Below are a few plein air pieces from the island of Korčula, on the Dalmatian Coast in Southern Croatia.

Plein air painting of a pizzeria on korcula, croatia

Pizzeria on Korčula. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air sketch of laundry blowing in the wind.

Laundry in the Wind, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a boat crane on Korcula island.

Boat Crane, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of boats on the island of Korcula, Croatia.

Late Afternoon on Korčula. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a doorway on Korcula.

Doorway, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I also worked on a larger piece en plein air, but it needs some polish still before I post a photo. Next year my plan is to park myself for a couple of months on these islands to get more larger plein air work done.

AITO 2013 in Wexford, Ireland

plein air painting of the harbor in Slade, Ireland

The Harbor at Slade. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Here are some of the sketches from the last week at the 2013 Art in the Open Festival in Wexford, Ireland. I would highly recommend the festival to anyone interested in plein air painting with some of the friendliest people in the world. This was my second year participating and again the organisers had found some great locations for the paint-outs over the course of the week. There was even sun most of the time this year.

plein air sketch of a boat in Slade

Boat on the Road, Slade. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting from Newtownbarry House

The Sunken Garden, Newtownbarry House, Bunclody

plein air painting of the stables at Newtownbarry House

The Stables at Newtownbarry House. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Painting of musicians in a pub in Ireland

Musicians at the T. Morris Pub in Wexford. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

I love traditional music as much as traditional art. The pub where all the painters meet in the evenings, T. Morris has great musicians playing during the week. The above sketch I did one evening, painting alongside Antti Routiola and Leon Holmes. I was working under an orange light, so the painting came out a bit blue. Here is a short video of part of it, to give a feel for the scene:

plein air sketch of Ballyhack, Ireland

Boat in Ballyhack. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air sketch of an old tractor in Ireland.

The Old Tractor. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Landscape painting of an oak tree near Ballymore.

Oak Tree, Ballymore. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of wheat fields near hook head.

Wheat Field, Hook Head. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

This last one is of a very picturesque old sheep dog.

Nelly. 18 x 25 cm, oil on linen.

Nelly. 18 x 25 cm, oil on linen.

Rocco says ‘hi’.

The Tuscan Summer

Plein air painting of a woman reading under an olive tree in Chianti.

Tina Reading under an Olive Tree. 110 cm x 90 cm, oil on linen.

Here are a few paintings from the last week in Tuscany. I did this large portrait of my wife reading under an olive tree. Being able to get far back is really great for painting portraits, even outside (I’ve discussed this before).

Here was the set-up:

Plein air portraiture in Chianti

Plein air portraiture in the Tuscan countryside.

As idyllic as it looks, it was ridiculously hot. After the last four hour midday session I got sick from the heat and had cold sweats, nausea and a headache. An occupational hazard.

These were some of the smaller sketches:

Plein air cloud studies from the Tuscan countryside.

Three Tuscan Cloud Studies. 20 x 14 cm ea.

Plein air sketch of laundry and lemon trees, Tuscany.

Laundry and Lemon Trees. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air sketch of hay bales along a road in Chianti

Hay Bales along the Road, Noce. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Pistoletto's sculpture at Porta Romana

Pistoletto’s “Headache” at Porta Romana, 20 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The above painting went face-down into the dirt when the dog pulled the easel over, hence the debris. Another occupational hazard. The trick to getting much of the dirt or sand out is to let the painting dry completely, then clean it.

Plein air painting of piazza Santo Spirito, Florence

Piazza Santo Spirito on a Sunday in July. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Il Meteo (.it)

Knowing what the weather will do is always very important for the plein air painter, so I thought I would throw out a quick plug for my favorite meteorology website: Il meteo.

I don’t know where they get their data from, but it has worked great for me in Italy, Croatia, Holland, Ireland and California over the past few years. I check it always before deciding what and where to paint.
il meteo weather forecasting

They say little children who lie grow up to be meteorologists, but twice I’ve won bets when fellow painters didn’t believe my weather prediction source could be so accurate.

It can be set to various languages, and clicking on the times on the left will give an hour by hour prediction, which can be very useful.

I’d be curious what other websites artists use as well.

