Summer's Here . . . Do You Color Outdoors?

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

It’s June, the weather is starting to warm up and the days are getting longer, just what we’ve waited all winter for. With the sights and sounds of summer I am guessing some of you might have a vacation planned. For me, it actually means the start of track season with overnight stays in a hotel followed by a day of being my husband’s pit crew and support team. But it’s not enough to keep me busy, so this year I have decided to take along a coloring project to see if I could get some coloring time in.

It was just a couple of years ago that we headed down the California coast to Monterey. The ocean is absolutely beautiful so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see artists along the shore with their easels painting away in the morning sun. There they were, their palettes of paint and assortment of brushes . . it was picture perfect. I have never forgotten that image and maybe that is why I thought I should color while away this past weekend.

My preparations started before I even left home. I wanted to pack light for a couple of reasons. One reason being that I have to carry all my stuff, and for another, I don’t want to risk leaving anything behind. So the first step was to decide upon a project I wanted to color. That done, I printed a couple of my images (in case I need to start over). I put the printed images on a clipboard (that will keep them from being wrinkled and double as my coloring surface. Then I transferred the tutorial for this project onto my iPad along with any reference photos I intend to use. Next I gathered my erasers, my sharpener, a couple of pencil extenders and colored pencils. Before I put the pencils into my bag I sharpened them,

Sitting here on my desk is this cute little jar full of pencil caps that have never been used. They were an impulse buy that are very pretty inside this little jar. I realize, these are made for travel to protect (cap) the end of my beautifully sharpened pencils so that the tips don’t break or push through my cloth pencil bag! So I cap each of the pencils and into the pencil bag they go.

After a long drive, dinner and checking into the hotel I look at the clock . . . what to do for the next three hours? Anyone that has traveled for work will probably agree with me, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in a hotel room can be the longest 12 hours. So I pull out my coloring project and decide to start coloring. Thankfully the light in this room was good enough to color by. I enjoy the evening so much more than if I were just sitting on the bed and mindlessly watching the t.v.

It’s now the next day and we’re at the track. My crew work is done for now so I decide it’s time to see how this outdoor coloring is going to go. Hmmmm, I am starting to think that the picture perfect scene along the California coast wasn’t as easy and carefree for those artist as it appeared. Here are the weather elements that I didn’t think about ahead of time:


Oh yes, the wind is blowing. This is so dumb, I’ve been coming to this track for years now and I know there is a constant wind. But when you aren’t coloring you don’t realize how that wind in the afternoon is welcome as it’s cooling me down on a 89° day but when trying to color, that wind is not so welcome.

I had packed a rubberized (no-scoot) mat that I placed under my pencils. That worked perfectly to keep my pencils on the table even with the wind. Next time I will pack a large rubber band for the bottom of the clipboard so that the wind doesn’t grab my project paper and wrinkle it.


The wind brought in some clouds by mid afternoon. As this is still really spring, these clouds can bring sudden rain showers. Thankfully the showers didn’t come as I didn’t want to have Mother Nature decide that my project would look better as watercolor. But the threat of rain made me rethink my future outdoor coloring strategy.


Oh boy, when it comes to summer we all want sunny days. When we arrive at the track, we immediately set up the 12’ x 12’ canopy, take out my table and lounge chair. Sounds great, but it’s before noon so the sun is coming in low from the side and making it difficult for me to really see what is on my iPad screen. As I color, I think the colors are looking a bit strange on my paper. I mentioned this to my husband who lovingly pointed out that I have transition lenses in my glasses and they have darkened with the sun. Oh!

None of this is going to stop me since I’m so dedicated (addicted) to my coloring. But it isn’t long before it slows me down. The wind, sun and clouds are really messing with the light. As a result, it’s hard to judge the values in the colors I’m putting down. So I decide to deviate from the coloring steps in this tutorial and just color the darker areas I can see. I know as I continue to color that when I get back in doors I will have to assess the colors and adjust them if necessary.

A few other things to keep in mind if you decide you want to color out of doors. 1) Coloring on your lap in a lounge chair will probably restrict the movement of your arm as compared to when you color at home. 2) I had a generator available to me so I could charge my iPad during the day. If you are not near a power source, then you want to be sure your tutorial and/or reference materials are in a book or printouts versus a tablet or phone. 3) Don’t forget sunblock on the back of your hands (especially your coloring hand). My knuckles are still a little tender today.

So you might be wondering, will I take a coloring project the next time we head to the track. Absolutely, it’s great to be able to enjoy my hobby while my husband is enjoying his.

One more side note before I get back to my coloring practice. Remember those pencil caps I finally used? Well, another great benefit of using them, when I packed up my coloring supplies to come home I knew I had all my pencils when I finished capping them and I didn’t have any caps left over! I will be using these anytime I take pencils anywhere in the future.

Time for me to get back to my practice. I've just about finished my technical drills and can't wait to start coloring these colored glass bottles. It's not too late for you to practice coloring glass. If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you will be able to find the Practice Technique Pack for Glass here!

You can see more of my work (including the Summer Dessert project I finished on this trip) or follow me on Instagram.

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