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Top Tips For Getting Creative & Painting Outdoors

by Emma Britton

As a decorative glass designer inspired by the pattern potential of British florals, painting them in their natural environment is an every day pursuit for me. My studies are the basis for my pattern repeats on glass and the very origins of my design process. 

I love painting because it focuses my attention, it enables me to be ‘present’ and is a great exercise in mindfulness - combined with lungfuls of fresh air it’s a great tonic. Looking and composing paintings means I’m always discovering new things in the familiar or making discoveries I couldn’t have imagined. However things turns out, the images in my mind are there to muse on long after I’ve put down the brushes - there’s a real meditative quality in that. 

My own approach to painting is about working in a relatively loose and relaxed way at first, capturing a sense of the natural world around me authentically and immersing myself in it. I tend to work quickly, getting to grips with colour and forms that stand out to me. I then pick my favourite studies to work up further. This might mean adding in more detail in pencil, paint or with colour. 

I like to get outside and paint, there is a real freedom that comes with this and nothing compares with painting from life. I often run workshops based on my own approach to painting which is quite different to a painter in the ‘traditional’ sense as I’m a designer by trade. But I love inspiring other people to give painting a go. If you fancy it, here’s my best to get you dipping your brush on your first outdoor adventure:

Preparing to paint outside:

  • Pack light but take a few materials you might fancy working with, I love gouache. The light, weather and the season can affect your choices. Mixing and tinkering with a paint palette on a sunny day is glorious whilst a cold bright morning might mean working straight from the tube and more quickly

  • I like to use a large sketchbook but pack something smaller as well. This is brilliant for quick observations and the chance to work at different scales. Big paper gives you more freedom to take the drawing in whatever direction feels natural. A small sketchbook is easy to put in your rucksack. 
  • Go prepared with layers; weather can be very changeable! Something to sit on is handy.
  • Take a water bottle with you to use as a paint palette. Squeeze your paints onto a piece of tinfoil or Tupperware with a lid that you can wrap up afterwards and not get paint everywhere on the journey home.

At your location:

  • Inspiration is everywhere, you don’t necessarily need the best view, beauty can be found in anything. Get stuck in to what draws your eye or captures your attention.
  • Focus on the enjoyment of the creation process rather than what the end result is going to be. Look for the easy to overlook, discover your style in capturing and conveying what you see.
  • I really recommend doing some warm up exercises; make some marks on your paper using different materials to get a feel for the effects you like and those you don’t.

  • For me as a designer, scale is important but if you’re experimenting or just getting started, try not to worry about being too accurate. Play with composition and colour, interpreting the world around you is full of possibilities. Try repeating or taking things away, or even playing with the scale of what you see for some exciting results. Leave things out to keep things simple if that works for you.
  • There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ painting. ‘Mistakes’, smudges or those raindrops on the page can actually give an artwork it’s character, think of anything unplanned or unexpected as happy accidents!
  • Work dynamically, boldly and from observation and enjoy the process of exploration

And finally!

Put your studies into frames and bring nature’s magic into your interior. You can look at your pieces on a grey day or when you can’t get outside and enjoy dreaming of your next date with a paintbrush.