Into Plein Air


I signed up for a plein-air painting class…it was an all-day workshop by a local artist named Diane McClary. I’ve always wanted to paint out “in the open air”….. I figured if I signed up for the class it would make me get out there because it was on the calendar.

Plein Air Painting Palm Desert

@lilblueboo on Instagram

There were six of us in the class. Most of the other students are regulars.  The workshop starts at 9am at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitors Center. First there is a demonstration by Diane, she does a value study in black and white first:

Diane McClary Painter Plein Air


Then she does a version in color:

Diane McClary Painter Plein Air


I think I should start an ongoing What I Wore series. I wonder if anyone would take it seriously:


What I Wore
Free red umbrella

99 cent sunglasses to match
Camouflage hat (brandless)
Apron left over from Boo’s beauty salon party
Red Converse
White t-shirt and jeans

Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


It was fascinating to watch Diane paint. I think I learned more from her in just a few hours than I think I ever learned in my studio art classes in college. She talked us through every step and how she chose her colors for mixing etc.

Plein Air Painting at the Santa Rosa Visitors Center


The color recipes were very helpful, like mixing black and yellow to get green? That is just not intuitive unless you see someone do it:


I love the plain air easel and palette.  It folds up and the paints will stay workable for a while. That makes things so much easier.  Diane has a guide to placing your paint (on the supply list) on her website here.

Plein Air Field Easel


Diane’s finished painting:

@lilblueboo on Instagram


We were positioned right at the trail head so we saw lots of hikers:


After lunch it was our turn to paint. Everyone else did a black and white version first.  I like to get straight to the good stuff…I skipped that part.  As Diane approached my painting I warned her that I was breaking the rules. She said it didn’t matter as long as I was having fun.



Here I am about halfway through:



My finished painting. If you squint your eyes a LOT it kind of looks like a landscape right?


If you are in the desert area, check out Diane’s Workshop schedule: both in studio and plein air. She does offer a separate price for her to provide all the supplies if you want to try it out before making a large investment in paint and a field easel.  Since we are moving I didn’t want to stock up on supplies that would just have to be trekked cross country in 2 months.

If you aren’t in the desert, see if you can find a workshop in your area. There are groups all over the place.

I think painting outside in nature is something Boo would love to do in the NC mountains.  I have a mini watercolor “pocket box” set that would be perfect for quick trips.

Windsor & Newton Pocket Box Sets
Canson Block of 4×6 Watercolor sheets

Pocket Box Travel Watercolors - For painting on the go!

Maybe we’ll try it out before we leave the desert.

Anyone into drawing/sketching/painting on the go?


Supplies we used for Plein Air painting:

Julian “Field” Easel – Has telescoping legs and folds up for easy carrying by the strap
Poppy Seed Oil – Medium for paints, very little needed
Natural Turpenoid – For cleaning brushes
9×12 Primed Panels – or you can use canvas as well
Filbert Brushes
Oil Paints








  1. Tessa says

    I love my koi travel watercolor set. It is extremly portable, and even has a water brush, so I’m always set to paint on the go. The NC mountains have so many different colors depending where you are and the time of day and the time of year, it will be a fun place for you two to paint together.

  2. says

    That looks like such a wonderful time. I’ve never painted before but i love the idea of doing it outside. I’ll have to try one of these days!
    Can’t wait to see your NC mountains.

  3. heather says

    Love the idea of the What I Wore post, totally made me laugh! I feel the same way most days!

  4. Cami says

    That class looks so fun! I have a set of travel water colors that I carry with me everywhere. I’m so much more likely to paint if the supplies is right there when I need it. Of course, people always give me weird looks for lugging a huge bag of art supplies everywhere!

  5. Micah says

    It cut me off because it didn’t like my emoticon ;). Anyway that was awesome. And I prefer yours to theirs any day :)