You may have set travel as one of your retirement goals already. No doubt we have heard many express, “When I retire I want to travel more.”

Why not? During your working life you may have put off travel due to your many commitments. Plus, there is still so much to explore even near to home let alone the world. There is one niggle though.

What is Missing from the Travel Experience?

What’s the quibble? Not the costs and preparation. That is a given. What I discovered is this. Once the trip is over, the experience is often filed away with the digital photographs. It was fun, but there is the nagging feeling that I did not get the essence of the experience.

 
 

The Missing Ingredient

This gap became clear to me when I took up outdoor painting. I cannot overstate this. When you spend an hour focused on a scene with the intensity required to paint it, you will know the difference. There is no comparison to the usual camera point-click-and-forget approach. It is about being present in the moment. A buzzword that happens to be the truth.

What is Outdoor Painting All About?

The practice of painting outdoors goes back to the impressionist days in the late 1800s. The invention of the paint tube meant that hobby artists could take paint outside. People had more leisure time and money too so painting became a genteel hobby. Plus, you had examples like Claude Monet and other famous artists painting en plein air.

Outdoor painting was also a social activity and was a good excuse to visit popular sights. How could it not catch on? And it did. Until the post-war years of austerity and artistic introspection. Painting moved to abstraction and outdoor painting faded away. The fun had gone out the game it seemed.

The New Plein Air Movement

But everything goes full circle. Outdoor painting is back and growing fast. A surge in enthusiasm has developed over the past five years or so. Now outdoor painting events are regular features in the United States, UK and further afield like Australia.

Collectors now seek out plein air paintings. There is a certain spontaneous and vital quality to plein air works that studio paintings tend to lack.

Combine Painting and Travel

But what has this to do with travel? If you add outdoor painting to your travels you will be able to soak up the true essence of any place you visit. Far better than any photograph or tourist guide can do. All senses are engaged when you paint outdoors. It is a wonderful thing to end the day with a painting that used all your senses in this way.

But is Outdoor Painting Practical?

Let us deal with a few typical objections:

Travel Kit

You can travel by plane with tubes of paint of any variety provided they are the correct size. Solvents for oils must be purchased at your destination. Alternatively, use water based oil paints. Acrylics and watercolors are fine too.

Is Outdoor Painting Safe?

It is as safe as common sense dictates. Of course, you can paint in complete safety where it is safe to begin with. Even your balcony, backyard or from an open window will do.

Too Shy?

I know the feeling, but pick your spot well. As mentioned, a balcony view can be wonderful and private, too. But I do find that you meet lovely people this way. Artists and collectors will be drawn to you so be open to meeting kindred spirits. It is one of the plusses of travel and outdoor painting.

Too Difficult?

There is no better way to learn the essential skills of painting. Yes, there is some pressure and the comfort zone of your studio is missed at first. But the joy of plunging into the painting challenge surpasses these worries.

Will it Be Expensive?

There are a few extra items that make life easier. But the costs can be kept very low. For the most part what you purchase will keep for many years. I have even made my own painting box for a few dollars. It is still my favorite one.

Getting Started

There are excellent resources from books to online groups devoted to outdoor painting. I even have a short course devoted to this topic for beginners. Here is a special link for Sixty and Me readers. Most importantly, try out your painting kit before you travel. This way you will know what you need and what you can leave out. Best to travel light.

Start the Adventure

Know this. Once you start this adventure you will not want to stop. The sense of immersion into your surroundings when you are painting will change your travel forever. The trick is to make the time in your schedule. There is always an hour available, especially in the late afternoon or early morning. These are the best times so try to snatch a moment to paint or sketch from real life.

Happy plein air painting!

Have you tried outdoor painting? What travels with you in your kit? Has the experience enhanced your travels? Please join the conversation.

Malcolm DeweyMalcolm Dewey is a professional artist and writer. He is passionate about painting in oils and watercolor. Malcolm loves landscape painting. He teaches painting to artists of all levels. Working online on his website and in personal lessons Malcolm helps other artists paint better with structured painting lessons. His Facebook page can be found here.

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