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East Coast Plein Air Experience
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Virginia Blue Ridge

This Painting was completed in one session entirely on location as a sound study for a future large painting

Reference Image
Bill's Finished Painting Image
Your Challenge (Application)
  1. Find an outdoor scene that would be worthy of a large painting (example: 24×36 or 30×40)
  2. Go on location and paint a small study in under 2 hours (example: 8×10 or 9×12)
    1. Focus on the essentials (including correct values and color temperatures)
    2. Don’t take time for small details right now (grass blades or individual petals)
  3. Bonus Points – See what you paint in less than ideal situations and how those conditions teach you to focus more intently on the essentials. (just stay safe- no lightning, visible tornadoes, velociraptors or hurricanes please!)
  4. Optional – For members of the 6 Week Course and Monthly Membership with access to the members only Facebook Group. Post an image of your completed study for input from fellow members and myself.

Indiana River

Completed by returning to the same scene on two separate days, with only the intricate bridge being finished in the studio – The structure of the bridge was changed to better fit into the composition of the painting

Reference Image
Bill's Finished Painting Image
Your Challenge (Application)
  1. Find a scene that will require more than one day on location to complete the painting, and plan on spending multiple days in the area
  2. Go back… Do your best to return on a day and time with similar weather and light conditions to continue painting. Take your time on this one, and feel comfortable returning for a 3rd or 4th day of painting if needed to complete your masterpiece.
  3. Bonus – Include an interesting architectural element.
  4. Optional – For members of the 6 Week Course and Monthly Membership with access to the members only Facebook Group. Post an image of your completed study for input from fellow members and myself.

New York Farmstead

Completed in large part on location and then refined in the studio from imagination and memory (without looking at reference photos)

Reference Image
Bill's Finished Painting Image
Your Challenge (Application)

We discuss the concept of shapes versus actual objects quite a bit. The reason we focus on shapes is because we don’t want to become locked into making an object look like an object (a tree, a field, a river or a cloud for instance) at the expense of the overall composition, flow, or interest in our paintings.

  1. Go out exploring to discover a fun, exciting group of shapes – it doesn’t matter whether those shapes are made up of light and dark values, warm and cool colors, or larger and smaller masses – and paint them without thought of what objects those shapes create.
  2. Squint at your subject in order to reduce what’s in front of you into gentle shapes, rather than complicated details.
  3. Have fun with the direction of the edges and lines that outline your shapes – make them visually rhythmic, with a natural flow and variety throughout your painting.

Getting Started – Equipment and Setup

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Painting Indoors

For my palette, I use an old porcelain table I’ve had for more than 30 years.  

A large mirror is very helpful.

Painting Outdoors

My French easel has served me sensationally since I was 16. I’ve experimented with multiple easels and there are many that are excellent. I will share more about different easels, brushes, and paints that I’ve used/use in the Comprehensive Course (which any member, 6 Week Course, or Lifetime Artist Package student has access to). 

Something I have found incredibly convenient and that I have talked about on almost all my Plein Air Trainings is the PanelPak carriers (nope, not an affiliate, just a fan).

A good hat. 

Speaking of packs, I now have the Kelty Redcloud 90 – it holds every bit of my equipment, some sustaining snacks and still has room to spare and it is the most comfortable pack I’ve found. If you just have a small pochade box, the Redwing 50 is a popular option.

I’ve seen some artists carry chairs with them – I rarely sit to paint – but it might be something for you to think about. Painting indoors or out is both physically and mentally demanding.

Necessities for in studio or on location


For brushes I use a couple of companies, although I am getting more and more brushes from Rosemary.

I would start with just a brush or two from each suggestion to see if you like them. It’s good to experiment to see what works best for you.


Series 103 size 6  – an X-long filbert bristle

Series 209 sizes 8 & 12 (budget) add sizes 4, 6, and 10 when you can

If you want to shop with just one company, I would go with Rosemary. Wind River Arts is a great place to buy Rosemary brushes if you live in the United States, especially when buying a few at a time, because you save on shipping from England.

Rosemary & Co:

Series 279. Masters Choice Long Flats. I use sizes 4 and 6 the most, but I have a variety up to size 12.

Series 272. Masters Choice Round. I use sizes 2 – 6 mostly.

Ivory Long Flats – a lot of artists love these. They don’t work as well for me because I tend to push and pull the brush which splays out the bristles. They would be a good experiment brush for you though.

Ultimate Long Flats. This is their best hog bristle – great brush! I use sizes 4- 12, but like the Utrecht series 207, you can start with sizes 8 and 12.


Here is a pic of my palette colors:

My Palette

  • Gamblin150 ml tubes or Utrecht 150 ml tubes
    • Quinacridone Red
    • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
    • Manganese Blue Hue
    • Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
    • Ultramarine Blue
    • Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
    • Cadmium Lemon
    • Cadmium Yellow Medium
    • Cadmium Red Medium
    • Cadmium Red Light
    • Cadmium Orange (optional)
    • Transparent Earth (or oxide) Yellow
    • Transparent Earth Red
    • Transparent Earth Orange
    • Titanium White

I have been using Utrecht and Gamblin for 30 years because I like the big 150 ml tubes, but most people buy the smaller tubes. I decided to try out some of the Michael Harding paints that many top artists rave about. I didn’t actually expect them to be much of a change from what I already use – I was wrong – they are excellent!

I use Turpenoid Naturals to clean my brushes – wonderful stuff – my brushes stay incredibly sharp and clean without ever using soap.

I use walnut oil for my initial painting washes and medium – although I mostly use straight paint – walnut oil is reserved primarily for the beginning stages of the painting.

Most artist like to use mineral spirits for the preliminary paint washes – I did for most of my career. The best one to use is Gamsol.

A good palette knife is very helpful.

For my painting panels I use MDF ¼ inch boards.

I now prime them with Ecos Passivating primer.

Acrylic gesso is still a valid option – professional grade acrylic gesso like Utrecht, but acrylic gesso never completely seals the panel from moisture – it turns out it’s porous, even with several coats.

Viva paper towels have been the standard for cleaning brushes and wiping initial washes of color off panels for both my indoor and outdoor painting for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I use old sheets or t-shirts, but they’re just not as convenient.

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(Paint Brushes)

 Keep in mind that my brushes and palette are not static – they change over time. These are meant as a starting point, not a destination! Utrecht stopped making the 207 series so now I get most of my brushes from Rosemary & Co.

(Studio Palette)


(Virginia Plein Air Palette)


(Indiana Plein Air Palette)


(New York Plein Air Palette)


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