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Plein Air Musings, Issue 2 -- Painting in Winter
February 15, 2014
Hi Fabulous Painters!

Plein Air Painting in Winter - How Not to Freeze

I can't believe a whole month has already gone by since our first newsletter went out on January 15. Winter can be a really challenging time for us plein air painting addicts due to the bad weather, lack of light and generally more resistance to going out and freezing ourselves in the name of ART.

Winter can also be a wonderful time to process what we have learned from painting outdoors during the warmer months. A time to work on that long thought about studio painting from a favorite plein air study perhaps, a time to re-organize our studios and recycle/get rid of, a lot of failed paintings. A time to start marketing our art, enter shows and events, work on our art websites, the list goes on and on.

In the end we still need to keep on practicing our art and craft by painting from life as much as possible. I am not a fan of painting from photographs. I believe that setting up a still life, painting a posed model (with or without cloths), painting your pets as they sleep, or doing a painting looking out of a window is far more valuable and will keep us in practice for plein air when the weather improves.

Plein air painting can be done inside a car - I like to sit in the passenger seat or the tailgate, use a small panel and have my cigar box pochade on my lap. This works quite well but can be risky for the car upholstery! Anyway you do it, just keep the brush wet and keep painting. Soon we will be out there again with the sun and wind and the bird song.

Review of Strada Plein Air Easel System

This is a review of a new plein air easel, The Strada. The Strada easel was designed by a plein air painter and is one of the most elegant, functional and lightweight outdoor easels out there. It is very similar in concept to the Open Box M but with different and more expansive panel holding capabilities. It is made of metal not wood. The Easel is made in America.

The Strada clips onto a tripod similar to others out there except that the recommended tripod (Manfrotto 190L) gives really good stability in the wind and on the uneven terrain we often encounter while out plein air painting.

Thanks to Coraly Hanson and Maureen Serafini for sharing their experiences with the Strada. Both artists are overwhelmingly positive about their new easels and enjoy painting with them. They report that the versatile nature of this easel makes it great to work with and very stable in the wind. Also, there is a lot of space for color mixing what with the extra “wings” that attach to each side of the main box. These side trays can be purchased for $25.00 each. Maureen adds "the heavy plastic tray makes cleanup a snap (even if you forget to clean up for a couple of days, that wouldn't be me:) )"

Here are some technical specifics about the Strada Easel:

Price - $299.00 for the basic set up – Side trays are $25.00 each and measure 7.5” x 10.5” (we recommend getting 2 of these side trays) – they give so much extra space for paint, brushes or even mixing paint.

Size: 11” x 14” recessed palette – plenty of room to mix paint.

Weight: Weights just 4 lbs and 1.5” thick – slips easily into your pack

Aluminum body is strong and durable

The Strada Easel Company reports that additional size selections will soon be available.

For more in depth information about the Strada easel, go to:

The Limited Color Palette

As with composition, the solution to chaos and busyness of the color palette is to simplify. Create a Haiku of color – a Tweet with color. A reduction of possibilities adds up to a world of subtle passages that can be infinitely more beguiling that being bludgeoned with screaming pigment all over the place. Winter is a great time for greys and limited palette painting, why not take advantage of what we can see out the window and learn to enjoy those soft and subtle greys.

Here are some starting points for experimenting with the Limited Palette. A playful jumping off point – you can then begin to realize what an amazing variety of colors can be created with just 3 or 4 to start with.

#1 – Cadmium Yellow Light - Fire Red – Phthalo Green/Blue + White & Black

#2 – Yellow Ochre – Alizarin Crimson – Ultramarine Blue + White & Black

#3 – Hansa Yellow Orange - Quinacridone Violet (Red-Violet) – Phthalo Green/Blue + White & Black

#4 – Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Red Medium + White & Black.

That's it for this month. If you have any subjects you would like to see covered in future issues, please contact me. Keep the brush wet and Enjoy! Suzanne Elliott

Editor/Publisher of

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