5 Reasons Why Every Plein Air Painter Needs A Painting Buddy

By Janet Bonneau in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

If you’re a plein air painter and you don’t paint regularly with a buddy, then I encourage you to call up your artist friends and set a date for your next excursion.

Painting with other artists offers opportunities to hone your skills, and will most likely also deepen your commitment to creating art. Plus, there are many more benefits of spending a day outside in the fellowship of other painters.


Here are my top 5 reasons why every outdoor painter needs a painting buddy:

1. You’ll be more motivated to paint

Do you sometimes start the day with good intentions for plein air painting but find yourself procrastinating? Excuses like, “The car isn’t packed,” or, “It’s too hot out today,” make drifting into your studio seem like the path of least resistance.

However, if you’ve got plein air friends waiting for you, you’ve got an appointment you can’t break. They’ll keep you motivated, on time, and will even share paint with you. They can also help brainstorm new places to paint that you may not have thought of on your own.

2. There’s safety in numbers

Oftentimes the most beautiful and interesting scenes are also quite remote. On a recent plein air excursion into the countryside, my car broke down and my cell phone had no service. My painting friend lent me his truck and cell phone so I could drive into the local village where there was service and call for a tow.

Similarly, if you get hurt or are confronted by a questionable person along your hiking trail, then you would be a lot better off having several painting buddies with you.

3. It’ll build your confidence

Maybe you’ve been shy about painting in front of other artists in the past—well here’s your chance to gain some confidence!

Groups of plein air painters are usually a mixture of all skill levels and no one is there to critique you. Everyone is welcome, and it’s definitely not a competition. Painting with your buddies on a regular basis will help you lose that self-consciousness at the easel, and replace it with the joy of sharing your art at the end of the day.

4. You’ll learn just by watching

You can always learn something new by watching someone else. Take a break from your own easel and spend some time just watching your fellow artists at work.

Experienced artists are usually happy to share their knowledge with you. Conversations about technique, composition, value, and color will arise nearly every time as you watch someone else demonstrate their way of handling a brush and paint.

5. You can challenge each other

Painting exercises aren’t just for the studio. Plein air painting offers a great opportunity to try out different themes and ideas while working directly from nature.

One common challenge in our painting group is the “mileage” limit. You and your painting buddy decide ahead of time how many miles to drive before stopping to paint, no matter where you are. This exercise imposes a limit on trying to find the “perfect composition.” It prompts you to instead observe each landscape as simple shapes, forms and values.

Another painting exercise is the “time limit.” The object is to paint one subject over several times with a timer set for 15-30 minutes per painting. (Keep your paintings small! 5×7 or 8×10 are good sizes.) This forces you to paint quickly and intuitively.

Here are two small paintings I created while doing this exercise:


Old Red Shed – 8×10 oil on board


Red Shed with Trees – 8×10 oil on board

Lastly, it goes without saying that painting outdoors all day with a friend is just plain fun! Get your buddies on the phone and get started!

For more from Janet Bonneau, visit VermontPleinAir.com.


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