Debbie Abshear


1.     Create your own Plein Air Checklist or use mine

  • During the week, update the list with items you have forgotten

2.     Create folder for event

  • On cover put dates of event
  • Date you registered for event
  • Hotel reservation dates

3.     Place in folder

  • Maps/mapquest printed directions
  • Confirmations for hotels with address and phone numbers
  • Registration forms for the event
  • Itinerary, day by day schedule (I leave one at home for  my husband)
  • Emails and phone numbers of contacts at event


During the week, update the list with items you have forgotten or wish you had brought. If you have forgotten something, ASK. I am sure there is someone at the event that has extras.

Take a deep breath, enjoy the experience. You might not create masterpieces but you will eat, sleep and think about being creative.

Set a goal for yourself for the event. My goal for this week is to capture the ‘feeling of place’.

This is a time to connect with other artists, and art lovers, to celebrate art and to become inspired not only by your surroundings but by one another.

  1. Arrive on site- sketch kit, viewfinder, and pen in hand. Walk around, find something that inspires you. Turn around and try to find 2 views. More likely than not, if you need to move to another location, you will pack it in!
  2. Feel it, see it with your heart and gut, name it….place that name on the top of your sketch.
  3. Establish your horizon, sky, middle and foreground. Don’t sketch too much or your painting can become too tight. If your painting is about the sky, lower the horizon line.
  4. Sketching supplies:
  • Fanny pack
  • Accordion sketchbook
  • Viewfinder or mat
  • Flair pen (black)
  • Altoid sketchbox with Neutral Tint Watercolor (Holbein)
  • Small bottle of water
  • Paper towel
  • Copy of Drivers License, money and emergency contact info in a ziplock
  • Keys

Dealing with People

We are ambassadors of plein air painting! If you are in the middle of a wash, and someone comes up to talk to you, tell them you are at a crucial part of the painting and cannot talk. I usually have my sketchbook handy and ask them if they would like to look at it until I am free.

I make bookmarks out of failed paintings that have my contact information on the back and have them pick one out.


Pretend you don’t see or can’t hear them if you have your earphones on!


Evaluate your painting by stepping away. Critique it by asking yourself if it needs something. For me, it is usually some dark values. I have an envelope of dark construction paper that I can tear into a shape and place onto the painting.

Put the painting up where you walk by it in your hotel room. I see more with fresh eyes the next morning.


Flickr is a website that people download photos to. If I am unfamiliar with a location, I will look it up on Flickr which usually has thousands of photographs available to look at or download. I don’t necessarily paint from them but will use the information for the type of terrain I will be painting in and whether or not you can park by the location. This is also useful for preparing your palette, to make sure you bring the right pigments.


Life360 is a free smartphone app that helps families and close friends stay in sync throughout the day. With Life360, you can see where your family and friends are on a private map, stay in touch with group and one-on-one messaging, and get help in an emergency. 

You can create temporary circles, like for this event. You press check in and you will be able to see the location of people on a map.

When I travel, my husband can track me to see how close or far away I am.


If you are traveling with someone else, bring 2 sets of car keys. That way, if someone needs to get something out of the car, they can just go without having to find you. If you are traveling alone, bring an extra set to keep in your backpack.


If possible, bring 2 palettes and 2 sets of brushes. One for your plein air painting and one for the hotel. This way if you need to touch up your painting, your paints and brushes are available, (or if you wake up in the middle of the night with an inspiration!).