Plein Air Painting For Noobs: Beginner Watercolor Landscape Painting | Meg Viola | Skillshare

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Plein Air Painting For Noobs: Beginner Watercolor Landscape Painting

teacher avatar Meg Viola, Art n good feelings

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. 1 Intro

    • 2. Materials & Class project

    • 3. Laws of Noobism

    • 4. Practice Project 1

    • 5. Practice Project 2

    • 6. Stuff To Note

    • 7. Final Painting

    • 8. Outro

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About This Class

In this class I will walk you through how to get started with outdoor watercolor landscape painting. No prior knowledge of watercolor painting or landscapes is required for this very beginner friendly class. 

If you've ever seen a beautiful landscape and thought "wow I wish I could paint that!" Then this class is for you!! By the time you've completed this class, you will have a new hobby that gets you outside with your paints and connects you more with the landscapes around you. 

I provide all the tips and tricks I have gathered that brought me from a total noob, to being able to capture landscapes in watercolor! I will walk you through 2 practice exercises to get you loosened up and build your confidence, then we will head outside to do some real plein air painting

I am a huge lover of the outdoors, and plein air painting has given me a way to connect my love of nature with my passion for art. It gives me something to do when I'm sitting around a campsite, it's a perfect excuse to take a break during a hike to really soak up a view, and it gives me a great incentive to travel more to see new landscapes ripe for painting! 

I just know you're going to love it

Here are the materials you'll need:

  1. Watercolor Paints ready for Travel
  2. Pallet (if not attached to your paints)
  3. Watercolor Paper with the edges taped off
  4. Brushes (small, med, lrg)
  5. Cup for Water
  6. Towel to dry Brushes
  7. Colored Pencils 

Here are some links to paintings I've done in the past if you'd like to take a peek:

Meet Your Teacher

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Meg Viola

Art n good feelings



My name is Meg but some know me as artngoodfeelings.

I am a concept artist and animator working at a game studio in Boulder Colorado!

Birds, dragons, and landscapes are my favorite things to draw and paint.

When not doing art you can usually find me (or lose me) in the forest. Camping, hiking, plein air painting, and bird watching.

