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The wisdom of crowds

The notion of painting outdoors on gray, gloomy, cold, cloudy days may not inspire much enthusiasm but it can be a great experience. When the calendar is clear and we have some time scheduled to paint outdoors but the weather forecast is not what we hoped for the wisdom of crowds -- more specifically crowds consisting of experienced plein air painters -- can offer some encouragement, inspiration and wisdom.

Gray day leaving you feeling uninspired to paint outdoors? After venting a little about the weather I was pleasantly surprised by the helpful responses I received from some fellow painting group members on Facebook. Here are some ideas that were offered by some members within the "plein air painting" group on Facebook. The wisdom of crowds can be invaluable, indeed.

Look for inspiration from those who thrive amidst these conditions

Look at the work of Sam Hyde Harris, Zorn or Andrew Wyeth. These are just a few examples of great painters who use beautiful grays in their paintings.

My favorite thing about gray days...the lighting is constant for most of the day! You can relax and not chase the light!🙂

Have a plan

Always have several places figured out to go, in case my first choices are a bust. always have a back up plan.

Have a plan ‘B’ and a plan ‘c’

Can you sit in your car, look out the window and call it plein air?

This type of solution can be really comfortable. Think of painting a small dashboard watercolor while listening to the car radio, windows open if the temps are good and voila.

For years, as a working RN, single mom of two girls and homeowner, I barely had time for painting, let alone energy . Yet I learned one thing to do that made it all happen for me to paint. I found one place, very close to home, easy to set up there. I painted it over and over, in different light, different weather/ time of day. I painted it through the seasons of growth. And I grew too. Always had “a place”and I saw more each time. My daughters would say” Moms going to her place”.I encourage you to do the same. It will nurture you like a favorite song or comfortable chair. Good luck.

I often drive and drive and find nothing. So I set a timer, driving no more than 30 min, if I don’t find the perfect place, I stop when the timer is up and try to make something out of nothing no matter where I am. Grey days can produce done beautiful moody paintings.

Focus on learning

I found out just how much the colors are mixing colors I had not used before. Different warms and cools. It is a good time to learn….especially if you have never painted those colors. Take advantage of the time for learning something new.

I found out just how much the colors are mixing colors I had not used before. Different warms and cools. It is a good time to learn….especially if you have never painted those colors. Take advantage of the time for learning something new.

Adopt the right attitude and be flexible in your thinking

Be patient. You're just learning about art and yourself. Some days I'll go out to a spot and can't see of find anything to paint, and on other day, I'll go to the exact same spot and see a potential painting wherever I look! Don't worry about it. Just know your inspiration and abilities can and will be variable so don't fight it. Although some of my better paintings were done on days I didn't want to paint initially, but proceeded anyway!!!

Be prepared mentally and physically to overcome challenges

It’s hard to find inspiration outside this time of year. In Maine- the coast is great but mostly in the summer months. Winter in Maine has a lot to see but it’s tough to unpack and sit outside in single digits with gray/white skies and paint that freezes on the brush. I have discovered the western part of the state, the lake region, with vistas of the mountains, Mt. Washington on a distant horizon, low sun, long shadows striping the snow, bare trees, all easy to get to and enjoy. Just need warm clothes and those gloves with the finger tips cut off .

Just do it

Just paint. Maybe you will learn something!

There are days like that, and as mentioned in a previous comment, there’s always something to sketch and make notes. Perhaps it will be a place in the future to paint when the sun is out or a different season.

It just may be the right time for creative rest…

If you are not feeling it, that can be the best option. Another option to consider though is to find a secluded corner someplace and paint something smaller, like a pile of rocks or a flower patch. Not every plein air piece has to be a sweeping landscape, and going small can save the day sometimes.

sometimes you just have a bad brain day and cannot Art to save your life. So leave the bag closed, look around and just sit a while in the place you thought was interesting enough to paint. Absorb and the art will happen another day. ^_^

Gratitude for all the generous responses.

The responses here remind me of a Tim Kelly quote referenced in Stephen Doherty’s book “The Art of Plein Air Painting” when he explained “never had an easier time making friends than I have within the Plein air community.” Thank you all.

I kept their identities anonymous but some are incredibly successful, well-known artists. All the responders are incredible painters.

Just in case you are interested in learning more, here is a link to the "plein air painters" Facebook group

Also here are some of the plein air paintings I've created since this response. I could not have done them without the wisdom found within the plaein air painter community.


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