Plein Air Season and Chalk art season is upon us!

An open easel laid on the ground with a artwork, cropped shot

Plein Air Season and Chalk art season is upon us!  What better way to prepare for the wonderful Michigan weather than to learn about preparing for outdoor art.  As an artist I have participated in 4 Chalk Walk events and too many Plein Air events to count.  Preparation for these events are essential to making you outdoor experience enjoyable and safe.  So here are a few safety and packing tips to help you this summer.  

  1. Travel with a buddy.  This is a good way to socialize and has the added benefit of helping keep an eye on your surroundings.  Whether it be animals, people, or whether, its always good to have a partner to help alert you in case of danger.  It’s also great to have a buddy in case of a medical emergency.
  2. Plan for the weather.  Michigan can be rough when it comes to whether.  The possibility of quick whether changes are likely.  It may be 73 degrees now but it could be snowing in an hour.  Make sure you check the weather before you leave the house.  Have a cell phone?  Use a weather app to alert you in case of severe weather.  If you live in Bay County sign up for Bay Alerts online.  This will give you a heads up on incoming boats, bad weather, and more.  Suggested weather apps: AccuWeather, The Weather Channel, Weather Bug, and NOAA Weather Radar.
  3. While living unplugged is great, having some tech with you can be great in case of an emergency or extreme heat.  My favorite things to bring: Rechargeable small fan,  a portable charger (they even have solar powered ones), a cell phone, and a camera.  Cameras are great to have around while painting, in case the park gets too crowded or the weather starts looking rough.  Take some photo inspiration while you search for the perfect spot to paint.  That way if you have to leave you can always paint from reference photos.
  4. The Essentials: Bug spray, suntan lotion, bottled water, water to wash your hands, paper towels or a hand towel, snacks, and small first aid.  One thing I never knew I needed was a cooling towel.  These are microfiber towel that only need a small amount of water and can be cool up to 3 hours depending on heat conditions.  Also, bring a small roll of toilet paper just in case. You can leave it in the car, but you never know when you will need it.  
  5. If you haven’t walked 10 miles before, chances are you shouldn’t start today.  When trekking to the perfect art spot make sure you are physically able to get there.  Pushing yourself too hard on the first go can trigger health conditions.  Not a great climber? Don’t climb a steep rock cliff to get the perfect painting, if you have never done so before.  Make sure you are assessing and planning how to access spots that you want to create at.  Start short distances first and progress til you are ready to get to that spot.  Remember to wearing comfortable shoes or walking boots for the terrain you will be walking on.
  6. Going far, pack light.  I like to use a back pack and a collapsable cheap easel when going long distances.  When going short distances I use my French easel that has storage for my brushes and limited paints.

Chalk Art

  1. Make sure to wear knee pads and gloves.  You can also bring a garden kneeler to help save your bones and joints.  
  2. A chair to sit in when you need to rest.
  3. It was rain, bring a tarp, tent with sides or sand to help protect you piece from the weather.  Always make sure to check the weather forecast.
  4. Take breaks and stretch.  Your hands, back, and knees will thank you.  
  5. Bring water to wash your hands.  Your hands will get grimy through-out the day.  You also don’t want your colors to get muddy from your dirty hands.
  6. A rule for straight lines.
  7. If you run out of black you can walls try using charcoal.  It’s not just good for grilling!
  8. Find a great pigmented chalk!  Studio 23 has a great Michigan made brand available for sale!

Want more Plein Air advice? Check out our workshop with Ruth Howell on May 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  

Check out our summer events by visiting our website at under our education tab.  

Posted 11 November 2022

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