I am a crazy energetic ra... See full profile

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1. 1 Intro: Hi, my name is Meg Viola. I'm an artist from Colorado. In this class, I'm going to be teaching you one of my absolute favorite hobbies in the whole world, play near painting. I wanted to teach this class for noobs because I, myself was a total noob at both watercolor and planar painting. Only a year ago. Since then, I've created dozens of watercolor planar paintings that have stunned my friends and family, as well as having several people hike past me and by my art off of me while I was making it. I've even sold a few in coffee shops. So what is planar painting? You might be asking, planar painting comes from the term in planar, which is French for in open air. It was made popular in the impressionist era of painting by Claude Monet himself, who used planar painting to really capture the light as it is occurring in nature. This made his painting stand out from the crowd. Today, painting from life is well-known to be the best way to improve your painting in general. It's also a great activity to do with your friends. Get you outside to get some fresh air and connect you with the land around you. I've given this exact lesson to a couple of my friends who are brand new at painting. And I've watched their paintings improve in front of my very eyes. I know you're gonna get a lot out of this class. First, I'm gonna give you my tips on having a healthy beginner mindset that'll set you up for success. After that, I'll give you two fun, optional practice exercises that I do all the time to help me loosen up my painting. Finally, we'll head into the great outdoors to do some true planar painting. By the end of this class, I hope you'll have made a beautiful painting that you can be proud of. Or at the very least, have fun, get outside, get some fresh air and connect with your landscape. So let's dive right in and start channeling our inner Claude Monet with some planar painting. See you in the next lesson. Okay. 2. Materials & Class project: Here are the materials you'll be needing for this class. First, you'll need watercolor paints that are equipped for travel. If you're travel, watercolor paints don't come with a built-in palette. You might want to bring a separate palette to accompany them so that you can mix colors. You'll also need brushes. Preferably a small, medium and large brush, a cup for water, something to dry your brush off with watercolor paper with the edges taped off, and some watercolor pencils. If you don't have watercolor pencils, you can also just use regular colored pencils for this class and for your first painting, I recommend not going out and buying any new fancy supplies. Just work with what you've got. For my first couple of paintings, I was using my little brother's old school paints. So as long as what you're using his better than that, you'll be fine. However, if this becomes a hobby that you really enjoy, definitely splurge and by those expensive paints. The main project for this class is going outside and creating your very own watercolor planar painting. Now, don't cheat. It can be tempting to just use a photograph for this, but I really want you to get outside. The whole point is to connect with your landscape and experience life as it is occurring in real time and being able to capture that with your paintbrush. You don't have to go very far for your first painting. Someone's backyard will work just fine. Any forest preserves, botanical gardens, parks, lakes, ponds, anything like that is fair game for this project. On our way to creating our first planer painting, I have two awesome practice exercises that are going to help get you warmed up and ready for your first painting. This first practice project, we'll only be using the three primary colors, and we'll be creating a tie-dye watercolor mess on the paper. The reason that this is important is because it'll teach you how many color combinations you can make using just cyan, magenta and yellow. It'll also teach you how to be really loose with your paints, which was something I struggled with when I first started. Being loose with your paints is really important to planar painting because the light in real life is going to change moment to moment. And you as the artist, need to be able to roll with it. In the second practice project, we're going to be making for tiny landscape paintings using the same color palette on one page. This project is especially helpful for learning the planar method using repetition without having to worry too much about mixing all sorts of different colors. This project will help you see how you can fill in simple shapes in the landscape using blobs of color and noticing how all those blobs come together to form a landscape. The landscapes are so tiny that it forces you to focus on color and contrast rather than any defining details, I highly recommend you watch this class all the way through and take a few notes so that you can just take your notes with you when you go outside and don't have to rely on the Internet, which isn't really available in the wilderness. See you in the next lesson. 3. Laws of Noobism: I'm really excited to jump into painting. But first, let's talk about being a new, being a beginner at anything can be very disheartening. You're often comparing yourself to others who've been doing the same thing, but they've been doing it for years. I've been a noob at several things in my life and it's helped me come up with these four principles of beginner mindset. Hopefully these four principles can help you be more comfortable being a new principle. Number one, to be good at anything, you have to be bad at it. First, listen to one of my favorite quotes from Adventure Time. Jake the dog, was the first step towards being sorted good at something. You have to expect that your first painting is not going to be your best if it helps you out. Here was my very first watercolor planar painting. I know, right? It's really muddy, it's gross. It comes nowhere near to capturing the beautiful mountain landscape I was sitting in front of trying to paint. But if I had quit after this first painting, I wouldn't be here today. Number to go into every project and every painting with an open mind and 0 expectations like your art surprise, you have no expectations. Everything you make is way better than you thought it would be. Megs law of learning. Number three, focus on having fun. If you let your need for perfection get in the way of you having a good time. You're never gonna keep practicing. You're never gonna get better and you'll never get to where you want to be as an artist. You have to let go of perfection and focus on the fun parts of what you're doing. Focus on having your art supplies in front of you and just the joy it brings you having them in front of you, having a paintbrush in your hand. The excitement of watching the colors mix together on the paper. The beautiful landscape that you're probably sitting in, the fresh air. It's all amazing. And if you just focus on those things and you don't really care if you're painting looks perfect or looks exactly like the landscape or not, I promise you're going to want to keep doing it and you're going to get better eventually. But if you're not having fun, you'll never keep practicing. So just take a deep breath, relax, and make some beautiful art. And finally, megs law of learning. Remember for never, ever quit halfway through a painting, watercolor