Taking it Outside - Acrylic Plein Air with Alice Helwig

You may have seen A.S. Helwig's painting show Canvas on television,  or perhaps you have taken other workshops with her. Now is your chance to join  the award winning artist Alice Helwig in a one day workshop about plein air painting.

Artists have painted in the “open air” since the middle of the 19th century. Alice started her painting career as a plein air artist. You will be receiving instruction and personal guidance as she leads you through the best practices of using acrylic paint for plein air work.

Most of the day will be spent outside on location, followed by a group critique of the work accomplished that day. You will need to be dressed in layers for the weather. Also, remember to bring your lunch and snacks.

Supplies not included.



Please bring your paints. I suggest the following as it means you will have a warm and cool of each primary.

• Hansa Yellow or Lemon Yellow
• Diarylide Yellow
• Pyrrole Red or Naphthol Red
• Quinacridone Magenta
• Ultramarine Blue
• Phthalo Blue(Green Shade)
• Yellow Ochre
• Burnt Umber
• Titanium White in a large Tube 150 ml/ 5 oz


A medium is added to your paint. You can think of them as the same substance of paint- without the pigment. As acrylics dry very quickly please bring the following:

• Glazing medium, semi-gloss, matte or glossy
• Retarder- this makes your acrylic paint dry a little bit slower.


Bring a variety of brushes. You can buy inexpensive sets of brushes if you wish. I use both hog bristle (stiffer) and Synthetic (Softer) brushes. I suggest you get a few of both.
Recommended Sizes:

• Flat 6, 10, 12
• Filbert 12
• Rigger or Liner: 5
• Palette Knife


There are many palette systems on the market. They have their advantages and disadvantages. As you are a beginner you might not want to invest in these palettes until later.
Other alternatives can be: (Just use one type…)

• large plastic lids ( I use lids off of Rubbermaid containers. ) You need a lot of room to mix colours, please make sure these are of a good size. Ice cream bucket lids are good but bring a few.
• Disposable paper palettes ( they will have these at the art store)
• A sheet of plexi-glass


You will need a few supports to paint on. At most we will be doing 2 or 3. When doing plein air painting you need to work quickly as the light changes. For this reason, most people, when they are beginning do not work large. I suggest one of the following sizes: 12 x 16, 9 x 12, or a 14 x 18
You can work on the support of your choice including;

a. paper- please use masking tape to tape it to a board ( you can canvas paper )
b. hardboard (maseonite). You can get this from the local hardware store or from Art Stores. It is a great support to use for acrylic painting, but you will need to seal it with carpenter’s glue or medium. For the glue just mix a bit of water, no more than 25%, with the glue and then paint one side. Let dry. You then will use a coat of gesso on the board. When using medium paint one or two coats on the board. Let dry between coats.
c. Stretched Canvas

Water Containers:

• Plastic containers work great. I use old yogurt containers and plastic pails.
• You need to bring a jug of water as we can’t always depend on water being available.
• Also bring a plastic bag to store wet brushes.
• Bring a spray bottle full of water.

Rags or paper towels:

I like using shop towels. I buy them at Canadian Tire or Rona

Sketchbook and pencils:

If you have one already bring it along, if not pick one up that is about 8 x 10 inches. You need artist B pencils, a good mix is a 2B, 4B, and 6B. You can also use charcoal . We will be doing value studies of the your subject before painting it


This is an important and essential piece of equipment for the plein air artist. It should be one that collapses so that it is portable. The Leighton Centre does not have easels so you will have to bring one of your own.
Viewfinder- this is something that is helpful to have . You can purchase one, or make one out of cardboard. Old cardboard slide mounts also work.

Non Painting but important supplies for Plein Air Painting

  • We will go out despite the weather conditions, so be prepared.
  • Dress in layers so you will be warm enough
  • Have a rain jacket handy
  • Wear sturdy shoes
  • Bring bug spray and sunscreen
  • Wear sunglasses. Artist’s eyes are important—please protect them
  • Bring a hat; a wide brimmed one is best
  • You can bring your camera so that you have reference pictures to refer to later on
  • Have your supplies in a container that you can easily carry. I use an old toolbox. You could also use a backpack or shopping bag. In fact shopping bags come in handy as you can hang them on the easel with rocks in them. This can help keep the easel more steady.
  • Some people prefer to sit, although I prefer to stand when painting. I feel you have more energy this way. If you want you can bring some sort of chair
  • Bring your lunch and snacks. Bring water to drink. I like taking a thermos full of hot water so Ican make tea.