Outdoor Art for Beginners: A Guide to Creating Art in Nature

Bringing artmaking outdoors opens up new possibilities for creative expression and connection with the natural world. Outdoor art allows beginners to experiment with ephemeral environmental art, nature-inspired painting, sustainable land art installations, and more. This comprehensive guide covers everything a novice needs to start making art en plein air.

Getting Started with Outdoor Art

Outdoor art provides a chance to see nature through an artistic lens. With some planning and basic supplies, beginners can start creating art alfresco.

Benefits of Making Art Outdoors

  • Opportunity to connect with nature
  • Natural lighting great for painting
  • More space for large or messy projects
  • Inspiration from surroundings
  • Fresh air and vitamin D

Tips for Outdoor Artmaking

  • Check weather forecast and dress accordingly
  • Use sunshade canopy for shade if needed
  • Bring stool or seat pad for comfort
  • Secure loose items in windy conditions
  • Consider bugs, terrain,seasons in planning

Beginner Outdoor Art Supplies

  • Portable easel or drawing surface
  • Weatherproof art materials
  • Transport bags or case
  • Stool or seat pad
  • Bug spray and sun protection

Also, Check this as well Eco-Friendly Art Projects

Plein Air Painting for Beginners

Plein air painting involves making art outdoors directly from nature. It’s a wonderful way to observe and paint the natural landscape.

Getting Started with Plein Air Painting

  • Select portable easel, canvas, paper suitable for outdoors
  • Gather outdoor painting supplies like brushes, paints, medium
  • Pick unshaded spot with good view of landscape
  • Arrange seating area comfortably under shade structure

Tips for Successful Plein Air Painting

  • Wake early to catch best morning light
  • Quickly sketch out composition before lighting changes
  • Limit palette to only essential paint colors
  • Use bold, expressive brush strokes to capture scenery fast
  • Take photos to refer to later for finishing touches

Ideal Scenes to Paint Outdoors

  • Sweeping landscapes and vistas
  • Rivers, lakes, waterfront settings
  • Fields, farms, pastures
  • Gardens and flower beds
  • Trees, forests, and woods

Drawing Nature Outdoors

Observing and sketching outdoors engages you directly with natural subjects and settings. It’s a meditative way to focus on nature’s details.

Getting Started with Nature Drawing

  • Gather portable drawing tools like sketchbook, pencils, pens
  • Sit comfortably with good visibility of surroundings
  • Begin loosely sketching outlines and shapes
  • Add light shading to builds form and volume
  • Develop details gradually from large shapes to fine lines

Tips for Drawing Outdoors Effectively

  • Use right hand placement and stroke for perspective
  • Capture lighting and shadows quickly as they shift
  • Focus first on composition and proportions
  • Draw contours and figures swiftly
  • Let some edges blend into washes and background

Great Nature Subjects to Draw Outside

  • Trees, leaves, flowers, plants
  • Feathered or furry animals
  • Rocks, shells, pinecones
  • Water scenes, rivers, ponds
  • Cloud formations, sunsets
  • Gardens, patios, backyards

Land Art Installations for Beginners

Land art uses natural and ephemeral materials to create installations directly in the environment. It fosters interesting interactions between art and place.

Getting Started with Land Art Projects

  • Choose outdoor site with permission and minimal impact
  • Collect natural materials like leaves, rocks, sticks
  • Arrange materials mindfully to enhance surroundings
  • Document through photos before materials scatter
  • Leave only footprints by removing all traces after

Simple Beginner Land Art Ideas

  • Spiral mandalas from stones and petals
  • Zen rock gardens and patterns
  • Natural architecture from sticks
  • Shape silhouette outlines with materials
  • Geometric mosaics from found objects

Tips for Responsible Land Artmaking

  • Avoid moving habitat components like logs or boulders
  • Never pull up plants or strip materials like bark or moss
  • Ensure arrangements will not blow into waterways
  • Use biodegradable materials only
  • Remove and scatter all traces after documenting

Nature Printing and Textures

Capture the textures, patterns and shapes of natural finds through printmaking techniques like frottage, ink transfers, leaf imprints and eco printing.

Beginner Nature Printing Techniques

Rubbing – Lay object under paper, rub over it with crayon or graphite to transfer texture

Leaf imprints – Coat leaf underside with paint or ink, place on paper, peel off leaf gently

Eco printing – Pack folded fabric and plant material tightly in jar, steam, reveal prints

Ink transfers – Ink object, place face down on paper, rub or press to transfer image

Tips for Great Nature Prints

  • Gather variety of textured natural items to print
  • Try different papers and inks for unique effects
  • Combine printmaking techniques
  • Add watercolor or colored pencil to enhance
  • Display series together in frames or journals

Items to Try Printing

  • Leaves, ferns, grasses, seaweed
  • Feathers, pinecones, shells, wood, bark
  • Textured walls, stone, bricks, tiles
  • Rusty metals, screen doors, chain link fences

Nature Assemblages and Sculptures

Collect interesting natural finds while exploring outdoors. Then assemble them into ephemeral sculptures, structures, and contemporary takes on traditional nature crafts.

