The Outdoor Painting Class

by Lisa

       In my painting class yesterday, I decided to introduce the students to outdoor painting. I have done this exercise many times before, using the Lois Griffel impressionist technique for painting color blocks so that the students come to understand about creating luminosity of color. This time I decided to let the students to pick any colorful object from the prop department since they did not seem too enthused by the plain blocks. They got real creative.

       Yesterday was a good example of how not to go about teaching this. Here are the top ten things to remember for next time:

1. Don’t put the students outside. If you can have them paint from the comfort of an interior room with a view it is much better.

2. If you have to put them outside, make sure they are not in the sun (provide fans) or in the shade (provided propane heaters).

3. Make sure the wind is not blowing.

4. Clear all mud around the students because they will not enjoy standing in it.

5. Make sure you have prepared the students for this a week in advance so they show up with the proper canvas, palette knives, hats, shoes, sunscreen, and anything else that you will personally have to scramble to provide to make the experience a success and not a total failure.

6. Do not assume they know how to ice a cake when telling them to use the palette knife. DO A DEMONSTRATION.

7. Make sure a few students stay inside the building to paint so that you can take refuge from the storm.

8. Simplify the subject. The technique is complicated enough, and you want to minimize not maximize whining.

9. Make sure all students are in a good frame of mind before asking them to do this. If they have just returned from a long trip, are mad at their husbands, kicked the dog before arriving, are PMS-y, leave them inside to paint.

…and the number one top ten thing to remember when teaching an outdoor introduction to painting class is:

10. DON’T DO IT…

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This entry was posted in Art Instruction, Humor, Painting, Plein Air. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Outdoor Painting Class

  1. You’ve about got all of the top reasons covered here Lisa. I still like taking a class outside for a few good laughs. I usually tell them to bring as much stuff as they can carry in three or four trips back to the car, just in case they might need something.

  2. wrjones says:

    I think a good variation of this study might be to first paint the blocks indoors then the exact same setup outdoors and compare the two. Before starting to paint have each student mix all the colors they will use. Then with simple blocks the painting time will be minimal and you can check before hand that they are on the right track.

  3. Susan Carlin says:

    You got my day started off laughing.. thanks!

  4. I found out a few years ago that painting en plein air means that I’ll:
    1. be alternately frozen and roasted
    2. hungry and thirsty
    3. need a bathroom
    4. wear the wrong shoes
    5. be devoured by mosquitoes
    6. get sunburned or frostbitten (see #1)
    7. probably forget supplies or
    8. carry too much stuff and hurt my shoulder
    9. get a painting going & dark clouds will move in
    10. forget my raincoat/jacket (see #6)
    11. get blisters (see #4)
    12. lose something

    One late afternoon in the Tetons, I hiked back to my car after painting and loaded everything up (I thought). I was very tired and hungry, but kept getting a nagging feeling on the hour drive back to the motel that I had forgotten something.

    Back at the motel, I unloaded my camera and my wet painting. Except my wet painting wasn’t there in the back of the car. I had one of those hit yourself in the forehead moments when I realized I’d set the wet painting from my afternoon’s efforts on the top of my car while I loaded up everything (else).

    So…. no supper for me anytime right away. I headed back to the park to my painting spot. By then it was getting dark so I was going pretty slow, looking for a wet painting in the road somewhere.

    Almost all the way back, there it was, practically on the center line, butter side down, just lying there. It actually hadn’t been damaged too much… just a few skids from the road. I felt like the shepherd who went looking for the lost sheep and rejoiced when it was found.

  5. wrjones says:

    Diana, that story had me in tears, but with the happy ending I was able to pull myself together. Excellent tale.

  6. lbtowers says:

    I agree Diana, great tale of woe! Believe it or not, what crossed my mind first when you said you went back was “wonder how much gas that cost her”!

  7. Rick Nilson says:

    I guess this is part of the reason why teacher’s get the big buck$.

  8. Rog Lyngaas says:

    My mentor, Fred Choate, teaches a method that lends itself to eventually outdoor painting. But notice, I say eventually. Most students do not venture, even though they have the training and the talent.

    I am thinking if I ever teach, I will be insisting on the use of a super big tube of CAD RED, just to make sure the whole damn spectrum is used.

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