Marc Hanson Painting Workshop Review

So, what it's like to take a plein air painting workshop? What do you do? Should I take one? Read on!

At the end of October, I attended a five-day plein air painting workshop in Franklin, Tennessee. Painting “plein air” simply means painting outside. The workshop was instructed by Marc Hanson and hosted by On Track Studios.

On Track Studios' front porch.

On Track Studios' front porch.

The workshop was fantastic. My painting instruction thus far is fairly limited (Painting 101 at Tulane University in 2006 and a not-for-credit intermediate acrylic class at Southwest School of Art in San Antonio in 2010) and I was desperate for some help.

Marc Hanson is an accomplished and well-known painter. I’ve followed his work for several years. I think I first discovered his work on Pinterest (slightly embarrassing) and then heard him interviewed on the podcast Artists Helping Artists. This is his painting that first caught my eye. Look at how feathery those clouds are! Like me, he tends to work from landscape scenes that are quite regular – many people might call them boring – but he masterfully transforms these scenes into stunning paintings.

I had heard Marc is a good instructor so I jumped at the chance to take a workshop from him. I have never painted outside, so I was a little nervous to see what that would be like.

On Track Studios is a lovely facility in the rolling hills outside of Franklin, Tennessee, which is about 20 miles south of Nashville. The barn-like studio sits on two acres and is home to six private artist studios as well as large common spaces for classes, events and meals. We spent some of our time at the studio and most of our time outside at two different century farms.

Downtown Franklin at sunset.

Downtown Franklin at sunset.

Marc did at least one demonstration every day. All of the eight painters in our class had a good deal of painting experience and Marc structured the workshop and tailored his demonstrations accordingly. On each of the five days, Marc demonstrated a different way of starting a painting. He spent about an hour on the demo and then we were to walk around the beautiful grounds, pick a spot and paint a painting using the same method for starting the painting. He made rounds while we were painting, giving us generous one-on-one instruction and critique.

The first day, we did a monochromatic transparent block-in, the second day we did a full-color transparent block-in, the third day we did a full-color opaque block-in, then an impressionistic block-in and then on the last day, which was absurdly cold, we attempted something he calls “direct painting.”

Here is my day-one set-up.

Here is my day-one set-up.

This is my day-one painting.

This is my day-one painting.

This is my day three painting location. The left image below shows my full-color opaque block-in and the image on the right is the painting at the end of the day.

This is my day three painting location. The left image below shows my full-color opaque block-in and the image on the right is the painting at the end of the day.

This, my day four painting, is my favorite.

This, my day four painting, is my favorite.

Marc also did a super useful color-mixing demonstration and on the last afternoon, we had a group critique. I painted in acrylic all week, but the other students painted in oil. Marc offered to paint directly on the oil painters’ paintings for the critique. I was impressed all week by Marc’s ability to find and capture a scene and turn it into a beautiful piece of art, but I was impressed in a whole new way when I saw him paint on others’ paintings. It makes sense that he would be able to paint in his style and method, with his colors and produce something beautiful, but to watch him just jump into someone else’s half-done painting and improve it vastly within ten to twenty minutes was wild.


On one of the freezing mornings, we spent some time gathered around the cozy, farmhouse-style table in On Track’s kitchen. Marc held court over a little painting philosophy session and I furiously scribbled down some quotes from his favorite passages on painting. Two really resonated with me and what I am trying to do:

“It is the artist’s prerogative to reveal the beauty of things to those less fortunate – to those who can’t see it.”


“It is so much greater to make much of little than little of much.”

I learned about simultaneous contrast, where cast shadows are warmer and cooler, that you shouldn’t have too many sky holes and, among other things, that painting outside is a joy and a challenge.

I would highly recommend taking a class or workshop from/through Marc Hanson and On Track Studios.

How to: Art festival set-up

Last weekend I participated in Autumn & Art in Wichita, Kansas. I have shown my art many places and at a variety of types of events, but this was the first multi-day event for which I had to provide my own setup. The other multi-day events I have done have either been indoors or have provided the tent and walls. I have done many single-day outdoor events, but when you need to be able to confidently set up for multiple days and a range of weather, and leave your tent overnight, you’re talking about a different type of infrastructure.


After much deliberation, my husband and I decided to go the “halfway route.” We didn’t buy the professional $1,000-$1,500 tents that most artists on the festival circuit use. Nor did we buy ProPanels, which are in that same price range. I’m not planning to become a full-time festival artist, but I definitely needed an upgrade.

