Here are six tips to take on board next time you go paint outside in a city:
Rue de Rivoli – Oil on linen canvas (24 x 18 cm) by Benoit Philippe
1. Avoid the rush hour: In big cities, it is better to avoid commuting in public transport during rush hours (in particular if you are bringing back your fresh oil painting). The same goes for setting-up your material on location. Get-up early and start to paint early. Not only you will benefit from the morning light, but you will avoid an army of tourists going in your way.
2. Choosing the right spot: Michael McNamara gave an excellent tip on where to place your easel when painting in city areas: “Look for a stationary object to paint next to or behind, such as a mailbox or a lamppost that pedestrians will have to go around anyway,” (Michael McNamara's Urban Plein Air Tips – published in American Artists magazine)
3. Anticipate where the sun is going: How much time do you have before the sun disappears behind one of the buildings around you?
4. Keep your valuables at home: take the minimum with you. Have some cash in your pocket, but don’t carry around your credit card, jewellery or expensive equipment. Once you are concentrated on painting, you could become an easy target for pickpockets. If you have a bag on the ground, secure it by putting the front leg of your easel through the bag handles.
5. Take a couple of snapshots: I generally try to take some photographs of the spot I am painting as a safety net. It is also a great way to capture passersby in order to add them later in your painting. This way, you avoid painting a ghost town.
6. Take a few business cards with you or, even better -- take some blank cards and a pen: Many times, when painting on location, I have been asked if the painting was for sale or if I was exhibiting. This could be a great opportunity to add someone to your mailing list. Ask the person if he or she wants to give you their name and email address so that you can tell them when the painting will be exhibited. If they don’t want to give you their details, you can still hand them your business card.
Plein-air painting Cityscapes