“En Plein Air” Watercolor Workshop with Jennifer Helner

“En Plein Air” Watercolor Workshop with Jennifer Helner

Outdoor painting has a lot to offer.  The change of seasons seems to inspire us to paint.  We live in Michigan and with our four seasons there is a lot to see.  Having a portable studio that is light weight and easy to carry is very important.  I have purchased a Steel Tripod Watercolor Easel from Dick Blick.

The description:

Our lightweight, collapsible Tripod Watercolor Easel is the ideal traveling companion for your next outdoor painting excursion. Designed for all plein air artists — not just watercolorists — it can be configured in the upright position for oil and acrylic painting or the horizontal position for wet media.

Crafted of sturdy, tubular steel with a black and chrome finish

Telescoping legs can be adjusted for floor-standing or tabletop use

Holds canvases, panels, and watercolor blocks up to 28″ high

Measures 54″ high when fully extended yet collapses to just 33½” long

Base measures 34″W × 34″D

Non-skid feet add stability and protect table surfaces

Includes a high-quality carry bag with shoulder strap

Requires no assembly

Weighs just 5 lb

Compare the quality, design, features, and workmanship of Blick Studio Easels with any major brand and we’re sure you’ll agree we measure up with the best — at a much more affordable price. Plus, we stand behind every easel with our unbeatable 100% satisfaction guarantee. $38.29

I also purchased a small camping table to for my palette and water bucket from Amazon.

Compact Camp Table 20-$35.00

Aluminum frame and table top

Table size 18 x 20 x 24 in

Unit weight: 4 lb.

Weight capacity: 60 lb.

Folded size: 18 x 18 x 2 in

I like painting sitting down so I have a folding chair that I use. 

I find these very useful with painting ‘en plein aire’.


I recommend that you limit your palette when working outside.  Bringing all your paints might not be an easy thing to do so try limited your palette to a simple primary palette with a few must have’s.  For me that would be Paynes Grey and Sap Green. You could squeeze your colors before you start to paint or grab a tube of paint as needed.  Water color pencils might be useful, too. 


I use ARCHES 140LB Cold Press paper.  I like to stretch my paper to a board to avoid the paper getting too wavy.  I have 6 boards available for you to use for this workshop.  Another good idea may be to have Water Color Blocks.  Having a hard surface is very helpful when painting so plan on having one of boards or your lap or on an easel.


I recommend you take what you know you will use and LIKE to use.  I have my brushes in a brush carrier that folds down small so I will bring all my brushes.


You know how much water you use when painting in Water Color.  Bring you buckets (a divided bucket is preferred).  I will be bringing water and will help you keep your water clean.  And remember to bring drinking water.


A sketch pad or drawing pad is a great place to start your painting.  I use a 2B pencil for sketches.  When doing the drawing on my water color paper is use a 2H, very lightly.  My goal is to not draw too hard to put marks in the paper.  A 2H pencil will leave thin pencil line that will not be distracting. 

I suggest you choose a subject that is relatively simple to start.  I will provide view finders to help you choose your subject that will speed up the sketching and get you moving into your painting. Starting with a thumb nail sketch is a good idea. It helps one to keep attention on the basic elements of the picture—the composition, values, and general arrangement without any attention to details. In this way the most important elements of the picture can be solved before painting begins. If the thumbnail sketch is pleasing to the eye, in all likelihood the final painting will be a success.