and concepts – that are useful for painting outdoors.

From Daniel Marshall's Plein Air Live Essential Techniques session
From Daniel Marshall’s Plein Air Live Essential Techniques session

Kim Casebeer led an on-location demo on how to use brushwork and edges to add depth to your landscape painting.

From Kim Casebeer's landscape painting demonstration
From Kim Casebeer’s landscape painting demonstration

Simple and straightforward was the theme for Debra Huse’s plein air lesson. She filmed from the San Diego River in California and “zoomed in” on the foreground to capture the light and shadow with a focus on evening light and sunset clouds.

From Debra Huse's Plein Air Live session
From Debra Huse’s Plein Air Live session

We ended the night with another favorite – the Paint Along Cocktail Hour. Always entertaining and inspiring, we’ll look forward to more this week. You can still join us and even catch the replays for sessions you missed! Visit now.

And, come paint and learn with us all IN PERSON, including Eric, Kelly, myself, and so many of today’s best plein air painters at the Plein Air Convention and Expo in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, including the Biltmore Estate, May 20-24, 2024. We have exciting things in store, so don’t miss it!

Become a better outdoor painter today when you get the FREE e-Book for artists, “240 Plein Air Painting Tips.” [click here]

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