One of my favorite places to paint “plein air” in Acadia National Park, especially in the snowy months, is actually in my car! Maybe that’s cheating, but it’s certainly easier to draw and paint when my fingers are not frozen stiff! (I also wear fingerless gloves and may turn on the engine a few times to warm up a bit.)
If you’re painting from inside a vehicle, it makes sense to find a scene that is easy to see from that vantage point. Driving through the park, pulling over at look-outs, pausing to admire the view, is a pleasant way to begin!
Painting and sketching from inside your car may feel constraining compared to outdoors or in a room, but if you are most inspired while actually viewing a scene, that feeling will show in your artwork. I find my on site work looks more alive than if I’m working from a photo – though I also use photos to remind me of details while back in the studio.
When I saw the freshly fallen snow outlining every cliff on Champlain Mountain, the scene begged for my attention! As you can see from comparing the photo with the painting, I used “artistic license” to bring the far right and left sides closer together, condensing the panorama into a narrower scene.
Instead of using an easel, I taped a large piece of watercolor paper to a large piece of heavy cardboard and leaned it against the dashboard. Because I’m left handed, I sat in the front passenger’s seat and placed my brushes, paints, and a couple of colored pencils on the driver’s side seat. My water bottle and an empty yogurt cup for paint water were secure in the front seat cup holders. The painting was mostly finished on site “dans l’auto”. If you try this, remember to get out and stretch and smell the air and enjoy just being in such a magnificent place!