Plein and Simple: An Introduction to Plein Air Painting

Take your paints outside to play! Create in the spirit of the Plein Air movement started by 19thcentury European artists. Learn a simple approach to avoid the overwhelm of painting from life outdoors.

No paints?  No problem!  We will discuss simple set-up options to get you started, as well as tips to develop your kit over time. This 2-day workshop both in the classroom and in the field will teach you what you need to know to start painting confidently “en plein air.”

This class is tailored for adults and mature teens with instructor permission. Please email ahead of time to inquire if this is a good fit for your teen. (Parent required to remain on site on Plein Air Day.)

Previous students and experienced plein air artists may register for the field day only (June 1) for a reduced rate.

May 25: 10-3, Gallery: 108 N George St., Charles Town, WV 25414

June 1: 9-3 Local Park TBA

$90 Full Workshop

$45 Field Day Only

Scroll down for detailed description and supplies list.

Questions? Contact us at 304-283-4873 or

Students may cancel until May 21 for a tuition refund minus a $20 administrative fee.


Day 1:  We will meet in the studio.  We will cover the following topics:

What to paint: Identifying a compelling scene, storytelling, tips and tools to create a strong composition.

How to paint it: Applying the elements and principles of art to amplify your painting. Development of thumbnails, value studies and notans from photographs in preparation for working from life.  Color choices to support storytelling and mood. Practice exercises from photographs.

What you need to paint it: Supplies and materials from necessities to nice-to-have’s, examples of different kits for different callings

Self-care in the field: Surviving a day in the wild!

If we have time and the weather cooperates, we will take over downtown Charles Town for practice in the field.

Day 2:  The following Saturday, we will meet at Hite Park in Kearneysville (location subject to change) to paint “en plein air.” You will apply the principles learned in the previous session to create thumbnail sketches and value studies leading to one or more paintings in your chosen medium. Depending on your goals, you will create multiple starts to train your artist’s eye, or work towards completing one or more paintings. 


Supply List:

We will discuss and demo different set-ups in the classroom session. You will have a full week before our field day to assemble additional supplies as desired. You will learn what works for you and supports your evolving style.

Week 1 (Classroom Session):  

  • Lunch/snacks
  • Warm clothes if it is cool-we may go outside in the afternoon
  • Simple supplies for the classroom session will be provided. If you wish, bring your sketchbook, a pencil, eraser, sharpie, and crayons or colored pencils (or watercolor if your sketchbook holds up to it.) You are welcome to bring your plein air kit if you want the set-up practice and/or feedback, but we will have limited need for anything beyond sketches.

Week 2 (Plein Air Session):

Use what you have! You can get started with any mark makers (something to draw with), substrate (something to draw on), and support (anything from a clipboard or firm sketchbook to a plein air easel). 

  • A sketchbook or loose paper, pencil and eraser
  • A black and a grey marker for value studies
  • Drinking water, snacks and lunch
  • A lightweight chair
  • Sunscreen, sunhat, raingear
  • Trash bag
  • If you already have a painting set-up,  the following are suggested:
  • A split primary palette in your medium of choice (a warm and a cool of each primary color) plus earth tones, white and black
  • Brushes, palette knives, mark makers
  • Substrates appropriate to medium
  • Water for painting, if using acrylic, watercolor or gouache
  • Disposable bags to carry dirty brushes, etc.  We will leave no trace, so plan on packing out everything, including your painty water.
  • Container to pack out painty water
  • A way to transport wet paintings


Regardless of your medium, bring an open mind, a sense of humor, and a love of the outdoors!