Being outdoors can be the best part of plein air painting. There is a magical feeling to seeing the day unfold before you while you work.
When you are painting outdoors, you notice the subtle changes in light. You are aware of a small, fluffy cloud as it passes overhead or a slight breeze as it blows past.
Not every day is ideal for painting. High wind creates a unique challenge for the painter.
Most plein air painters have at least one story about a tumbling easel that was blown over by a gust of wind. And by the way, paintings, like toast, always land butter side down.
I recently had a couple of days of painting in high winds, so I thought I would share my favorite tool for surviving a windy day. It’s a weather app called Windy.com.
You most likely already use a weather app to check the forecast before heading out to paint. What makes Windy.com different is that it visually shows the direction and strength of the wind. And we painters like visuals, don’t we?!
On Windy.com, the wind speed is indicated by color.
- Blue and teal indicates very little wind.
- Green means a fair amount of wind.
- If the map is showing orange or red, you will need to prepare for heavy winds.
- If you see violet, then it’s an indoor painting day!
On Windy.com, you can click on any location and get a current wind speed. And you can press play on the animation to see the wind forecast.
Another great feature is the wind direction. You can see the direction of the wind and strategically plan a location that might be sheltered.
For instance, earlier this week, the wind was blowing out of the north. Knowing this, I could look for an area south of rocks, trees, or bushes that would serve as a windbreak.
Windy.com also has a free phone app so you can check the wind forecast on the go.
Here are a few additional tips for windy days.
1. Sit lower to the ground.
I prefer to stand while I’m painting, but the lower your painting can be in high winds, the better.
On a windy day, I sit on a low stool, keep my painting low, and put my water container and brush holder on the ground.
2. Add weight to your tripod or easel.
The tripod I use has a hook. I can attach a carabiner and hang my backpack from my tripod to make it more stable.
3. Wear a hat with a drawstring and a windbreaker jacket
In addition to a hat and warm jacket, I recently heard a tip about wearing rain pants over your regular pants on extra windy and cold days. I haven’t tested out this fashion statement but I bet it works.
4. Work smaller than you usually would.
Big paintings can act as a sail, causing about any tripod or easel to tip over.
5. Find shelter from the wind.
Bushes, large rocks, trees, cars, and buildings can all serve as windbreaks.