Baby, It’s Cold Outside—Let’s Paint!

5 winter watercolor plein air painting tips

What’s a watercolor artist with a penchant for plein air painting to do when the weather turns cold? Andy Evansen has the answers. Here, he shares a few of his best cold-weather painting tips.

Andy’s 5 Tips for Painting Watercolor Outside in Wintertime

1. “Most everyone has heard of putting some alcohol into your water container, but that only works to an extent. I’ll venture outside if the temps are hovering in the 40s or upper 30s, but beyond that I tend to paint indoors. It’s not just the water that you’ll have issues with. I use a metal palette outdoors and that gets very cold as well as the paper itself, and washes don’t seem to react the way I want them to.

2. “Often, when you first get out of your warm car and spend time setting up, you don’t feel cold, but stand in one spot for a bit and it’ll creep in. Wool pants are wonderful protection against cold and moisture, and I carry some of those hand warmer packets to put in my boots and gloves. Speaking of gloves, get a cheaper pair and cut the index, middle finger and thumb off so you can better grip your brush.

3. “I try to find a spot out of the wind. Wind chills in Minnesota and Wisconsin can be downright nasty, so taking them out of the equation as much as possible makes sense.

4. “In cold temps, I also stay closer to my vehicle than normal, so I can duck in and warm up—not only myself but my painting, as well.

5. “Lastly, I pick a subject that can be tackled in under an hour. And I typically lay in all the larger shapes on my painting first, while I’m still on location. I can always save some of the smaller details for when I’m back in the studio. No need to attempt to paint wires, windows, and birds with shaking hands.”

watercolor painting plein air painting
Icy Passage (watercolor on paper) by Andy Evansen

Andy Evansen began painting watercolors in the mid-1990s, is largely self-taught, and has studied with such well-know watercolorists as Skip Lawrence, Eric Weigardt, Alvaro Castagnet, and Joseph Zbukvic. His award-winning paintings are in collections on four continents, and he has become a sought-after workshop instructor who paints and teaches internationally.

Want to see Andy in action? Check out his video, “Andy Evansen: Secrets Of Painting Watercolor Outdoors.”

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