Beginner Nature Sculpture Ideas

  • Andy Goldsworthy-style stone cairns and stacks
  • Twig and stick woven nest forms
  • Bark etched with forest imagery and words
  • Dreamcatcher made with foraged materials
  • Woven willow branch spheres and shapes

Tips for Responsible Nature Sculpture

  • Ensure foraged materials are abundant and legally collected
  • Never damage habitats or living plants
  • Select materials that will decompose back where they came from
  • Photograph works before weather destabilizes them
  • Leave each site as you found it

Places to Source Natural Materials

  • Beaches provide shells, driftwood, sea glass
  • Forest floors offer sticks, pinecones, acorn caps
  • Fields allow for seed pods, grasses, flowers
  • Gardens can provide clippings, vines, gourds

Sidewalk Chalk Art and Murals

Sidewalk chalk is the perfect medium for quick, colorful outdoor art. Create murals, mandalas, games, and street paintings.

Tips for Sidewalk Chalk Art

  • Sweep area first to remove grit
  • Lightly mist water to prep concrete
  • Start with light colors first
  • Blend and shade colors by smudging edges
  • Spray finished art with sealant to prolong

Fun Sidewalk Chalk Activities

  • Draw habitats with plants, insects, animals
  • Recreate famous artworks or paintings
  • Illustrate songs, stories, and poems
  • Play games like hopscotch or four square
  • Give sidewalk tours describing local history

Places to Legally Use Sidewalk Chalk

  • Your own driveway, patio or walkway
  • With permission on private property
  • On city approved public street painting days
  • Community public chalkboard walls
  • Chalk art festivals and events

Nature Inspiration and Ideas

The outdoor world provides endless inspiration, subjects, materials and environments to spark creative ideas for nature artworks.

Natural Elements to Inspire Artmaking

  • Colors, shapes, lines of landscapes
  • Plants, flowers, trees
  • Animals, birds, insects
  • Water, clouds, skies, stars
  • Rocks, shells, sand, dirt
  • Lighting, shadows, textures

Ways to Brainstorm Outdoor Art Ideas

  • Take nature walks for inspiration
  • Shoot reference photos outdoors
  • Sketch, paint, photograph same landscape in all seasons
  • Observe how lighting transforms a scene through the day
  • Notice small details easily missed like patterns, shapes, colors

Places to Find Inspiration Outdoors

  • Local parks, gardens, hiking trails
  • Nearby woods, meadows, fields
  • Your own backyard and neighborhood
  • Nearby lakes, rivers, beaches
  • Community nature centers and arboretums

Responsible and Ethical Outdoor Art Practices

Creating art outdoors comes with certain responsibilities. Follow Leave No Trace principles and other best practices to avoid negatively impacting natural areas.

Tips for Responsible Outdoor Artmaking

  • Stick to designated public art areas when possible
  • Ensure you have permission before creating art on private property
  • Avoid making permanent changes to site
  • Never remove natural features or living materials from environment
  • Use only biodegradable materials that will disperse naturally

Ethical Considerations for Nature Artists

  • Avoid exploiting cultural art forms without permission
  • Don’t appropriate designs with deep significance wrongly
  • Follow rules and guidelines when working in public spaces
  • Promote conservation, not destruction, with messaging
  • Educate others on appreciating nature through art


Creating art outdoors provides enriching new ways to enjoy nature, make discoveries, and experiment creatively. Whether painting a landscape, assembling found materials into sculpture, or using sidewalk chalk to recreate a famous painting, beginners can easily get started. Just grab portable supplies, dress accordingly, and let nature’s beauty inspire your brushstrokes, sketches, and installations. Responsible outdoor artmaking deepens the artist’s connection with the natural environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What portable art supplies work best outdoors? Water-resistant mediums like acrylics, chalk pastels, and oil pastels perform well outside. Bring wet wipes and sealants to protect finished art.

Where can I set up to paint outdoors? Find unshaded spots with optimal views and lighting that allow you to sit comfortably. Always get permission before setting up on private property.

How do I draw moving subjects like animals and people? Quickly sketch the active figure’s pose, motion, and proportions. Focus on outlines and dynamic lines rather than extensive shading and details.

What are good surfaces for painting outdoors? Outdoor painting surfaces include portable canvas panels, pre-primed paper pads, watercolor blocks, and boards prepared with a gesso sealant base layer.

How do I create safe, non-permanent land art? Use only biodegradable materials that will gradually return to the environment they came from without harm. Avoid works that could blow into waterways or choke wildlife.

Where can I research responsible land art practices? Organizations like Leave No Trace Center provide guidelines for minimal impact recreation that also apply well to land artmaking.

How can I turn nature rubbings into finished art? Mount a series together with neutral matting or frame to display. Add mixed media embellishments like watercolor, stitching, or collage to individual prints.

What natural materials work best for ephemeral sculpture? Sticks, stones, vines, bark, leaves, pinecones, acorn caps, seed pods and other materials that can decompose without harm make great eco-sculpture mediums.

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