Tent review

We purchased this tent from Sam’s. It is about twice as expensive as the pop-up we had before and significantly sturdier. It also comes with side walls, which was a required upgrade since we were going to leave the tent overnight. Additionally, the walls prevent the sun from coming in and shining through your hanging apparatus.

We found the tent very easy to set up and take down. It fits easily into the bag it comes in. It’s heavy, but has wheels. (I still wouldn’t want to have to drag it very far.) The side walls do not fit into the bag. One of the side walls has a zipper in the middle that allows you to have the wall down, but open, in case of inclement weather (see below). We used additional clips to open the door wider. We had mist and a few short periods of heavy rain. We didn’t have any water come in, but I still think I want to spray waterproofing spray on the seams for future use.

We had a few gusts of wind that pulled Velcro apart in a couple places. This was more of a nuisance than a problem, but I suspect it could be a problem in worse weather. Thank you, Danika Ostrowski, for recommending this tent.

Securing the tent


The tent comes with stakes but not weights. We made weights out of 4” PVC. We bought a 10’ piece of PVC, used a circular saw to cut it in four and then glued test caps to one end of each piece. We drilled two holes in each pipe about a foot apart lengthwise and put eye screws in them. We used glue on the eye screws for extra insurance. We then filled the pipes with sand and put caps on the other ends. We tied 550/parachute cord between the eye screws to create a handle. The handle and eye screws also give you a way to tie the weights to the tent. I noticed that many artists hung their weights from their tents with cargo straps. We put two weights on the ground at the front corners of the tent and tied them to the top of the tent with 550 cord. We had grass behind our tent and staked the tent into the ground with cargo straps. We didn’t have a lot of wind during the weekend, but the tent didn’t budge with the few gusts we had.

Display system


We bought mesh panels from Flourish. They are easy to install and apparently can hold 300 lbs each. I think they look clean and professional. I really wanted a white background for my paintings. You use S hooks to hang wired paintings from the mesh. I am curious to see if the holes in the mesh stretch out after multiple uses and begin to look ratty. The wind blows through and wiggles the paintings around a bit, but I was never concerned about the paintings coming off. Additionally, the poles that these require at the bottom of the tent (you buy these and the hardware from Flourish) add structural integrity to the tent. The panels fold in half lengthwise to five feet and then roll up. They come with a nice, heavy-duty carrying bag.



We bought these LED lights from Amazon. They were relatively inexpensive and most important, they don’t get hot. I was pleased with the amount and color of light they provided. We used clips and twist ties to secure both the extension cord and the lights to the tent infrastructure.

Old set-up

If you're just getting started, I would still recommend the $220 pop-up over the $100 kind, but you can make a cheap hanging system with plastic lattice and S hooks. I used this get-up multiple times for one-day events that only lasted a few hours.


I did all this -- including the research -- with my husband. If you are solo, you will need to grab someone for just a few minutes to help you expand and raise the tent. Otherwise, you can probably do it yourself, but it will take a while. Hope you find this useful. And no, unfortunately, these aren’t affiliate links.

The sky's the limit, and the inspiration, for Enid artist

This article, written by Jeff Mullin, was originally published on June 4, 2017 in the Enid News & Eagle and on The article is republished here with the permission of the author.

ENID, Okla. — Northwest Oklahoma is known for wide-open skies that occasionally explode in a seemingly impossible riot of colors in the early morning or at day's end.

Those skies, and their many chromatic moods, have inspired a young Enid artist, Catherine Freshley.

Her paintings — rendered in acrylic on either canvas or wood — reflect the texture and color of the landscape in and around Enid.

"I found the people in Oklahoma to be really kind and really excited about my art," Freshley said. "I think my paintings feel like home to them and they're fresh and a different perspective than traditional western art."

Freshley's work includes original and custom works, prints and greeting cards. She markets her art on her website, and at events such as the annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Oklahoma City.

The Portland, Ore., native's love of art is lifelong. As a child she constantly drew or doodled, "on all of my notes in class, hopefully not on too many of my homework assignments," she said. When she was small she even cleaned out her bedroom closet and turned it into her art studio.

"That probably lasted one day," she said.

Her childhood dream was to be a fashion designer, but she majored in economics at Tulane University after spending a semester at the University of Oregon while the New Orleans school rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

She took only one painting class in college, but she credits it for her being a painter today. After graduation she worked for an ad agency in New Orleans, continuing to work for the firm remotely while moving with her husband, Tom Leineweber, because of his job, which brought the couple to Enid. Meanwhile she was pursuing her passion for art on nights and weekends, stretching her — and her relationship with her husband — thin.