Paintings from a Weekend in Maastricht

Here are a few plein air paintings from this past weekend in Maastricht. I lived there for a few months last year and you can see all the sketches from the period here.

Painting (schilderij) of the Vrouweplein in Maastricht

The End of Saturday’s Shopping, Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, Maastricht. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

My gallerist once asked me why I often paint fishermen. The fact is they stand still for a very long time. I asked this gentleman if I could paint him before I started.

Painting of the Stadspark in Maastricht

Fisherman in the Stadspark, Maastricht. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Sunday mornings are always a great time to paint in cities. There is never anyone around.

Painting of the Boschstraat, Maastricht.

Sunday Morning on the Boschstraat. 35 x 25 cm, oil on linen.

It’s a very painting-friendly city to work in. The Dutch are polite and complimentary but leave you your space. This sketch was from the very crowded market. I set up next to a pole so as to stay out of people’s path.

Plein air landscape of a herring stand in Maastricht.

Nieuwe Haring (unfinished). 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Traveling with Wet Paintings Using a Wine Cork

This is the lightweight, and dirt cheap method I use for traveling with wet oil paintings on panel. I find the specifically designed wet-painting carriers add too much weight, especially if you have 20 or more freshly painted panels to pack, plus no one in Europe makes them for panels cut in centimeters. Like my cigar-box, it’s not my idea, and I can’t remember where I learned it.
traveling with wet paintings

You’ll need a wine cork, a knife or x-acto blade, masking or sellotape, and two or more panels of the same size. (Sometimes finding a wine cork isn’t as easy as it sounds. In Myanmar for example it took us forever to find decent wine, luckily there is a German producing some great stuff in the hills north of Inle lake).

traveling with wet oil paintings

First, I cut the cork into slices about the width of a toothpick, then cut those into halves (if I don’t have a lot of cork, slicing into quarters will work too). I put those into the corners of one wet panel, then put a second panel on top, with the two wet paintings facing each other. If the panels are flexible or I’m worried they’ll get pushed together, I’ll put another small piece of cork in the middle of the paintings – trying to make sure it wont ruin something important. Cork works great as it’s soft enough to not damage the board, but hard enough to keep the panels separate. Metal objects (coins or metal washers) can leave an indent in the panel.

cork with paintings
I then tape the corners of the panels together as tightly as possible so the cork doesn’t slide around. If I have an odd number of boards, three can be taped together as the last group.

Obviously for this system I need multiple boards of the same size. I also have to repaint the corners after the cork is removed, but there shouldn’t be anything important painted in the corners anyways.

At any rate it’s a cheap and easy way to move around with wet paintings without adding weight to your set-up.

Stockholm Sketches

Oil painting of Slälagårdsgatan street in Stockholm

Slälagårdsgatan, Stockholm. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

After three weeks of painting in Norway and Sweden, I was pretty exhausted in my last stop of Stockholm.

Sunday Fishermen with the City Hall, Stockholm

Sunday Fishermen with the City Hall, Stockholm. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

As a plein air painter I often feel guilty if I see a great subject for a painting and then don’t paint it for whatever reason. With the 19 hour days they have in Scandinavian in the summer it is very difficult to paint the whole time though, so one ends up feeling guilty a lot.

Painting of the Stortorget, Stockholm

The Stortorget. 30 x 20 cm, oil on linen.

Oil painting of a cafe on the Riddarholmen, Stockholm, Sweden

Cafe on the Riddarholmen. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

En Plein Air on Lake Siljan, Dalarna County, Sweden

Plein air landscape painting of a Sawmill near Laknäs, Sweden.

Sawmill, Laknäs. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

After struggling with the majesty of the Norwegian fjords, the Swedish countryside around the Siljan Lake in Dalarna county was pretty easy painting. The parts of Sweden I saw in the past ten days were all exceedingly picturesque. Small farms and lots of very pretty lakes and fields.

Plein air landscape painting of the parking lot at the Tällberg Forum

The Parking Lot at the Tällberg Forum. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of the Church at Rättvik.

The Church at Rättvik. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

I was staying in a cabin in the village of Tällberg with my student Louis Ryan. We were shown around a bit by the local talent Anders Ståhl, and the weather was beautiful for much of the time.

Plein air landscape painting of a field above Lake Siljan, Dalarna, Sweden.

