This article was originally published on Drawn to High Places, visit Nikki Frumkin's original article "Painting on Your Outdoor Adventures."
Endless mountains, shimmery snow fields, the brightest of starry night skies. When I started hiking and climbing I could hardly believe the places my two feet could carry me. Separated from my climbing partners by a rope, I pushed my way through the deep darkness of our PNW mountains and wondered, “How can I capture and understand these awe-inspiring places?”
I began bringing watercolors and paper with me on my mountain adventures. Small paper tucked into my pocket so I could jot down the way the landscape made me feel. I painted from summits, ridges and alpine lakes on lunch breaks or at camp. There is magic and peace in painting these wild places we are so drawn to... And you can find it, too, with the right supplies.
Here are my four top tips for aspiring artists to get started watercolor painting outdoors.
1. Make Lots of Mistakes
Don’t worry too much about making something perfect. I find that the best paintings come from trying new things and making mistakes. When I paint outside I try to embrace the chaos that comes from painting in the wind or with cold hands. Happy accidents, right?
2. Keep it Fun
Find a balance between enjoying the place you are in and painting it. Sometimes it’s more important to lay on a warm rock and take in the view. Other times you only have a few precious minutes to pull out your supplies and paint the mountainscape. Think about capturing the energy of the place rather than drawing exactly what it looks like. If you're worried about accuracy, you can take a photo of your landscape to finish your painting later at home.
Finding supplies can be as easy as the pens in your kitchen drawer and a bit of printer paper. Try to keep it simple as you figure out what works for you.
If you want to dive right into watercolor and ink, here are some of my favorite supplies:
- A sketchbook or a scrap of watercolor paper.
- Watercolor Field Palette, which features watercolors as dried and hard in a compact pan to make for an easy and quick cleanup.
- A water brush, which self-cleans and maintains its own water supply, is a great addition to follow Leave No Trace principles.
- A few tissues to blot your painting and dry your paintbrush.
- A pencil with an eraser.
- A waterproof pen like a mircon or brush pen (the tombow brush pen is my favorite!).
4. Don’t Give Up
Painting can be challenging, especially if you are new to it. Painting outside adds an extra challenge (wind, cold, sun, mosquitos). Don’t give up if it’s hard or if it doesn’t work out the first time. Keep trying!