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April 28 2021

arty afternoon: watercolours en plein air with amanda cooper

In this week’s Arty Afternoon, we’ve decided to venture outside to paint using watercolours ‘en plein air’ with artist Amanda Cooper! 

To watch and be inspired, please click on the ‘Play’ button below


Painting ‘en plein air’ essentially means painting outside ‘in situ’ as Amanda puts it, thus you capture the magic of the scene you see before you in real time with the breeze gently dancing around you. 

Amanda encourages everyone to take a simple subject, choosing a little old gate and a red watering can as her focus in her garden in West Oxfordshire. As she will tell you, she creates her painting in around 20 minutes, allowing time for drying, which is a testament to what we can all do if we’re brave enough to let loose with a simple palette! 

Starting with a quick sketch is the best way to begin, with Amanda sharing that it doesn’t matter if you can’t think of anything specific to draw. The key is simply sketching anything in front of you quickly, as it gets your eye in and lures your brain into an artistic headspace. 

She also believes that using a ‘wash’ is a wonderful way to encompass the atmosphere of the background, as it allows you to recreate the movement of nature as your brush glides loosely and lightly around the page. You can let the drips run (keeping a little eye on them to ensure they behave!) and embrace a world where straight lines don’t matter, even when you’re adding detail once you’re back inside later.


Letting the watercolours do their ‘own thing’ enhances your piece’s charm and they will always dry paler than they first appear, which is just one of the many helpful hints and tips Amanda shares throughout her video. Much of her advice centres around light and technique, with each insight helping all of us to understand how to make the most of this particular artistic material. 

Whilst Amanda does enjoy using pastels from time to time, watercolour landscapes are her preferred medium as she appreciates their ‘controlled anarchy’. Much of her inspiration comes from the wilder countryside around her home, complete with its shifting light and challenging weather. 

Her travels as a tour leader to far flung places such as Myanmar and Georgia have also given her ideas over the years, but it is her own garden that has been the recurring theme this year. Amanda teaches and works on commission too, often creating portraits of people’s houses and where these happen to sit within their local surroundings. 

We’re certainly intrigued by ‘en plein air’ painting, especially now the spring sunshine is in abundance, and are enormously grateful to Amanda for inspiring all of us to experiment with watercolours amongst nature. 

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