The Artist in Summer – Plein Air calling

My friend Aaron Johnson and me trying to paint in the rain. Wasem Vineyard, WA

Spring has sprung here in the Pacific Northwest. The weather warmed up enough for me to venture out painting outdoors (aka plein air). My husband and I have been discovering and hiking the Whidbey/Anacortes/Skagit area since we arrived last September – mostly to tire out our active 3 year old. We thoroughly enjoy discovering all the amazing State Parks that dot this area. We see bald eagles, deer, rabbits, the occasional chicken, frigate birds, ducks, seals, even some small dolphins. Such an amazing area. And a year pass is only $30! (consider it’s $10/day otherwise, a year pass is a steal!)

My Plein Air paintings done in Early Spring 2017

A mutual friend introduced me to LaConner artist Nicolette Harrington. She is a painter/teacher as well and she is my plein air painting buddy! We usually meet up once on the weekend, and I often rely on her location choices, since she has lived in the area for at least the past 25 years. It’s fun to go with someone who knows the local secret spots! The great thing about the parks out here is you can literally park your car, walk 10 feet and start painting. Or you can trek a little ways onto the trail and be just as rewarded by the view. It just depends how far you are willing to go.

Lone Tree Point, View from Kukatali Reserve, LaConner WA

I have my gear streamlined quite a bit now. I don’t “pimp my ride” but I LOVE finding all the cool gadgets for plein air! In comparison my studio set up is super simple. I think the challenge of downsizing/condensing is part of the thrill of plein air painting – the lighter the load, the more exploring you can do. Also, setup/breakdown is quick.

So here’s my current set up:

PaintBox (or “pochade”) – I have a couple different options, and I have listed the websites at the end of this post. I use the Guerilla Painter’s ThumBox (6″x8″ish) with an insert in case I want to go larger (up to 8×10 wooo!). The cool thing is that this box holds your paints under the palette.  I just started using Joshua Been’s “Fly On The Wall” compact pochade box (approx 8x8x1.5 closed). He updated the Fly recently, making it even more efficient.  I also have Stephen Coulter’s plein air set up – though I mostly use the panel holder.  All attach to a camera tripod mount/screw.


Tripod: ManfrotoTripod

– At this point I have two camera tripods. One that came with the Stephen Coulter package – nice, sturdy, pretty light. Right now I am in love with a new tripod by Manfroto, with a swivelball head mount – you screw your pochade box/panel holder onto it. It weighs only 2 pounds! Caveat – don’t weigh it down a lot, also only extends to 40″. Neither is a problem for me, since I am 5’2″. But now ya know.







Paints – ideally up to 6 tubes, small if possible. But, that’s up to you. 😉 I just tried out Joshua Been’s limited palette – TW, CAD Y, CAD R, ULT B, BS. I couldn’t help but add Aliz C, and he even added Cerulean B. Inn plein air, less is more… a limited palette is your friend. 😉

Martha’s Beach, LaConner, WA, 4×5 oil on canvasboard

Brushes – whatever you like! I usually have 6 or 7, various sizes. Filberts are my fave, but I am starting to really like flats.

Medium – make sure you have your medium in a shatterproof/leakproof container! Gamsol is great, or a 50/50 mix linseed/gamsol, or the wonderful gel mediums like liquin/neomeglip…

Odds & Ends –

Paper towels (Viva is my personal fave, because I am a paper towel snob) I tear off 3-4 full size sheets and fold them. Easier to pack. Some artists like to bring full/partial rolls.

WATER! Sunhat/baseball cap, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, Cell phone, snacks, sketchbook/pencil (optional) 1or2 large ziploc bags, or a couple plastic shopping bags to hold your trash. Plastic pencil box to hold paints/short brushes. Wet Wipes are also very useful if you have space.

And some other cool stuff – composition cards etc. Hover over images for descriptions


And, in closing…

You have to start somewhere! My very first plein air – done in 2011ish -thanks to Martha Jordan & the Winslow Art Center, Bainbridge Island and  Instructor Jim Lamb. I was terrified of landscape painting before this workshop. Now, I might be slinging paint, some days are better than others, but the experience is always worth it.


Here are some links where you can start your plein air adventure –

Pochade/Paintbox options – All are excellent. I recommend you find something that works for you. There are literally dozens of options out there. Most of these will sell packages that include the tripod.

