Yao Cheng Design- Painting in the Garden- Yao- Creativebug
Yao Cheng Design- Painting in the Garden- tree, Creativebug

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take your palette and brushes outside and spend an afternoon painting in a park?  In my new Painting in the Garden class on Creativebug, that is exactly what I encourage you to do!  I will take you through a few different locations and show you various ways of approaching outdoor painting!

I remember when I was first learning how to paint with watercolor from a friend in 2011.  I had dabbled with it a little bit before, but I wanted to challenge myself with a medium I didn't really feel familiar with.  The first place he took me to was an outdoor garden, and the first thing I thought was "huh?".  It felt backwards to be thrown into the elements, where the subjects and lighting are ever-changing.  "Shouldn't I get a better grasp on the basic skills first?", I thought.  However, once we started painting, I immediately understood why he approached teaching in this way.

Nature is alive.  You are forced to improvise as everything shifts around you, such as the soft breeze that sways the branches left and right.  There is no way to control or predict a subject matter in the same manner you could from a photograph.  You would not be able to paint that cluster of tulips in the same way, over and over again.  The shadows might be different, or if you move to another spot, the angle will change.  So by taking me outside, my friend forced me to stay loose.  Being subjected to nature's whim also means that you will have to paint faster than you would indoors.  Watercolor dries quicker outside and a willow tree is never going to stay still enough for you to capture every detail.  Therefore, every stroke requires more intention and confidence.  Not surprisingly, the paintings you create will be more abstract and interpretive.  I always stress the importance of using your "artistic license", and outdoors painting is the perfect place to put that into practice!  After all, painting outside is not so much about creating a final art piece.  The way I see it, it's a great opportunity to study how natural forms move and breathe in real life while enjoying the outdoor weather.

Yao Cheng Design- Painting in the Garden- closeup garden, Creativebug
Yao Cheng Design- Painting in the Garden- closeup rose, Creativebug

When my friend was teaching me that day in the park, he had me try out an exercise where I had to paint a tree in a field of grass in 10 different ways, using only 4-5 strokes.  That's it!  How are you able to do that?  Well, you can't, not in a realistic way.  But, you can try to capture the feeling, the essence of what you think of that tree should look like.  This was the biggest takeaway I got from that painting tutorial, and it is what I emphasize in this new outdoor painting class!  There is so much more, when you are immersed in real life, to inform your work.  It's a much more three-dimensional way of painting.  When you look at a photograph, you might be inspired by the colors or the subject matter.  But when you are sitting out in nature, you also have the sun, children laughing, dogs playing, wind blowing, inform of what it is you are trying to capture.  It might not be evident visually to others, but I personally feel it brings another sense of life into your painting!

Composition is another element I talk about in this class.  There should be a little bit of time allowed before you start a painting outside.  You should consider how much of the landscape in front of you do you want to capture.  Unlike a photograph, you have a full panoramic view when you are standing within the landscape that you are painting.  You don't have borders or edges of a photo to help you define what to leave out.  So you do have to be intentional about what you want to emphasize.  I love this challenge, and encourage all of you while outside to practice this!  In the end, it will make a visually stronger piece, because you are composing a hierarchy.  That being said, you should still be open to unexpected surprises!  Maybe from the angle that you are sitting, that field of poppies are too far away, but you love the intensity of color so much.  So why not bring that element into your piece?  Even if it isn't exactly where it is in nature, you can recompose what you see in front of you.  

For those of you who followed me through my Daily Painting Challenge, this is a great class to try out next as you should now be more comfortable with the various techniques to take it to a more interpretive level!  But, if you are a bit nervous about going outside with your paintings, you can always "brush up" on your skills with my Beginning Watercolor class

I went into that first painting session with my friend unsure of my skills, but I came out of it truly invigorated and more curious about what this medium can do!  I hope this class will provide the same for you and further intrigue you about watercolor.  So come join me, as we pack up our brushes and venture out into nature!



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