Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Calm down dear, its only wind....

For the en plein air artist there can be many hazards that can impede the production of a successful painting. Despite carrying out a detailed reconnoitre the day before I was due to tutor a group at a seaside location, I still managed to get caught out by not observing the next day held the highest spring tide of the season for me!  My demonstration spot now lay 8’ under as we were met at the entrance to the car park by spotty youths in canoes, anyone got a snorkel? These days, experience has taught me that tide tables must be checked as well as that other enemy of the outdoor artist.. wind!
An artist’s easel makes the perfect sail and I’ve seen many a one doing cartwheels over a meadow, leaving behind a trail of expensive pastels to slowly dissolve in the long grass.
There are ways to make things a little more stable and one way is a Tesco’s carrier bag filled with water suspended on a string below the tripod.
So here’s my Beaufort Scale for artists to help you determine whether to fill that plastic carrier bag..

CALM - You feel energised and see painting subjects everywhere..

LIGHT AIR - Froth blows off that welcome cup of coffee out of the Thermos.

LIGHT BREEZE – You turn up the collar of your bargain Millets windproof coat as you find it’s not as windproof as you thought…

GENTLE BREEZE – Your Jackson’s brushroll blows away over the cliff…

MODERATE BREEZE – The easel is trying to tip over, you look around frantically for the tripod holes made by the previous artist…

FRESH BREEZE – a cat blows past……

STRONG BREEZE - difficulty opening the car door to get your lunch

MODERATE GALE – an artist blows past….

FRESH GALE – Paint refuses to leave the brush

STRONG GALE – You venture into mixed media as grit, leaves and seagulls start to adhere themselves to your canvas

STORM – The easel and your work turns into a Tardis, makes a similar noise, dematerialises and reappears in the middle of the next incoming wave…

HURRICANE – You suddenly find your viewpoint has inexplicably changed to 40’ higher!


  1. 'Seagulls start to adhere themselves to your canvas,' - very true.

  2. Sounds akin to David's scale of difficulty of a walk which ranges from a 'gentle stroll' to 'quite interesting' Needless to say it doesn't tally with my own scale.