My Virtual Studio: Studio, Plein Air, Urban Sketching

Studio painting is where most watercolor painting happens; artists who paint outside often use that as a study for a work created back in the studio. It’s generally easier, especially for new artists, to create indoors.

  • Comfort – no outdoor elements to deal with.
  • Time – the ability to stop and start at will (and a real bathroom!)
  • Tools – availability of all your supplies.
  • Techniques – unlimited

Plein Air Painting is less common but still quite popular nonetheless. Plein Air means “Fresh air” or “outdoors” in French – it’s painting from life rather than imagination or photographs, and offers both challenges and benefits.

  • Comfort – dealing with elements of nature can be a plus – or a minus
  • Time – working faster due to changing light, weather, etc
  • Tools – carrying supplies along with you, using only what you can haul
  • Techniques – limited; painting on an angle (easel) usually or finding location with a flat surface

Urban Sketching is a more modern form of art – documenting the everyday world through quicker sketches than one might create during a plein air session. These can be line art or realism or anywhere in between; the idea is to draw exactly what is in front of you. (Plein air can incorporate more editing of the scene and expressiveness.)

  • Comfort – dealing with nature, settings; finding seating or bringing a stool
  • Time – quick sketches, often in public situations
  • Tools – simpler, can be pen/pencil/sketchbook and can add a little color.
  • Techniques – simple/limited due to the nature of public work in potentially busy locations

Plein Air Supplies

When going out to paint plein air, I use the same palette that was discussed in the Watercolors and Palettes lesson. I pack 2 quarter-sheets of Arches or Saunders Cold Press, and have them pre-taped onto lightweight Graphix boards (cut to size as well). Brushes and other supplies I pack in a backpack:

  • daVinci Maestro Kolinsky Sable Brush – Round, Short Handle, Size 14    BLICK
  • Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush – Pointed Round, Size 10 – BLICK 
  • Heritage Arts Detachable Plastic Brush Washer EH
  • Small Spray bottle, 3pack  AMZ
  • Tutto3 Pencil, black or silver body
  • Kneaded Eraser, EH or BLICK
  • Graphix Incredible Board, AMZ
  • Blick Travel Easel – BLICK

A video showing my setup and supplies – and a little about painting:

View on YouTube

Urban Sketching Supplies

I use a number of different sets of supplies when out to sketch; what is packed often depends on my creative mood for the day. I may google the location (if meeting folks in a place I’ve never been) and look at some photos to see what I might be sketching. Often I just take a Pentalic sketchbook and a pencil and a sharpie. If I take any color, it’s usually one of my mini-palettes, of which I have about 15 …..See a whole post with links and pictures of them HERE, video is below:

Join our creative community! Our Student Facebook Group is for all classes here …and while there are no finished projects in this class, you’re welcome to join the group and get an idea of what kind of beautiful works can be created from learnings in classes on this website!


I'm an artist, papercrafter, instructor, Youtuber - and all around creative geek! I love all the mediums and experimenting with styles. I especially love seeing others take a step on their own creative journey...whether for the first time, or leaping into new territory as a creative veteran!