In March 2016 she quit her full-time advertising job to paint nearly full time while still doing occasional freelance advertising work.

"It's been really great," Freshley said. "I've been a lot happier, I've been able to replace my income, and I really like the freedom this affords me."

As a member of the millennial generation, she worried people would think she had some sort of entitlement attitude when she began to pursue her dream.

"If you have some sort of passion that you can make money from, there's no reason to not go after it," she said. "If everyone was passionate about what they were doing the world would probably be a better place."

Her muse is the fields and and skies of Northwest Oklahoma. When she sees a scene she wants to paint, she first takes a photograph, then works from that.

"I don't have any photography skills at all, so my photo never does the scene justice," she said. "But if I've been there myself and I also have the mental image, I'm able to combine my memory of being there there — the visual memory as well as other senses — combine that with the photograph."

She paints familiar fields, pastures and roads, but portrays them in unfamiliar ways.

"I've had a lot of people tell me that my paintings make them realize how beautiful their everyday experience is," Freshley said. "Or they'll spend more time looking up at the clouds and not taking them for granted. To me that's something really special and a powerful impact of my work. That's what I'm trying to do, is document how spectacular our everyday scenes are."

She says the scenes of Northwest Oklahoma move her more than well-known landmarks like the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains.

"To me just the everyday beauty is something worth capturing," she said.

Freshley is not interested in producing works that are photo-realistic.

"If they can connect to my painting because it brings back a memory or it feels like a place that they've been, that's what I'm trying to do," she said. "They can add their own memory and their own meaning to the painting and make it theirs."

Checking in: One year of self-employment

My last day as someone else’s employee was almost exactly a year ago – March 31, 2016.

On that day, I wrote a long piece about quitting, which I did only after months of stewing and dreaming and preparing. I wrote about our friends that didn’t get to see 30, I wrote about the decision to build my dream or someone else’s, I wrote about seeing results from hard work and about how I value relaxing with my husband at the end of the day.

A year into this, I figured it was time report back. The short story is things are going well. Not for one second of one day have I even questioned my decision.

I love numbers and metrics so I decided to collect some for you as a quick look into my new life of being my own boss.

All numbers are April 2016-March 2017.

  • Paintings sold: 78 or 1.5 per week (I sold 18 in the 12 months before. Feeling pretty good about this).
  • Clients that bought more than one painting: 12
  • Commissions completed: 15
  • Shows and events: 10
  • Instagram follower growth: 130%
  • Freelance/consulting hours worked: 428
  • Freelance and consulting clients: 10
    • Marketing consulting for law firms, design studios and professional photographers.
    • Freelance work on projects for Kennedy Space Center, Home Depot, Chef Paul Prudhomme/Magic Seasoning Blends and Aerotek, the country’s largest staffing firm, contracted through ad agencies in North Carolina and New Orleans.
  • Five-mile runs: Let’s just say I didn’t run that far once in the year leading up to quitting, but went on a five-mile run, a three-mile run and lifted weights every week this fall (I’m a cold weather runner).
  • Evenings reclaimed: Almost all of them. I used to paint or do some kind of art business work nearly every weeknight evening. Now, I put down the brushes by 5 or 6 almost every night and mostly stay away from my computer.
  • Hip hop dance class attendance: High
  • Thursday night trivia attendance: High
  • Hours spent watching TV on the couch with my main squeeze: 100s
  • New recipes tried: Countless. Here and here are two of my favorites.
  • Week-long trips home to see immediate and extended family: 3
  • International trips (much easier now since I previously had fewer vacation days than my husband): 2 (Cuba and France)
  • New U.S. cities explored with friends: 2 (Asheville and Milwaukee)

And last, hugs to everyone cheering me on and buying my work: Endless. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for enabling this dream. It has been nothing short of magic.


The Artist as Historian

Studio musings -- A friend and I were talking last summer about my paintings, the process of creating them and being creative in general. She doesn’t paint and I told her that I see painting as a method – a learnable skill – for communicating.

I also told her that I don't even think of my work as being creative. I feel that I am documenting or translating something that Mother Nature or God or whom or whatever, has already created. This beautiful thing already exists; I am just putting it on canvas. In a way, this diminishes my involvement in each piece. I don’t have to have the idea of what to create and claim no credit for the inspiration for my paintings. However, I don’t feel that this diminishes my craft or what I am doing – it certainly doesn’t bother me – it just changes how I think about my role or my title. Artist? Yes, without question. But am I creative? Am I generating the ideas? Not in this case. I am recording them.

