Winter might not be the first season that comes to mind when thinking about plein air painting, but it can make for a wonderful creative challenge! Here are a few tips to help you paint plein air in the wintertime.
Outdoor Painting in Colder Months – Is it Worth it?
Short answer: Yes! The long answer is winter can be an inspiring time to paint outdoors. The spring and summer seasons are beautiful to paint in, that’s undeniable, but winter offers a variety of creative benefits to break you out of your mold.
There are new subjects to explore, so many different moods and atmospheres to capture, and it helps to keep your plein air skills honed and sharp throughout the year. And, of course, there’s nothing like painting a scene directly in front of you. You’re able to work off the lighting and color changes immediately and refine your technique.
To paint plein air in the winter can seem daunting, but truly, it’s not as frightening as it appears. With proper preparation, you can stay comfortable, relaxed, and focused when painting outside in colder weather.
Keep Yourself Warm
First and foremost: you need to make sure you’re comfortable. And in cold weather, that means layered clothing is key. The more prepared you are for the weather, the longer you can stay out to paint.
By layering up, you can take off or add on clothes as you see fit, extending your painting time. Some recommendations include:
- Long underwear – Thin but insulated ones are the best, and they won’t be too bulky.
- Top layer – A sweater, fleece top, or turtleneck are great options.
- Pants – Depending on the weather, jeans, fleece-lined pants, or snow pants are what you might choose from.
- Socks – Wool socks will keep your feet warm and keep moisture away.
- A Thick Coat or Parka – One that extends to your mid-thigh or lower will keep your body nice and toasty while you paint.
Pay Attention to Your Feet and Hands
While on the thought train of keeping yourself warm, make sure you pay extra special attention to your feet and hands. These are important to be mindful of as they can get cold the quickest.
Standing in one area can cause your feet to get cold quickly, but if you stand in a wet puddle or patch of snow and don’t notice, you could be in trouble. Your everyday sneakers unfortunately won’t cut it for your winter plein air painting session. Use good waterproof shoes that are also made to withstand cold temperatures. For an added bonus, bring something to insulate your feet from direct contact with the cold ground (especially if there’s snow). Standing on a piece of thick cardboard or plywood should do the trick.
As for your hands, it can be hard to wear thick gloves while painting. Fingerless gloves will allow you to grip your brushes as usual. However, if you’re painting on a freezing day, the fingerless gloves won’t do much to ward off the cold. Bring hand warmers and stick them in your coat pockets so you can take breaks to warm up your hands periodically.
Be Picky About What You Bring
When your paint plein air in the winter, it’s best to keep it simple and not bring too much extra stuff with you. You don’t want to trek out in the snow with a bunch of gear, nor do you want to be tracking down all your materials when it’s time to go home. Try only to bring exactly what you need and not much else.
Be Mindful of Your Paint
When it’s cold, especially closer to freezing, paint spreads more like hard butter from the fridge. This can seem odd as oil freezes at much lower temperatures than water, but it’s the wax and alumina fillers stiffening up in the paint. Sort of like honey. Be mindful of this when painting in the cold. Your paint won’t spread or mix as it does on a warmer day. You’ll have to spend more time mixing and working in the paint a little harder than what you’re used to.
Just Do It
The last trick to paint plein air in the winter? Just do it! If this is something you’ve been craving to try but are nervous to get out there, just give it a shot. It may turn out it’s not for you, and that’s okay. But you’ll never know if you don’t try! If you find that you’re talking yourself out of going, try and force yourself to put on your clothes and get outside. You’ll likely be so glad you pushed yourself and went.
Hopefully, these tips help you to paint plein air in the beautiful winter season! I love being able to share my passions with others. If you’d like to own an oil painting without having to paint one yourself, check out and purchase one of my paintings! And, of course, if you have a question about one of my pieces, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for supporting your local Colorado artists!