Painting outdoors is probably the Best way to learn to paint. This is where you will learn about light and how it affects color. You will learn how to paint atmosphere and capture the mood very quickly. Each time you paint en plein air, you will learn what Not to do next time! You Will improve with each painting, it’s inevitable. There are no secrets to learning to paint beautifully. Only time put in. Actual painting. Lots of it.
I personally recommend painting outdoors on a cloudy day when you know it’s not going to rain. Check your local weather report to be sure. The reason for painting on a cloudy day is to buy you more painting time. If you were to start on a sunny day, you only have a small window of time, no more than 2 half to three hours before the light completely changes and you have to stop.
If you do paint on a sunny day, pick a scene where the interesting shadows and rim lighting becomes part of the subject matter. If you were to paint on a cloudy day, pick a scene; like the one I painted of the creek in my yard. Here the creek is the subject matter, not the light and shadows.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If you want light and shadows to feature, then paint those first and work the details last. I recommend returning to the same spot to complete if you weren’t able to capture it all on time. You don’t have to complete your painting in one sitting. There are no rules pertaining to this. It really depends how far you want to take it. If it’s a complete disaster, wipe it off and start again. Win some, Lose some. That’s life.
If you have little to no experience painting outdoors, PRACTICE on your own first, BEFORE, you decide to go out on a group Plein air excursion. Even better, take private one-on-one instruction with an experienced plein air Instructor. Now you will have some idea, and a fair chance at producing a decent painting.
Painting with a group of experienced plein air painters can be quite intimidating and very, very humbling, especially if your painting ends up looking like a dogs breakfast. Embarrassing to say the least. Practice. A lot.
Here are some tips on color mixing to get you started.