I have always been compelled to document places that are important to me. Up until my early twenties, though, I wrote about them. I am not sure why I switched mediums, but it was the same overwhelming feeling coursing through my body – a visceral response to natural beauty – and a need to preserve it in something more tangible and permanent than my memory.

Some artists struggle with the business side of being a working artist. Sure, I struggle to sell as much as I want, and balance time between efforts to grow the business and actually paint, and I struggle to input my receipts into Freshbooks in a timely manner, but I definitely don’t struggle with the idea of it being a business. I think that is because, to some degree, I don’t feel ownership of my paintings. And I don’t see the work as precious – the paintings are just records of landscapes that I didn’t create or even have the ideas for. There will always be another landscape that calls me to paint it, and I will paint it – helping, like a historian, to document what our beautiful earth looked (and hopefully, felt) like at a moment in time.

Pricing: A how-to for artists just starting out

Disclaimer: I’m relatively new to selling art, don’t sell in galleries, and am not yet making a living as an artist so, take all that into consideration. I am not saying I have the right answer, I’m just sharing what I’m doing.


Pricing has been one of the hardest things for me as an artist and I know it’s hard for others, especially when they are first starting out. In the interest of helping other artists, I thought I would share a bit about my pricing structure. Maybe this is poor form, maybe collectors aren’t supposed to know what’s under the kimono, but I’ve benefited a lot from other artists sharing their knowledge and I like transparency. 

It is commonly advised to price based on size and (with rare exception) to price all paintings of any given size the same. I follow this advice. Sure, you may like one 30”x40”painting more than another 30”x40” and one may have taken longer than the other, but prospective buyers don’t know that – and don’t need to. Seeing price discrepancies on two paintings that are the same size and caliber will confuse them and may make you look untrustworthy and unprofessional.

My first step in developing my pricing was to set the price for an 18”x24” painting. It is roughly in the middle of the sizes I paint and it is popular with my buyers. My other prices are based off this first price; as such, this step is the hardest and most important.

This price is based off several factors and you can find equations galore about summing materials cost, labor, overhead, profit, and then multiplying by two, etc. I’m not going to lie – I’m not quite that organized with my expenses and didn’t set this first price off any such formula. 

Expenses: I know how much a canvas costs (a lot), I know how much paint costs (a lot), I know how long my paintings take me (a long time) and what kind of hourly wage I want to make (something I can actually live on), how much Facebook ads cost and business cards, and how much time I spend managing my Instagram and responding to email inquiries and going to festivals, etc., so I take all those things into account. For me, that’s kind of the ‘duh’ part. Even if you’re really, really just starting out and selling art as a hobby, you definitely need to cover your expenses and, ideally, your time.

Competition: You also need to know what other artists at your skill level and with a similar level reputation are selling their work for. Look at festivals, look at coffee shops, look at galleries, look online. Study up. Figure out what a reasonable range is. Of course, having the lowest price is not the answer to selling more. In fact, if your art is priced too low, potential buyers may think there is something wrong with it. Everyone is always suspicious of something that seems too good to be true. Also, if they are trying to invest in art or just want to feel proud of the new painting they have on their wall, that feeling is not going to be based on having bought the cheapest thing they could find. 

Confidence: This might be the hardest part. You need to feel good about your prices. You need to be excited to sell the painting at that price and you need to be excited for the client to get the painting at a fair price. You need to be able to tell someone the price of your painting without hesitation. Without adding, sheepishly, “I mean, the canvas itself was $60!” This part is SO hard. So many times, I’ll look at a painting and say, “Damn right that’s a good painting that should cost $500!” The next minute, I’ll turn around, look at again and say, “Who am I to think I could charge $500 for that little painting? I’m not in that league.” Constant battle. I’m not saying you should positive self-talk your way into high prices. Go back to those first two components (expenses and competition). Know the true value of your work and when you land on your prices, own them.

So…let’s say you’ve set that first price. Next, calculate what that comes to as a price per square inch. When I first did this a couple years ago, I decided I wanted to sell my 18”x24s” for $250. That felt like a good price for my skill level, my history of selling and I knew I was definitely covering my material costs. That comes out to be about 58 cents per square inch. If you want all your paintings to be the same price per square inch, boom! You’re done. Just multiply each size’s total square inches by whatever that price per square inch is. 