painting almost never. Looks good the entire time you're working on it. It only ever starts to look good when you're finishing and putting the final touches on it, you stick with it. And don't quit when it looks crappy. And you just add those few extra touches and you add that little bit of extra love. It's gonna look better than you imagined. It's always worth it to continue. Don't abandon your art. Those were my laws of learning. Now, let's get into painting. In the next video, I'm gonna be walking you through a fun and colorful painting exercise that's going to help you see that there's really no mistakes, only happy accidents, as Bob Ross would say. And we're gonna mix paints together and make a beautiful mess. I can't wait. Let's jump in. 4. Practice Project 1: Okay, so the next two videos are just going to be practice exercises to get you more comfortable with your watercolor paints and very ready to get out there in the wild if you're just so excited and you just want to get out there, be in those mountains and be in that forest. You can just skip these two videos. It's fine. But you can always come back to them if you want more practice. If you get out there and you realize, oh, shoot, maybe I wasn't prepared. Come back to him. They're here for you whenever you need them. And I promise there'll be fun. In this first one, we're basically going to be using three colors to create fun, messy, tie-dye, watercolor experiment on the paper and then wait for it to dry and draw something fun over it every time I do this exercise, which I do this a lot because it's very fun. Every time I do it, it turns out super cool and super awesome. So I really think you guys are gonna like this one. Ok, so for this exercise, like I said, you're only going to need three colors, magenta, yellow and cyan, or red, yellow, and blue, whatever you have available. Now grabbed me or medium brush and loaded up with one color, try to make some abstract marks on the page. It doesn't really matter what those marks are or what they look like. Just be loose with it. It doesn't have to look exactly like mine. You can make all kinds of different patterns. The whole point of this exercise is to experiment with colors. So try mixing any two of these colors together, and it'll result in new colors to create a rainbow tie-dye effect. The only thing I would say to avoid is try not to mix all three colors together because that will start to get muddy. But mixing two at a time should look really nice. Definitely keep it loose and experimental. You don't want to be thinking too hard about this exercise, just putting marks on paper and feeling how fun and joyful it is. And in no time you're done with the painting part of this exercise. Now, while you wait for it to dry, go find a black and white colored pencil. Think of something you know how to draw very easily. I chose dragon because I draw those all the time. But you can choose anything you want. Flowers or just shapes are totally fine. Anything goes here. Try not to overthink it. Use your black pencil to draw the outline of whatever it is you chose. Now use your white pencil to accent you're black lines and make them pop. Once you're happy with your white lines, peel off the tape and you're done. I hope you had a ton of fun with this exercise. Next, we're gonna take this same carefree, loose mark making technique and apply it to some really tiny landscapes. Let's jump into practice number two. 5. Practice Project 2: In this mini exercise project, we're basically going to be making for tiny watercolor sketches of different landscapes using the same color palette. I've given some examples of four images that use the same color palette. So you can feel free to use mine or go find your L and just make sure that you're going to be using the same colors on all four of them. I've done this exercise a couple of times and it always helps me to do these little studies and to learn about the colors. It's gonna really, really come in handy when you're jumping into the wild and painting out in the wilderness so that you have this muscle memory for this exercise, you'll need watercolor paper with tape dividing the page into four smaller canvases. You're mostly going to work with your medium and small brush and colored pencils were going to be using all the colors found in the palette you chose. Here's the reference I chose for this exercise. It's included in the class resources if you want to follow along with me exactly, but you certainly don't need to. I'm sketching with watercolor pencils and I'm sketching so lightly that the camera couldn't even show it very well. So I had to enhance this footage so you can even see the lines. You want to be sketching this lightly and stick to super basic shapes. Now I start to add paint. The best way to do this step is to mix the lightest and most present color first, then place it everywhere it is in all four scenes. Now, I mix the blue, which isn't a lot of these scenes, and place the lightest version of that and all four scenes. Now the very faint purple in the distant mountains. Now that the lightest colors are in, will go in with darker colors. When we do our real planar painting, we will do the mid tones and then the darkest colors. But for this warm-up it's combined. I tend to work background to foreground in each thumbnail when I put the final touches on, because it's much easier to paint over things in the background than it is to paint around things in the foreground. It helps to squint your eyes at your reference to see general shapes in contrast, look for what should remain light while other parts get darker. This is where you can add detail to your heart's desires. Hospice misconceptions, universities, research centers, resources, sensors on a series of processes. Especially those resources. Smashes, scissors, scissors, viscus, smokers. Smokers. Smokers means. Now give this a moment to dry and go get your pencil. I love adding little final touches with colored pencil. Especially important to use white to accent highlights or put light back into places that might have been left out. I also use a lot of yellow to accent where light is hitting the foliage. Now just peel off the tape and you're done. I hope it looks amazing. If you've finished this practice exercise, please share it in the project gallery so I can see the amazing work you've done. In the next video, I'll be giving you some great tips and tricks before we head outside. Stay tuned. 