Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cold Weather Plein Air

November is not a month you plan on taking your class outdoors, but this month has been fairly warm enough to go outdoors. With each class, I wait till the night before to decide whether I will take them out or not. Each morning, I would wait for complaints from my students if it was near or below 50 degrees. Each time, I was happy my class was hardy and no one ever complained. We were never too uncomfortable and always did some really exciting work.

I just returned from a short trip up to Ashland, New Hampshire for a quick painting trip with a few of my friends.The forecast was COLD and getting COLDER... I was apprehensive about going since I am not a spring chicken anymore. I was worried I couldn't handle the cold like I used to. But we ended up doing two paintings one day and one more the next before heading home. We dressed up with many layers and found some nice spots and hunkered down. Each day was in the low 40's and the second day was windy to boot. After each painting session, we were definitely chilled, but we got almost three hours in each time. We were somewhat happy about our outcomes...

I have found that if the weather is 40 degrees or higher, it is very manageable to paint outdoors. Unless there is wind. The wind will go through you very quickly. My limit is 20 degrees. I have found that any cold than that is not worth it to me. A friend of mine was painting in below zero weather and got frostbite. That will affect her for her whole life now. Now even though the temperature is not perfect or it may be too windy, I might paint in my car. That will help and I won't lose a great painting day.

When you plan on painting outdoors, you just have to be prepared. Many layers of clothes and good boots will get you through. Now there are heated vests, boots and gloves you can buy. Or those little heated pads you activate when you open them will help as well. The first thing to go cold on me is my hands. I can bundle up everywhere else, but if my gloves are too bulky, I can't hold my brushes. So I use a thin glove and my hands will feel it. I use latex gloves over them at times to cut any wind-chill, but it is difficult for me especially because I have arthritis in my fingers. I have a pair of Cabela boots that I can survive in below 145 degrees, so my feet are the last thing to go cold. A hot thermos doesn't hurt to warm up your insides.

When I have my students out on a cold day, I want to show them how doable 40 degrees can be. In my area, a lot of the winter is 40 degrees, so there are many opportunities to paint outdoors. I love being outdoors in the winter and it certainly makes it go by faster when you can get out there. The scenes are much more subtle and there is less details to paint with a thick snow so you can get a lot done in a little time. I am never disappointed when I go through all that trouble. The trick is to just DO IT and not think about what you have to do to prepare for it. If I think to myself that I have to put on long johns and find my boots and wear all of those layers, I will talk myself out of going every time. If I am disciplined and force myself out there, I am always glad I did it. It is so fun to see your new work next to paintings from other seasons too. I love to compare the color harmonies and differences in the values and compositions I choose.

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