Bellingham Plein Air Paint Out, 2017

Artwork, Plein Air, September 2017

Mid September I participated in the 2017 Plein Air Paint Out in Bellingham, WA. It was hosted by the viviacious, vibrant artist, Trish Harding. I believe there were around 15 artists. It was a two day event, I painted for both mornings but family commitments had me headed home by noon or so. I painted Five paintings total, but only two made the cut. The PAPO show will open First Friday in October. If you are in the area, come on by! More info soon, here and on FB.



Rocket Donuts, 12″x6″ Oil on MDF Panel

This being my first Bellingham paint out, I was drawn to the cool Rocket outside of the local Rocket Donut Shop. Great donuts, btw. Apparently EVERYONE has painted this rocket. Seriously, how could I resist?


“Clepto” Was Here, 5″x4″ Oils on canvasboard

We were encouraged to paint anything along Holly Street, a main commercial street in Bellingham, with charming shops and older buildings. This graffiti was on the side wall of a frame shop, surrounded by weeds and neglect. In order to paint it I stood in a small strip of wild sweet peas and most likely a lot of dog poop. The things we do for an interesting image. “Clepto”‘s graffiti is not uncommon – you can look him/her up on google. I liked the contrast of the brick, chipped paint and the smooth funky writing.





The Artist in Summer – Plein Air calling

Artwork, Plein Air

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.