Outdoor Landscape Painting Ideas

by Tonya Staab

Painting landscapes outdoors is not only a fun, creative, inexpensive daytime date idea, but it’s a great way to get kids outdoors and being creative over the summer and spring break.

Before we headed to Kentucky a couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Mike that I’d love to take the kids outdoors and paint landscapes. I’ve been wanting to do this for the longest time, and thankfully he loves to paint (he has an art room in his house) and gets on board with all of my crazy ideas. So, one day when it wasn’t too hot, he whipped up a few art easels out of scrap wood in his garage, we popped out and bought canvasses and paint trays, then raided his art room for paintbrushes, acrylic paint, and containers for washing brushes.

This activity is not only a great way to get kids being more creative and outdoors, but imagine taking them to the same spot with each passing season to capture how much the view changes as winter turns to spring, and spring turns to summer, and summer turns to fall.

This is also a fantastic date idea, which we discovered after Mike mentioned what we did to his son, and he jumped at the opportunity to make that a future date idea.

So, I thought I’d share it here too in the hopes of inspiring a few people to take canvases outdoors to paint.

What You Need For Outdoor Landscape Painting

  • Art easels (I’m going to include images on Mike’s handmade ones, but I’ve also got links at the bottom for inexpensive ones to purchase too)
  • Canvasses
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes (assorted sizes)
  • Containers for washing brushes
  • 2 large bottles – 1 for fresh water, and 1 for disposing of paint water
  • Snacks
  • Drinks
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Cell phone or tablet (I’ll explain below)

Let’s start with the really basic art easels that Mike whipped up. He already had the one on the left in the picture above but whipped up 3 of the one in the right in about 2 hours (that included time spent figuring out the best way to go about it and playing with a couple of different methods).

Note: If you are going with the desktop art easels as we did, make sure there are picnic benches at the location you’ll be painting, or take a fold-up picnic table with you.

So, this is the one he had already made:

As you can see, it just requires four pieces of scrap wood, a screw to secure the angled board to the block behind it, and wood glue to make attach the other pieces to the base.

Now, he whipped up three of these ones for the twins’ and I that fold down and we were able to bring them back on the plane with us in our suitcase.

Again, just four pieces of wood, a couple of screws to secure the legs, and a third longer screw with washer and nut allowing that middle leg to fold down to make transporting the easels so much easier.

We did our landscape paintings at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Kentucky. It was the perfect weather for it. We found a quiet spot by one of the ponds that had picnic tables and bathrooms not too far away, and it was only a short walk from the car.

Now, the reason I mentioned to take a cell phone or tablet with you, is that you might spot the most beautiful bird, a duck, a frog, a turtle, anything that could move. Snap a photo of it before it does, that way you can still paint it in after you’ve done your background and it’s long gone.

Most of all though, just have fun with this. It’s fascinating to see just how differently people see and paint the exact same landscape right in front of them. And, Mike was able to give me a few tips on how to separate the bristles on the brush to make the trees, so I got to learn something new too.

This was the view Mike and I could see from where we were sitting. It’s crazy just how different our paintings turned out.

This is the perfect activity if you are looking for a fun, creative, inexpensive, outdoor date day idea for an anniversary, a first date, or just because you want to try something new.

Tip: If you decide you want to paint watercolor landscapes instead of acrylic, make sure to get canvases specifically for watercolor paints. We plan on doing this next time. 

Get out there and be creative!

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