6. Stuff To Note: This is probably the most important video in this class. So I highly recommend you watch this all the way through and take a few notes that you can take with you and you go outside. The first thing I do when I'm going planar painting is finding what I want to paint using a four finger and thumb of both hands, make a viewfinder to help pick the best composition. Now, composition is a very complicated topic that could be a whole class on its own. Here's my definition of composition in regards to planar painting, an arrangement of a landscape which is appealing to look at. What makes a landscape appealing to look at you ask a good place to start is just a spot with a beautiful view. So once you've picked your view, it's time to pick your focal point. The focal point of your painting is the object or area you want to draw your viewer to first in your painting. It can be anything. Is there a really interesting tree or a rock in your view, or a pond? Look for something that naturally stands out to you. Now that you have a focal point, find your composition surrounding the focal point. Here are a few common types of compositions to try out. There's the rule of thirds. Imagine dividing your view into thirds. Then you'd want to sketch your composition so that your focal point is on one of these thirds. Or you can try having it centered. This one's a little easier. Just put the focal point at the center of attention and balance the rest of the scene around it. If you want to get crazy and try different compositions, definitely do some more research on types of compositions. But for your first painting, one of these will work great. Next, we will quickly sketch the composition to sketch doesn't have to be exact. In fact, I often change or exaggerate the composition to make the art more fun. Nobody's going to see this landscape except for you. Now before you begin painting, take note of where the light is coming from, being outside. This is very easy because you just need to figure out where the sun is. Try to observe where the light is hitting the strongest and what the shadows look like. Squint your eyes to see the contrast better. The light is going to change while you paint, it's inevitable. And as a planar painter, you have to be able to roll with it. That's why keeping it loose is so important. Now let's talk about working in layers. Here is a painting I did when I went out painting with my friends. I was going to paint the hills, but my friend sat right in my composition, so I went with it and added her to the painting. Obviously, she is my focal point and she is centered and in the foreground. The foreground is the stuff that is closest to you while painting behind the foreground is the mid ground and furthest away from you is the background. Backgrounds are quite consistently just the sky, but can also contain faraway trees, mountains, or buildings. Whichever layer of your composition contains your focal point is the layer you should spend the most time on and add the most detail to. This imitates the way our eyes focus on things and helps the artwork be very easy to look at. If you try to paint every detail in the landscape, you're going to go crazy and the arts gonna take hours. Plain AIR painting is meant to be more of a quick impression of the landscape. Now let's chat about color. First of all, it's very important to know that the colors you have right out of the tube of paint or right there in your palate are most often never found in nature. That means you'll have to be mixing colors. But don't worry, I have some tips to make this simpler. First thing to note is that with watercolors, you can always go darker, but never lighter. So when I paint, I always try to do my lightest colors First. Never use black to darken your colors. It only makes things muddy and gross to look at. I only ever use black as a last minute touch if there's anything super dark in the landscape that needs it, use water to lighten your colors and complimentary colors to dark in them instead of black. Complimentary colors are across from each other on the color wheel, the most common darkening combo I use is red mixed with green. Another common thing is to mix colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Using green as the example, I will often mix yellow or blue with my green to get a more natural cool or warm green. Here's a breakdown of the flow of planar painting. This is the method I use and have found works best for me and others. I work background to foreground, light to dark. So starting with the background, I'll pick the lightest color I can see and use a large brush to blot in some super watery colors. Then the mid ground and finally the foreground. Next, I use the mid tones and I do the same thing, background to foreground using the mid tones and a medium brush. Finally, I do the shadows and small details. Same thing, background to foreground using a small brush. Okay, I hope you've got a sheet of notes ready now I'm gonna head outside to demonstrate all of these things coming together. And then I hope you get to go outside soon as well to try this all out. See you in the next video. 7. Final Painting: Alright, you guys, it's finally time to go outside and paint. I am so excited to share this process with you. First step is to go for a walk and find a scene you'd like to paint, then find your focal point. For me, it's this great rock sticking out from the others in the foreground. Now, I use my fingers as a viewfinder to figure out my composition. Before I start painting, I take note of where the sun is. Looks like it's right above me. Now, I start sketching. I'm using a blue watercolor pencil because there will be a lot of cool tones in the painting. You see I draw super light with super basic shapes and no extra detail. Then I mix some of the colors I will be using with tons of water and grab my biggest brush. I start in the farthest background, which is the sky. Then I move forward in perspective, filling in the mountain, distant hills, trees in the mid ground, and finally the rocks in the foreground, still using the lightest version of every color in the scene. Notice how I use lots of color variation in the trees. This helps it look more natural because no tree is exactly the same color in nature. Now, I grabbed my medium brush and start filling in some mid tones, starting with the shadows and the clouds and moving forward in perspective, I start to add lots of detail everywhere. But I make sure there are still a lot of places for lighter tones to come forward. I add lots of shadow and color variation to the rocks and more yellow tones to the edges of the trees where light would be hitting. Now, I take the smallest brush I have and go in with the darkest far tones. Places no light is hitting in the center of the trees was the darkest. And under the rocks. I didn't add any shadow to the background because I wanted it to look far away and not catch too much focus. Things look lighter generally the farther they are away due to atmospheric perspective. I add the darkest darks to the foreground rocks, especially around my focal point, because high contrast draws the eye and the sun is really blocked by these rocks. The shadows are very dark. And finally, as a very last step, I go in with some colored pencils and add last minute touches. I love this step because the painting is actually starting to look really nice. If I need to pack lightly and can't bring all my pencils, I do this stuff later at home. It's so much more fun doing it while you can still look at the landscape. I mostly use white and yellow to bring some highlight back in, but I also use a bit of dark blue and black to make some of the edges pop. Now just peel off the tape, drop your signature in the corner and you're done. I hope you made something super beautiful and enjoyed sitting outside with all your paints. 8. Outro: That's it. That's the class. Thank you so much for making it this far in taking this class, if you did any of the projects, even if you only just did the first one and you never went out and did it. I would love to see them. Please post them in your class project section. Please post in the comments, even if you don't want to share your art, post in the comments and tell me if you did any of them and if you had been where you went, what the environment was like, You met acute chipmunk or beta, any new friends on the trail? I just want to hear all of this, please. I loved interact you guys more. That's all from me. Thanks a lot.