Plein air convention Paint-out
Attendees painting outdoors during the 2018 Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico; image courtesy of Steph Gauvin

It was not a pretty sight.

My first, second, and third plein air paintings were horrible. In fact, all the paintings I did outdoors for my first three years were horrible.

So horrible, in fact, I almost gave up.

I had decided to learn plein air painting on my own because I could not find anyone to teach me. And it didn’t go too well.

Speeding Up the Process

If you’re just discovering plein air painting or are fairly new at it, I think I can save you years of frustration.

Eight years ago, when we created the Plein Air Convention, we also created a Basics Course for new painters. It’s been a success and we’ve trained a few hundred people, helping them do their first plein air paintings. It probably saved them a couple of years of experimentation.

This was already the best possible place for a new painter to go, and it just got better.

We’ve just reinvented the Plein Air Basics Course to make it even more relevant and give you the confidence you need to do your first paintings.

Plein air convention
8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo artist Nancie King Mertz

See the World in a Whole New Way — Like a Plein Air Painter!

Join us for this beginner session, a hands-on class that sets you up to be ready to paint at the Plein Air Convention and speed up your progress to becoming a plein air painter.

If you miss this class, you’ll miss the fundamental skills you’ll need to succeed at this amazing art form we call plein air painting.

This optional pre-convention session is not a lecture — it is highly interactive, and filled with unique exercises. You’ll come away with tons of inspiration and a wealth of new skills and techniques.

The Basics Course team is committed to the plein air experience and will introduce novices to this wonderful form of expression, taking each participant to new heights and offering many of the principles it might take you months or years to discover on your own.

You’ll receive basic instruction in all forms of painting so you can pick the one that is best for you. We’ll explain the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of oil, watercolor, pastel, and acrylic and show you how to use them. In fact, we’re bringing in top experts in each medium to teach these sessions.

Plein air convention
8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo artist Jeb Dorsey

Basic instruction in all mediums will enable participants to take advantage of the magnificent outdoor painting possibilities in the Bay Area. Here is what to plan for and what to expect from this reinvented course:

Plein Air Convention & Expo 2019 Basics Course

A pre-convention course offering “the basics” to those who want to learn to paint outdoors!
Cost: $167* in addition to convention registration
Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. (Lunch 12 to 12:45 p.m.)
What to bring: Sketchbook, graphite, pen


Choosing the right scene, learn how to edit, and keep it simple

Painting outdoors gives you so many options that it’s sometimes difficult to decide what to paint or how to feature the subject you are so passionate about. Learn the art of finding simple scenes, and how to edit more complex scenes in order to paint what is important to you. In this course you will practice drawing sketches while viewing slides of the landscapes that you’ll explore in San Francisco and the Wine Country.

Create useful thumbnail sketches

Thumbnail sketching actually speeds up the painting process as well as helping an artist to explore design alternatives, learn simplification, and build confidence. Participants will create several sketches, step by step along with the instructor, and learn to better interpret the landscape or subject in terms of masses, shapes, perspective, value, and color. The goal is to practice drawing and designing simple value compositions.

Train your eye to see like a plein air painter, remember the light source, and feel the color

Learning to see the light is always the goal of a landscape painter — how the light moves throughout the scene and creates shadows and atmosphere.

Seeing color and temperature also comes with time and practice. Using a limited palette will help you mix colors faster and create harmonious-looking paintings! Using fewer colors offers the opportunity to really get to know your basic colors and color temperatures and how they relate. You also won’t have to worry about hauling a lot of tubes of paint or have to think about what colors to pack up.

What is the best painting gear for you and your medium?

Each medium requires different equipment, and each artist will talk about their medium, how they work in the field, and what equipment works best for them. Participants will receive a “Gear Up” checklist to use as a reminder of what to pack for a day of painting in the field. Each instructor will display their favorite equipment and supplies and will be available to discuss helpful tips. There will be extensive discussion on techniques and sharing of trade secrets!

Note: If you have no equipment, you can purchase many plein air–specific products at the expo hall during the convention.

What to really expect on your outdoor painting adventures

Painting outdoors can be a rugged experience if you choose to backpack and hike to a secluded spot for your painting. Or you can choose to paint out of the back of your car, or simply sit on your back porch and paint what you see. Instructors will be certain to go over the “ins and outs” of painting outdoors and share personal stories. You’ll discover how to avoid common mistakes, and how to deal with wind, weather, changing light, and various conditions.

Mentoring Offered

At the daily paint-outs during the main convention, “basics mentors” will be grouped together in a clearly marked area and assigned to assist the group of basics attendees, allowing you to put your newly learned skills to the test under the guiding eye of your mentors.

Plein air convention
8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo artist Cindy Baron

To sign up for the Basics Course, first register for the Plein Air Convention, and then add the Basics Course before you check out.

Here’s just a bit of what this class will do for you:
• Experience oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pastel mediums and find the one that you love the most!
• Discover the tips and techniques that more experienced artists use for every stage of painting — the right equipment, selecting a scene, creating composition, sketching, deciding on colors and mixing paint, painting the actual scene, and then finally, putting the finishing touches on your paintings!
• Amp up your drawing skills! (You’ll need them for the paintout days at PACE!)
• Find out how thumbnail sketches can work for you
• Look at the movement of light, shadows, and the atmosphere … all the stuff that tickles the creativity bones of plein air painters!
• The magic of a limited palette — you’ll be traveling lighter and mixing just the right colors to paint the scene before you
• Gear Up! The best tips and tools for finding and using the right gear for the type of painting you want to do. You’ll receive our “Gear Up” checklist to use every single time you pack up for a fun day of painting in the field.
• And so much more!

But wait, there’s even more! Not only will you get to experience this full-day course before the convention actually begins, your instructors are going to partner with you all throughout the week! Every day during the main convention, we all go out to paint at a designated location. You and your newly acquired friends from the Basics Course will have a specially marked area where you can paint together with the guidance of your Basics Course instructors! (Go ahead and applaud right now, it’s okay!)

Plein air convention
8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo artist Carrie Curran

Mentor for the Week

Yes, it’s true. Your instructors have offered to hang out in your huddle and continue to guide and mentor you as you put paint to canvas in and around San Francisco and Wine Country (see, we told you those sketches would come in handy!)

Don’t worry though, if you have other friends you want to paint with. No one will take offense if you don’t stick with the beginner group — always your choice!

Whether you’re brand-new to plein air painting or you just want to brush up on your basic skills, this course is for you. Sign up for the 2019 Plein Air Basics Course now before all the seats are taken!

Plein air convention
8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo artist Paul Kratter

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