Wendie Thompson knows plein air painting in freezing temperatures — she’s the founder of the Wisconsin Plein Air Painters Association. She says that when the winter temperatures are extreme, it’s all about protecting the extremities.

Several hardy artists have told PleinAir Today that one can get cold quickly standing on frozen ground. The solution for this can be carpet samples, floor mats from your car, or even just some cardboard to get the feet up off the snow or cold ground. Thompson reiterates this, and also echoes others in recommending layers of clothing and sufficiently warm headgear. But in Wisconsin, it gets really, really cold. “We’re going to have a high temperature of -10 degrees Fahrenheit in a few days,” says Thompson, who lives in Ashippun, Wisconsin. At that temperature, Thompson may pass on plein air painting, or paint in her car. Her husband fashioned a paint box out of a cigar box, complete with a Plexiglas mixing area, and Thompson props the lid of the box on her steering wheel and paints surfaces up to 8″ x 10″ from the (relative) comfort of her car.

Thompson favors the glove-mitten combinations that flop over on top of the hand, exposing the fingertips for delicate work. She sometimes slips a hand warmer in the flap before she buttons it down.

Thompson has some interesting advice about keeping hands warm. Her son trained for speed skating in the Olympics, so she became well acquainted with the best information on keeping the body and all its parts warm. One tip: Feet and hands stay warmer if the tops of them are treated to heat. Thompson therefore puts hand warmers in the fold-over flap in her mitten-glove combination. And she puts warmers on top of her feet in hunting boots.

Another tip from Thompson: Buy thin cashmere gloves when they are on sale at the end of the season. The next winter, buy latex gloves a size bigger than your hand and wear the cashmere gloves inside the latex ones.


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