Painting a Plein Air Still Life with Joe Gyurcsak

Summer Is officially here and the time is right for painting outdoors! Plein air does not always mean landscapes, join Utrecht resident artist and brand manager Joe Gyurcsak as he packs his plein air kit and takes advantage of beautiful natural light to paint a still life outside. Watch his painting come together step by step.

Everything you need for your plein air painter's kit

What You'll Need:

A universal palette of colors

Joe's Palette:

Setting up an outdoor still-life

Setting Up:

Joe begins by arranging his still life on a brightly colored piece of fabric in an area where the light will remain consistent for the duration of his painting session. Try to avoid a spot where shadows may come through your still life at some point, changing the overall lighting.

Next Joe uses a viewfinder to compose his painting and sets up his easel in a place where he can comfortably view the still life and canvas along the same sight line. Another good tip from Joe is to align your palette vertically beneath the canvas so you can view the colors you are mixing next to the colors you have already put on the canvas. Joe uses a limited palette of 6-8 colors to ensure continuity of color in his painting and an overall harmony.

Begin with a pencil drawing

Once you have your materials set up and your still life in place, you are ready to begin your painting. You can choose to sketch in with brush and paint or start with a pencil drawing.

Joe opts for a pencil drawing, allowing him to make slight adjustments to the composition before putting paint to canvas. This does not have to be a detailed drawing, just a rough idea of where the major shapes will be within the composition.

Lay in your shadows and dark areas

When using the sun as your light source, be aware that it will shift as you move along with your painting, effecting the cast shadows of the objects most of all. For that reason, it's wise to identify these shadow areas early on in your session and paint them in immediately. Here you can see Joe is putting those cast shadows in before moving on.

All darks and shadows have been blocked in

Once the shadows have been painted in, Joe continues working with the darkest areas of the composition. This solidifies your composition and sets up the structure for the remainder of the painting session. Joe can now begin filling in the mid tones and highlights.

Lay in your mid tone colors

Now Joe works in the larger areas of mid tone color, still keeping the composition fairly loose. Once the color has been placed he can determine if and where changes need to be made before moving on to final refinements.

Adjust your color & values while rening edges

As he makes refinements, Joe adjusts the color and value around the composition. At this point he is cleaning up his shapes and working toward the vision he has for the finished painting.

Joe's finished plein air still life!

Joe's Finished Painting! Notice the vibrancy of the colors enhanced by working with natural light.