But, I didn’t like that approach. I figure every painting has some fixed costs that don’t change based on its size. You have to drive to the store or order the canvas online (please tell me you’re buying in bulk to save money and time) and it doesn’t matter whether that canvas is 5” or 5’ – that time cost of acquiring the canvas is the same. Also, let’s say you paint from photos of landscapes, like me. You have to go out and get those photos, or have that inspiration and again, it doesn’t matter if you’re painting something tiny or huge, it still took an hour of sitting in your car watching the clouds to get that perfect photo. And then there is the mental courage of walking into your studio and opening up that first tube of paint. 

All that to say, I increased my price per square inch for my smallest paintings. Do this in Excel so it’s easy to just try different numbers in your calculations. You can play with the numbers until you get prices you like. Or, set the price for your smallest painting by saying, “You know it’s really not worth it for me to sell something for less than X.” Then, use that price per square inch as your small-painting number.

The opposite is true with my biggest paintings; historically, I have given a pretty big “volume discount” – the price per square inch goes down substantially on the big guys (but I'm changing that). You can decrease price per square inch linearly or you can have a couple or few prices per square inch: one for your smallest sizes, one for your middle sizes and one for your largest. 

Make sense? Thoughts? Maybe next time I'll write about raising prices... Leave a comment here or shoot me an email at

30 paintings in 30 days: Day 31

Well, here we are, January 31st, the end of my second 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I have to say that I’m glad it’s over. There were too many days that I didn’t have anything to share with my lovely readers and that was stressing me out a little bit because I didn’t want to let you down and I don’t like failing at things I set out to do. But! I am happy about the paintings I was able to complete this month and the ones I made big strides on, as well as the fact that I have exercised 20 of the last 23 days, and that, for some unknown reason, my husband is especially interested in going on walks lately – never going to say "no" to that!

Here is the painting I am working on today. If it looks familiar, it is because it is the 7th painting I have done from the same five minutes of photo taking. This one is 20"x20." Here is another take on the scene, at a smaller scale.

Most of the paintings I did this month and still have in progress are for the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts, which is April 24-30 (side note, I will turn 30 during the festival!), but I’ve decided to make a few available. I’ll be sending my monthly newsletter out to my entire list later this afternoon, so act quick if you see something that tickles your fancy. My website host has been a little moody this afternoon, so hopefully my site isn't down when this email goes out. If it's acting up, just be patient and persistent.

Are you only signed up to receive my 30 in 30 emails? Let's not let today be the end. Sign up to get my monthly updates here

Thanks so much for your support and encouragement. It keeps me going. xo

"Ooh baby, baby it's a wild world"

Enid December Sunset - Available here

I freaking love this one. If you buy it, I might have to come over every now and again and just look at it. Hope you don't mind.

Late Summer Sky #2 - Available here

Not Oklahoma

Willamette View - Available here

Wood panel painting

Memorial Day #6 - Available here

30 paintings in 30 days: Day 29

Today I primarily worked on the painting that I started on Thursday. It is hard to appreciate in this small photo, but I think I spent at least two hours just working on the blue of the sky -- making sure I had enough paint on the canvas, getting the colors right and creating a nice, smooth transition from light to darker blue. The blue at the top of the painting is more of a cobalt than is reflected here (both the hue and the tint change from bottom to top).

I've got two more days to wrap up some of the many unfinished paintings I have clogging up my studio space. Jury's still out on how I feel about what I have accomplished this month. 

30 paintings in 30 days: Day 28

Today's painting is a commission for one of our friends here in Enid. These friends have an amazing westward view and this painting will depict a sunset from their back porch. She gave me about a novel of notes on exactly what she wants, with references to my other paintings. She was worried that it would be overwhelming, but the notes will be helpful. Here is the painting in progress; it's 15"x30."

Now, we're headed to Stillwater with a few friends (including the commission-er) to watch an Oklahoma State men's basketball game and get dinner. Have a great weekend!

30 paintings in 30 days: Day 27

Today's painting is at that super-important resting phase; I don't see anything about it that I want to change (okay, maybe the road needs to get a little lighter as it get farther away), but it is too soon to call it done.

October Kansas Drive - 24"x36"

Speaking of that resting phase...I've had the painting below hanging right there for a week. I wanted to love it, and I almost did, but it just wasn't quite right. I knew it was something about the dark green foreground. (Note that the photo below is slightly lighter/brigher than the actual painting.)

After cleaning my studio this morning, I pulled the painting off the wall and added some green-gold to the near foreground to help create depth and to add variation to the color. And that, my friends, was the answer!

Happy freaking Friday!