Rosemarie Armstrong, plein air painting on one of her many adventures
Rosemarie Armstrong, plein air painting on one of her many adventures

Rosemarie Armstrong loves a great adventure. She often takes plein air painting trips that last 4-6 weeks at a time, so she knows how to plan and what to expect (including surprises along the way). Here, she takes us with her on a day trip to a rugged terrain in British Columbia.

My Plein Air Painting Adventure

By Rosemarie Armstrong

Morning welcomed a brilliant sun as I drove to Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew, British Columbia. I secured my backpack on my chest, and slung the pochade box onto my back. Previous plein air work here in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park reminded me to prepare for rough, muddy terrain through old-growth forest. Varying coastal weather conditions, changing tides, and wildlife are factors when working here, so my backpack always has extra clothing, water, food, and a first aid kit.

Within a half hour, I’m on the rocky beach, palette with oil paints glittering, brushes ready to make magic. My goal, to work on two paintings in stages: a view to the north, and a view to the south. I quickly compose, determining values, shapes, mood, and light, so it matters not if the weather played fickle. By 11am, low clouds drape chilly mist over the beach.

The two compositions take shape layer by layer, brush strokes defining rocky outcroppings, the music of waves, old cedars reaching inland, blown by the wind, bent ancient figures along a rugged Pacific landscape.

One of my plein air setups (Depoe Bay, Oregon)
One of my plein air setups (Depoe Bay, Oregon)

The reason I love painting en plein air? Even when a painting is not completed on location, I can draw on the visceral experience. The surf, birds soaring, sun and mist on my shoulders, salt on the air – it is all recorded in my mind’s eye. Reference photos are taken but not utilized. Painting en plein air is fueled by my need to be outdoors, physically active, discovering and appreciating nature.

My plein air setup (Valhalla Wilderness Park)
Another of my plein air setups (Valhalla Wilderness Park)

This day seems to disappear as I also explored tidal pools and the unusual rock formations that a relentless ocean likes to design. Time to close up the trusty pochade box and hike out.

I need to keep my hands free so the paintings (6 x 12-in.), are attached to my box with industrial Velcro. One on the inside, one exterior. This is a very handy secure method that permits a full range of movement over difficult terrain. If the ‘outside’ painting needs to be protected from rain, I use a plastic cover also attached by Velcro.

The hike out is bright again but chilly, temperatures along the coast being cooler compared to inland. Approximately halfway through the uphill hike to the car, I sense company, a subtle energy not visible through the foliage, but it is matching its pace to mine… a huruff, low moan, ground noise as twigs break underfoot from an unseen animal of some kind. My accelerated heart rate is as much from the perceived threat as walking uphill. I am singing and talking loudly, my whistle at the ready … a break in the green, safety ahead!

Often I can set up near my car, enabling easy access to additional canvases and materials. During inclement weather, I paint under the hatchback. When on foot, however, only bare essentials go into my 20 x 14 x 4.5” pochade box!

My Plein Air Art Supplies:
Oil colours: titanium white, ivory black, burnt sienna, one warm and one cool blue, yellow, red. That is it!
Canvases: sizes to fit pochade box; Ampersand Archival Claybord, Richeson Archival Panels.
Brushes: I favour a variety of angles and filberts. Palette knife.
Liquin Fine Detail in a small container with a tight lid.
Paper towel, pouch of wipes, plastic ziplock for used brushes, pencil, sketchbook.
Storm Whistle, GPS, GoPro, insect repellant and sunscreen.

Sketches and small-to-medium plein air paintings are references for larger works on canvas in the studio. They make their way consciously and subliminally into the planning and emerge in the compositions and choices of colour.

My vehicle holds everything needed for extended periods of travel across the continent; typically four to six weeks. So there is quite a lot to organize, especially if camping is part of the plan. A cooler, canned and dry foods, energy bars, fresh produce from my garden, and lots of water. Cooking supplies, pillow, sleeping bag. And of course, a storage system for wet paintings.

My storage box for wet plein air paintings
My storage box for wet plein air paintings

Working en plein air is healthy for the soul, so step outside of the busy world! If you are considering a plein air road trip, how exciting! Feel free to reach out with any questions. ~ Rosemarie

Connect with the artist at

Join PleinAir Magazine in the Smokies for the 11th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo! May 20-24, 2024 we’ll have five stages with over 80 instructors, and will be painting throughout The Great Smoky Mountains, including the Biltmore Estate.

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

And browse more free articles here at


  1. Keep on painting Rosemarie. Your work is a celebration of nature’s magnificent beauty. In a sad world you remind us of the beauty that is also always here. Thank you.

  2. I love reading about other people’s plein air gear. What a great idea to use velcro to attach your paintings! I learn something new every day. Thank you!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here