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Nelson Gallery Presents

Plein Air Workshop

a 4-hour class

for beginners to intermediate with

David Finnell

When: Saturday, May 27, 2023, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Where:  The Nelson Gallery and an outdoor location, to be announced

Email: for more info and to sign-up.

Phone:  540-817-8425 – Wednesday through Saturday, 11-5.

Price:  $80.00 – does NOT include materials

Space is limited to 8.

Overview. In this four-hour workshop, students will experience the challenge and

rewards of painting outside, from finding a likely scene to paint, figuring out the focal point of the scene, sketching rapidly the scene’s big shapes and values, transferring the sketch onto watercolor paper, readying your equipment, and then painting. David will begin the workshop with a demonstration and then invite the class to spend the rest of their time painting. He will provide personal assistance throughout the workshop. The workshop will conclude with a constructive critique of the group’s efforts.

  • Food and Drink: pack a lunch; bring bottled water and snacks.

  • Dress: wear a visored hat and comfortable clothes/shoes. Bring insect repellent and sunscreen. Bring a raincoat, just in case.

  • Inclement Weather: there is no separate rain date. If it begins to rain steadily, we can pack up and move to a plein air location that has a covered shelter and picnic tables. Country churches are excellent sources of picnic shelters, so I will have some in mind by the time of the workshop.


Supply List

§ EASEL. Plein air easels, also known as travel easels or field easels, are lightweight

and portable. If you don’t have one, a folding TV tray from home works. Some

plein air artists who choose not to use an easel balance their watercolors on their

knees or rest their watercolor paper on the ground.

§ WATER & CONTAINER. Bring water with you and something to pour it into.

I normally bring a gallon jug of water with me and use a collapsible plastic

container made for plein air painting. A plastic cup, a Mason jar, or a

Tupperware container works just as well.

§ PAINTS and PALETTE. Don’t stress about the number of colors you have or

how basic your palette might be. If you don’t have a palette, bring an enamel

butcher’s tray or a plastic plate to squeeze your paints on to. If you don’t have

tubes of paint, buy a Prang watercolor set at Dollar General; believe it or not,

those children’s watercolor sets work pretty well. My folding Holbein metal

palette has room for 24 colors, but I often confine myself to these six colors:

ultramarine blue, lemon yellow, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, raw sienna, and

Payne’s gray. Sometimes I may add Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Viridian Green,

and Quinacridone Gold to my palette.

§ BRUSHES. Sable watercolor brushes cost the earth, so unless you own some

already, bring inexpensive brushes with you. For plein air work, I depend on one

large mop brush, one round brush (size 10 or 8), one flat brush (1 inch or ¾

inch), and one rigger (Number 3) for details.

§ WATERCOLOR PAPER & BACKING BOARD. Watercolor paper comes in a

variety of sizes, textures, weights, and grades. Cheap student-grade watercolor

paper will let you down, so get something better. For plein air work, I like to use

140-pound cold-press Bockingford watercolor paper, cut into quarter sheets (11 x

15 inch). Stonehenge and New York Central are two brands of good, inexpensive

watercolor paper that come in convenient blocks. Blocks have their own rigid

backing board. If, though, I’m using a loose sheet of watercolor paper, I tape it

down to a Gatorboard or foam board, which serves as my backing.

§ THIS AND THAT. Paper towels or tissues, pencil and kneaded eraser, sketching

pad, blue painter’s tape or masking tape to attach paper to to the backing board,

small kitchen sponge, plastic trash bag for litter.

(Download class description)

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