Paint, Brushes etc etc –  is the go-to online spot. Or your local art store. My favorite paint brands? Right now I am loving Gamblin and M Graham. Excellent color.






30 Owl Paintings & Time Management with a 3 year old

I finished my last set of 30 Paintings – A Parliament of Owls, last month. Right now, I’m finishing off a couple commissions before launching into the next couple projects. If I am able to follow through on my projects, I will have painted around 100 small paintings (6×6 or smaller) this year. Not including commissions.

There are over 200 varieties of owls. I painted 30 6″x6″ oil paintings of a handful of owl species. This time, I decided to handpaint the backgrounds – something I haven’t done in a while, because, though I LOVE pattern, I DON’T love painting pattern. I really enjoyed combining the colors and patterns with the owls, and I think I accomplished what I wanted to do – create works that weren’t just studies of owls. I am quite pleased with the results.

I have been a part of a couple types of “Art Challenges” over the past decade, usually involving a finite amount of time (30 days, 15 days) to create x number of artworks. I found in the more recent challenges, I was very interested in developing Series/Bodies of work, rather than a smorgasborg of different images. Painting in series helps me develop ideas, and help me power through the days when I really don’t want to go into the studio.

PicMonkey Collage

If you are interested making one of these paintings yours, please email me. $100 each. ( All paintings are unframed, unless requested.

When do I find the time? Well, I guess I just have had to buckle down and paint when I find the time. I am a new-ish mom – Penelope is three and a half now. We are able to afford daycare, so she goes for about 6.5 hours, four days a week. The commute, though, is a doozie – approx 45 min each way. So I lose at least an hour and a half driving. And since my husband works 4/10h days, I am usually in charge of dinner, groceries, household errands. So realistically, IF I do get into the studio, it’s around 3-4 hours of painting time. But, if I get my household things done efficiently, it can be up to 5 1/2 hours.

I used to paint at night for a couple hours but Penelope has been going through a transition phase, waking up around 2am or so and coming into our room. During the week I am the one in charge of sheperding her back to bed. Because I like to sleep, I tend to go to sleep around 9:30, and wait for the inevitable pitter patter of little feet tearing across the length of the house (she’s terrified of the dark, but more terrified of being alone). Yes, we could do the cry-it-out method. It could happen.

So, I do my very, very best to stick to “the Plan” – come home from dropping Penelope at daycare, and head into the studio, paint until I have to leave to pick her up. I sometimes leave NPR on, or more often, put on a podcast or an Audible selection. I use the ToDoist App to list what I need to do – because I LOVE ticking off checklists. Seriously, I really do.

I haven’t started the next series yet – I’m slowing down a little, but it’s happening. (Hint -Chicks,Bunnies, Flowers) Maybe Penelope will start sleeping through the night again.


Moon Chickens Poster!

Year of The Rooster Poster

It’s here! A gorgeous, 18″X24″ poster of my 31 Chicken paintings created in January 2017. $15 plus shipping. I LOVE it. I framed two – one for my home, one for my husbands office. My parents ordered 10, and 6 were given away at their Chinese New Year Dinner.

The poster was designed by my friend, Kelsey Grafton – her company is Blue Sky Mondays.

Order yours today – please contact me at:

The 31 Chickens for 2017 Year of The Rooster

During the month of January I painted 31 paintings of Chickens. All are 5x5inches on panel. The theme was the Celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year – Year of the Rooster. I matched my chickens with the Phases of the Moon during January.

You can see the full set on my FaceBook Page – Dana Aldis Studio. (only the first 28 are pictured above)

In late August 2016 my little family made a move back to the west side of Washington State. We settled in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. It’s been a good move. The past year was hectic for me. I was teaching more than ever and trying to create for two art shows, as well as balance family life with a very active toddler. I hope I am able to post more regularly to this blog this year, and share with you my adventures on the west side.


Flash Sale! $35 or less!

I’m de-stashing my artwork – small pieces that I have been hanging on to for a while – from still life to plein air. All oils on panel of some kind. If you are interested in purchasing please contact me – either in a comment or message me at my Face Book page, Dana Aldis Studio. Thanks for your support, enjoy!