Beware!  5 Health Hazards of Plein Air Painting!!
 By Wendy Mould, AFCA


Yes I know, you think I am crazy!

What could possibly be bad about Plein Air Painting?  Fresh clean air, relaxing atmosphere, away from the hustle and bustle of life, being “At One with Nature.”
I am just getting ready to “head out to paint”.  My passion is to camp and paint: on the beach, in the forest, on the bluffs, anywhere that catches my eye.

However, you‘ll be amazed at the Hazards!

Part of the problem I think is that artists are crazy people.  As artists you get all excited at some of the goofiest things: the light falling on the water; waves pounding on the beach; the tall, old growth firs standing quietly on the trail.  You grab your gear, set up and start to work.  Your family knows you are lost for hours, maybe even days.

But are you prepared?

1.  Sunburns – (Probably the first thing you would think of) Even if you start in the shade the light will change and sooner or later you are in the sun.  I am usually pretty careful: hat, long sleeves, shady spot but watch out for your feet. I was working away and quickly shifting when my work was in the sun but who thinks of their feet!


I am tucked in close to the cliffs, out of the wind but note that foot! One burnt foot coming up. 

2.  Bug Bites – I am more a spring to fall Plein Air painter so the bugs are out when I am out!!  You never know when those guys will get you.  Again, those sandaled feet, sitting on a log and painting; who knew there were such things as sand fleas!  Later, sitting on the rocks, surf is pounding, painting a lighthouse.  Medium breeze off the water so no bugs, right?  Well, except for the few hiding behind my ears out of the wind!! Let me tell you, their bite meant business.


Good breeze off the ocean, what bugs could be here?!

3.   Eye Strain- This is an issue – Sunglasses or no Sunglasses?  I am in the sunglasses camp.  When I paint, I am usually there for hours and the glare off the paper and the scenery can be brutal. Yes, I do agree that sunglasses change your colour perspective a bit.  Definitely not the time to have those rose coloured glasses.  I find if I start the picture with sunglasses it is better to finish it with them.  That way the colours are consistent.

4.  Muscle Strain – So easy to do!!  You find your spot, set up and you are away!!  Who pays attention to time!  You are in “The Moment”!!  Hours can fly by and you haven’t really moved.  Your arms, back and feet can scream their head off but you know what it’s like.  “I will just finish this spot, then break,wait,I need to darken that spot, okay, no, that line is too sharp . . “

I have been lucky.  My dog Rusty, paints with me; either on my lap if I am sitting or at my feet.  He has a 1.5 hr limit and then he says we need to stretch.  He is soooooo right!


On The Trail – Ink work is fun, but takes time!

5.  Heat Stroke/Frost Bite/Dehydration – Again this is so easy to do!!  Remember, we are in The Moment!!! Am I thirsty?  Cold?  Hot?  Who thinks of these things when the light is changing!! The excitement of moving in on a picture is all you feel.  Then suddenly you are done, you step back to admire your work and OMG!!!  “I am sweltering and I haven’t had a drink for hours!!”  Like I said, part of the problem is Artists are crazy people!!

Of course there are more hazards: bear bits, cougar attacks, . . .  (When Rusty got restless and wanted to go I realized the coyotes were vvvvvvvery close! Actually, he made me realize they had been making a noise for some time, I just hadn’t really paid any attention.  We got out of there very quickly!!

Abrutus Splendor, West Coast Canada - Watercolour

Abrutus Splendor, West Coast Canada – Watercolour – Easy to forget time here!


BUT despite the hazards the adventure is worth it! Spending time observing and painting life is an experience like no other.  Every picture will definitely have its own story!!
Head out and paint but remember, like any outdoor adventure you need to be prepared!


Wendy Mould, AFCA, CDM is an instructor, presenter and active member with several Fraser Valley Art organizations.  Spring, summer and fall, finds Wendy out and painting.  To see Wendy’s work: and for Art Techniques and Art Business Tips see her blog:

As published in Art Avenue – July/August 2016