Above Lake Siljan. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Oil painting of the bell tower in Mora, Sweden.

The Bell Tower at Mora. 30 x 20 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Birch Trees on the Banks of Lake Siljan, Sweden.

Birch Trees on the Banks of Lake Siljan. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.


Plein air landscape painting of Preparing the Maypole for midsummer in Sweden.

Preparing the Maypole. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Landscape painting of the June Gloom, Tällberg.

June Gloom, Tällberg. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of the Last Light in Rättvik.

Last Light, Rättvik. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.


Backpacks and Jackets

Two things plein air painters use a lot are a backpack and a good jacket. I personally get very attached to my few possessions, and I like it when they last a long time.

plein air landscape painting in Telemark, Norway.

My set-up in Telemark, Norway

Reload Bags.

The backpacks and messenger bags I’ve been using over the years have fallen apart pretty quickly, so after the last one went I decided to spend a bit more for a brand recommended on reddit’s ‘buy-it-for-life’ subreddit. I went with the Small Flight Pack from Reload Bags in Philadelphia. They are expensive, but as someone who also creates hand-made works of art to be sold at a premium, I don’t mind paying for quality.

Reload bag for plein air landscape painting.

My cigar box in the outside pocket.

It’s a beautiful bag to look at. By far the nicest one I’ve ever used. If anyone out there uses a Partagás cigar box for their palette as I do, the box fits perfectly in the outside pocket. One side pocket works great for my brushes, held at the top by a strap for a yoga mat. The other side pocket holds my medium and turpentine bottles, as well as pencils and palette knives. I like having it all open and easy to reach when it’s hung from my easel. A metal tripod easel can also be held with the strap from the side with the bottles if I’m hiking.

Plein air landscape painting in Telemark, Norway.

Another plein air location in Norway.

Overall it’s a great bag so far. My only complaint is the inside pocket could be a bit bigger. It will barely hold my small moleskin sketchbook. I assume it’s for a cellphone?

Next I need to make a wet-painting holder to put inside. Something with foam – cheap and simple. I saw Marc Hanson had a clever looking one he posted to Facebook earlier this year.

Patagonia Jackets.

Plein air painting in a Patagonia jacket in London.

Painting in the rain in London.

Fourteen years ago I bought a Patagonia jacket in New York. I’ve worn it pretty much every day in the Spring and Fall ever since. It’s been a fantastic jacket for traveling as it breaths beautifully when it’s hot out, but keeps me really warm when it cools down, and I’ve slept comfortably in it on a few occasions. Once in India we had to take a night train in a windowless third class compartment through the desert in Northern Rajasthan at night. I slept like a baby in the wind and cold while my painting companions were freezing.

Plein air landscape painting in a Patagonia jacket, Big Sur, California.

Painting in the sun and wind in Big Sur, California.

Patagonia Jackets also have a lifetime guarantee. This year when I went into a store and asked about getting the worn collar replaced they said they no longer had that material but they would give me the full 1999 retail value of my jacket off of anything in the store. Pretty good deal.

It’s a company that takes it’s commitment to environmental issues seriously, and I try to support that when I can.

The Wedding Painter

Oil painting of a wedding ceremony in Sweden.

Wedding Sketch #1 (The Ceremony). 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

This is an idea I’ve wanted to try for a while. Everyone knows that 150 years ago, painters had all the image-making gigs. Today those have all gone to photographers, but one thought I’ve often had at outdoor weddings is that it would be a great occasion for a plein air painter. They can be very picturesque events. Also, since often a great deal of effort goes into making memories of the event for the couple, what better way than non-fugitive paints on oil-primed linen which will last a thousand years while decorating their decedents’ walls?

Oil painting of a wedding in Sweden.

Wedding Sketch #2 (Afternoon Coffee). 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

I’m sure this has been done before, but at a couple of friends’ wedding this weekend I tried batting out some small sketches. It was interesting trying to set up and predict where everything would happen. Also, many of the situations are fleeting and the artist has to work fast (or tell people to pose).

I only got a couple of sketches done, but it was a fun experiment nonetheless. Plus it was the first time I’ve painted in a suit and tie.

The Wedding Painter

The Wedding Painter.