Plein air painting - Kathleen Kalinowski -
Kathleen Kalinowski, “Creek Bend and Red Willow,” 2019, oil, 11 x 14 in.

We recently discovered plein air artist Kathleen Kalinowski when she tagged us on Instagram. (You can tag us with #pleinairmag for a possible feature!) We invited Kathleen to share more about her work in this guest blog post.

My Favorite Winter Plein Air Painting Spot: Michigan


I have been painting en plein air for many years in my home state of Michigan, in every season, even winter. “Creek Bend and Red Willow” (above) was painted at my favorite winter painting spot, not far from where I live. The township park is accessible, has a winding creek, wooded areas, and open fields with native grasses. Year round, it is great to have a go-to place if I’m drawing a blank on where to head out to paint.

In Michigan, the winter season is so unpredictable as far as getting a sunny day. My motto is “Sun, snow, temp above 30, little wind” and I am out the door with my already packed gear. I dress for the cold with layers and very good boots, a hat, and insulated gloves. Toe and hand warmers are also needed as well as having a mat to stand on in the snow.

I throw a red sled in the back of my car to pull my gear along and keep my backpack dry while painting.

My advice for artists who want to paint outdoors in the snow is to have the paint squeezed out on the palette before you leave the studio. No need to waste time when you arrive at the site and get your hands even colder when opening paint tubes. Trouble can happen when dropping paint tubes and brushes in the snow!

Plein air painting - Kathleen Kalinowski -
Kathleen Kalinowski, “Winter’s Song,” 2017, oil, 9 x 12 in. This painting won first place and a purchase award. It remains one of my favorites!

I use Raymar panel holders, bringing one that holds three sizes of panels, so I have my choice when I arrive. If it starts snowing . . . well, then it is time to leave. One advantage of painting in cold weather is that you really don’t want to stall or second guess. Painting quickly tends to keep the painting fresh and not overworked.

My plein air work often informs my studio paintings, both in oil and pastel. I don’t bring my pastel palette outside in winter . . . just too cold on the fingers trying to hold onto the pastel sticks.

Plein air painting - Kathleen Kalinowski -
Kathleen Kalinowski, “Winter Medley,” 2019, oil, 11 x 14 in. I had to trudge up and down a steep hill to access this section of the creek, and it was so worth it! I was glad to have my red sled.

I learned a long time ago not even to bother painting outside when the temps are too cold; even the oils will stiffen up. If I use any mediums it is Gamsol and Gamblin Solvent free gel.

As the season’s snow accumulates, it can get deep and it isn’t possible to just park alongside a road and set up to paint. So I look for places with parking lots nearby. Usually a township park or conservancy site with trails works well. The cold air is invigorating and immediately awakens the senses, and with painting snow, I find it so fun that I forget about being cold. That usually only lasts for two hours, though, and then I need a cup of hot coffee.

Painting a sunset on Empire Beach in Empire, MI, 2019
Painting in the prairie at Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve, 2019, oil, 8 x 16 in.

Northern Michigan also provides a lot of inspiration and so I travel north during the summer to paint the beaches, vineyards, and orchards. I was thrilled to be juried into the northern Michigan Paint Grand Traverse Plein Air Affair for its first two years. And I recently painted during a two week Artist-in-Residency in Glen Arbor, MI. This past year I also was thrilled to paint in Provence, France, in a Julian Merrow-Smith workshop (of Postcard from Provence fame). Julian provided all of the supplies; all I needed was a hat! Now that was a painting vacation!!

Plein air at Pickerel Lake, autumn 2019, oil, 12 x 16 in.
Painting in my front yard. Kathleen Kalinowski, “Autumn’s Brilliance,” 2019, oil, 11 x 14 in.

Connect with Kathleen Kalinowski:
Website | Instagram

During the Paint Grand Traverse paint-out on Old Mission Peninsula, MI, 2019

And remember to follow us on Instagram at @pleinairmag and tag us with #pleinairmag for a chance to have your work featured!

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  1. Kathleen, I am a Michigan “wanna be” painter….when I retire! So glad to see you featured in the newsletter. Your work captures the beauty of our state in all it’s seasons. Wishing you the best in your painting career…you are inspiring me!


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