folding palette and a bottle of water and a cup.
Not seen are a few pencils, a small container of
PVA glue for sticking stuff into the sketch book,
and an old hand towel.
There are all sorts of intricate folding,
collapsible devices designed to make painting
outside easier, but I prefer the simple approach
- mobile and inconspicuous. If I plan to do a lot
of walking or I am carrying a larger SLR
camera I take a smaller version of the gear above
The fact that you are working
outside poses various problems. The light you are
working in is rarely optimum and can change from
minute to minute. You have to cope with wind,
rain, dust, passing traffic, inquisitive
onlookers, over friendly animals and all sorts of
other minor inconveniences, but the thrill of
successfully executing a spontaneous 10 minute
study under these conditions makes it well worth
while. The secret is not to be too ambitious.
Pick a simple subject or if the subject is
complex, reduce it to a few simple shapes and
then add detail to these.
you are going to be painting in front of passing
critics, choose a subject you are familiar or
confident with. Sometimes concentrating on a
small detail such as a door, window, pot plant
etc. will produce a better result than trying for
something grand and panoramic.
generally prefer to do my finished work in the
studio, but love doing quick loose studies on
location. For this reason I like to work in
sketch books rather than blocks or loose sheets.
The sketch books then become a complete work in
themselves and a great stepping stone for later
sketch book pages below are a selection from an
Italian sketchbook. They range from reasonably
detailed studies to rough, abstract rambling's.
Some of the sketches become more like diary
entries, but as the book develops it becomes a
fascinating document that will trigger ideas and
bring back memories for years to come.
FOR WORKING ON LOCATION
If you will be painting in an area
where spectators are likely, you want you work to
look reasonable from start to finish. I find
drawing in a rough margin 1/2" from the edge
right around the page keeps the painting looking
reasonably tidy and contained right from the
palette sketches are great for on the spot
painting. I often use black gouache and ink
(Black or Burnt Sienna). The result is stark and
dramatic and can be animated with a small
suggestion of colour right at the end.
some time observing your subject even before
unpacking your paints. It is possible to do quite
a bit of planning before you start. Decisions
about where the centre of interest will be, how
to place the subject on the page, where to leave
empty or understated areas can all be made before
putting pencil to paper and can save you from
to work quickly. Light and shadows can change in
minutes - get as much as you can down as quickly
as possible. All the big major shapes washed in
first then go back and add the major details. The
fine detail can be put in towards the end.
be put off by passing spectators. I have produced
some tragic messes in full view of the public and
also some little watercolours I have been really
thrilled with. I find half the time I get praise
from people passing by for the rubbish and
questioned about my sanity for the paintings I am
happy with - which just goes to prove everyone
has their own opinion!
I have been haggled into selling paintings, given
advice, offered criticism and praise, told life
stories and family histories and even been forced
by a six year old kid to put his bike in a
painting. As long as you don't take it too
seriously it is great fun
around before you leave. It is easy to walk off
and leave a tube of paint, bundle of brushes or
favourite pencil behind, especially if you are in
long grass or thick bush. I have had to make
return trips to painting spots to retrieve equipment, so I now make it a habit to look
around before I leave - even if I'm sure
everything has been packed.
gather up a few things, head outside and splash
some paint around. It will make you look at
things in a whole new way!
© JOHN LOVETT
You may also be interested in a Painting On Location article on johnlovettwatercolorworkshop.com