10 Essential Plein Air Painting Materials

Plein Air Gouache Painting Workshop | Ames, IA | Sept 11, 2021

Join me for a relaxing afternoon of outdoor painting with Gouache. Learn, grow, and discover painting on-site with this intuitive quick-drying media. Workshop made possible in partnership with the Octagon Center for the Arts.

You have seen me painting outside for years now, the Backyard Botanical Collection being the most recent form. And, well, I’m excited to ask you to join me outdoors Saturday, September 11! I’m partnering with the Octagon Center for the Arts to teach a gouache focused plein air painting workshop! Sign up here.

More than in my studio, painting outdoors is my place of pure flow. The connection with nature and my inner creativity deepens with each mark.

Kristin M Roach

Solutions to the unique challenges of painting outdoors with Gouache

Painting outside comes with its own set of skills, tools, and tricks to master; especially if you are new to painting with gouache (opaque watercolor). Scroll down for the list of what’s in my kit I paint with nearly every day.

What to pack in your bag without carrying your studio?

What if you run out of time or the light changes?

What about bugs? And the sun? And the wind? Or if it’s raining? Wait – you still draw outside even in the rain?

All these questions and more will be answered in this afternoon long workshop. We’ll start in the studio covering the basics of gouache and prepping our kits, then move to an outdoor location based on participant interest (nature or architecture). We’ll end with a review of our work (you only have to share if you would like to) and a final group Q&A. I’ll go around and make sure to chat with each student so everyone gets feedback while painting on-site.

A relaxing afternoon of outdoor Gouache Painting >> Sign Up Today<<

  • Workshop Details
  • Date: Saturday, September 11th, 2021
  • Time: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM CDT
  • Meet at: Octagon Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Avenue, Ames, IA
  • Painting Site: Downtown Ames OR Bandshell Park
  • Class Limit: 12 Participants, 12 years and older please.
  • Cost: $80 + Materials (some provided, see below for details)
  • Class Description: Explore painting outdoors with gouache! Learn about the best practices for building your plein air painting kit, working on site, and documenting your subject to finish later in the studio. Instructor Kristin M Roach is an interdisciplinary artist and studied oil painting and art history at Northern Illinois University and specializes in plein air gouache. 

10 Essential Plein Air Gouache Materials

This was difficult for me to put together, mostly because it will vary depending on your preference and style. Clicking through these affiliate link to purchase your supplies is an easy way you can support my arts career even if you don’t live in Ames and cannot attend the workshop. This is basically a list of my favorite gouache art supplies.

1. Watercolor Pad

Ideally no bigger than 9 X 12″, no smaller than 6 X 6″ — think about what will fit your YOUR bag and stay steady on your lap or a picnic table. Also, much bigger and you’ll need to stretch it to prevent it from warping so not ideal for outdoor use.

My favorite pads to date are: Fabriano 1264 Watercolor Spiral Pad and Arches Watercolor Pad – 9” x 12”, 140 lb, Hot Press, Fold-over and Strathmore Small Tape Bound.

Things to consider when picking your watercolor paper for gouache field painting:

  • Tooth (go more smooth than rough)
  • Weight (heavier the better, 140lb is ideal for outside painting)
  • Type of pad – I like to tear out every sheet as I go (fold over and tape bound), others like to keep it all bound in a book (spiral and journal style).

2. Quality Paints

Purchase the highest quality you can afford, keep in mind, you may not love gouache. Start with a midrange and work your way up to the good stuff. What makes it good? The binders used, the amount of pigment, and the light-fastness rating.

I’m loving Holbein Artists’ Gouache for getting started. They have this great set over on Dick Blick (free shipping on orders over $45) that has your primaries + black and white. If you’d like to expand beyond that, I would recommend adding: Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, and Viridian Green.

I could go on… but from there, it really depends on your style — do you like drawing plants or architecture? Trees or sand dunes? You’ll find what colors you are craving. Since I tend to paint plants… a lot of plants. I rounded out my pallet with all the greens and yellows, rose pink, and Lucy added HOT pink to my pallet too. Because Mom, PINK! I’m not sure if I’ll ever find a flower that vibrant, but if I do…. Okay digressing.

3. THIS paint Box will change your relationship to gouache.

This one specifically. I’ve tried many and hands down this has made working with gouache outside (or in general) a million times less annoying and wasteful.

4. Fine mist spray bottle (like this one).

It doesn’t need to be big. 2-4oz size. You can even reuse an old body mist or room spray bottle. Again, will completely elevate your gouache painting.

5. Mid Range Brushes

Cotman size 0 round, a filbert 1/4″, filbert or flat 1/2“, a mop head (fancy travel style on my wishlist but not in my kit yet) for washes. Now these can get realllly expensive or really cheap. I recommend for your field kit, going someone where in between and leaning towards the cheap side for most and the expensive side for one. Keep the sable brushes in your studio, scratch that, in the safe! In your field kit, they will get damaged – Get what you can afford to damage out once a season.

All the other things that are probably around your house:

6. Pint mason jar with a lid filled with water (or any other water-tight lidded jar of about that size) for cleaning between brushes between uses.

7. Two (2)- Three (3) Clean rags or a fist full of paper towels or both.

8. Water bottle or tea thermos (for yourself to drink), sun screen, and bug spray.

9. Pencil (2B, 3B, or 4B is nice) + eraser + small pencil sharpen

10. Tote/Messenger bag to put it all in. If the bottom is floppy, put a scrap of mat board in there to stabilize it.

All the other things I keep in my kit?

We’ll file this under personal preference.

  • Walnut ink + nib/nib holder
  • Charcoal stubs
  • Tube of white paint
  • Magnifying glass
  • Wildflower guide book
  • Waxed canvas to sit on or to put my supplies on if my surface is slatted/uneven – I also roll my brushes into it at the end of the day.
  • Sunhat (keeps the sun out of my eyes and off my neck without changing the color/tone of my surroundings (sunglasses)
  • Snacks! (I get crabby, quick, if I’m hungry)

And that is the thing, these are the things I carry in my bag every day. But your kit might include a ruler, maybe a water color set instead of gouache, or maybe markers or color pencils.

What about a chair? I personally sit on whatever is around (park bench, grass, a bolder, tree stump), but that’s me. A light weight folding beach chair, stool, or whatever is going to help you feel comfortable while painting.

I start almost every drawing with pencil, then walnut ink, then gouache. Depending on your preferences, it can vary quite a bit.

Interested in painting outside and learning more about this enjoyable creative pursuit? Join me for en Plein Air Gouache Painting September 11.

Until Next Time!

Kristin M Roach

Published by kristinMroach

Hi! I am an artist, author, and owner of a modern apothecary called Little Woods in Ames, Iowa.