mixed media

my favorite supplies and tips for making art outside

here are some of my favorite art supplies for taking my creative practice outside (Hali Karla Arts)

Getting outside in the warmer months - to explore, observe, and make a little art out in the elements - can really rejuvenate a Creative Practice.

Even if it’s just in your yard or near home, nature is full of surprises and invitations… not to mention rest and replenishment for your soul and intuition.

If you are unable to spend much time outdoors due to health reasons, you can still take into consideration how you might limit or condense your supplies into a simplified ‘kit’ as you experiment with nature-inspired art-making and contemplations indoors.

Personally, I love Love LOVE getting out into some new or familiar location to create art pages and studies.

Things can get a little stagnant and routine, and I can get a little antsy if I don’t fill my creative spirit this way.

And if I can’t get away from the house for some reason, I have been known to just set up a portable table or blanket outside in the yard, pack supplies into a bag or bin as if I were traveling somewhere, and just let the sun and breeze hit me while I make, listen and play. It’s good, good, medicine.

Below are a few ideas about supplies for making art outside, from my experience. Some might seem obvious, but if you are venturing somewhere new or away from home, a little forethought goes a long way.

things to consider when making art outside (Hali Karla Arts)

Consider the weather & terrain where you’ll be going, of course. Think: sunscreen, poncho, comfortable clothing and shoes. A hat, perhaps? Will there be bathroom access? Does it matter for the length of time you plan to spend?

The item on the right in the image above is a portable easel that I picked up a few years ago, and that I use all the time. It is small, lightweight, and super affordable. It fits well in a standard backpack.

I also use it on the livingroom floor when watching movies - which I can rarely do without doodling or making art! Or when I’m reading or painting at my table and need to give my neck a rest from bending over.

AND while it’s nice to have, it is totally optional and unnecessary for making art outside.

Sometimes I take it, sometimes I don't.

some art supplies I like for taking my creative practice outside. more in the post… (Hali Karla Arts)

I personally don't take fancy surfaces or art journals out into the field very often.

I like to sketch and paint on a regular, mixed-media or watercolor sketchbook. Or, more rarely, I might take a loose canvas or panel.

I do love it when I remember to take my viewfinder! It’s a great way to play with visualizing composition and proportion - and to just spend time seeing the different creative possibilities for expression or imagery in the place you’re visiting.

some of my favorite art supplies for creative practice outside - more in post (Hali Karla Arts)
some of the art supplies I might bring when I take my Creative Practice outside (more in post at Hali Karla Arts)

The image above and below are just a couple of variations of what I might take.

I switch it up, depending on my mood.

Not pictured is a little travel spray bottle - I use it all the time in-the-field.

some favorite art supplies to bring when taking Creative Practice outside (more on post at Hali Karla Arts)
a few of my favorite supplies to take outside to make art (more in the post at Hali Karla Arts)

Sometimes I go out with my watercolors and inktense pencils, which can be easiest to play with if you’re new to sketching or paint-sketching outside. They play nice together, too.

Sometimes I go out with a small set of acrylics or gouache paints.

I try not to take all the options, though - and suggest that you choose just one core medium for those times when you go 'out into the field.'

Try several out on different art dates, and see what appeals to you most. Maybe you find that you just love sketching outside best.

If you do experiment with paints outside, leave your fancy paints at home - and be a beginner, a curious and willing imperfectionist.

And don't forget to put water in your water jar or spray bottle!

i share some of my favorite art supplies to take my creative practice outside in this post (Hali Karla Arts)

If the site you'll visit has a river, lake or other body of water, though, it can be fun to ‘bless’ your page and practice by using a little of that water in what you create, too.

Simplicity in your supply choices will really open you up to the depth of your experience and how you engage with the practices of slowing down, observational BEING, SEEING the landscape with all your senses, and getting to know the nature all around you as a living, nuanced, and wise muse for your creative spirit and practice.

I can’t emphasize it enough - do give some consideration to gathering and preparing your 'field supplies' so it’s as easy and comfortable as it can be when you get out there. I want you to love your experience so you get off the screens and out into your brilliant world a bit more to inspire your practice.

Keep in mind, the time of day… it can make all the difference in a hot or rainy season.

Or maybe there’s a particular way the light hits a place you love to escape to… what time of day can you make a little art in presence with that?

i share some of my favorite art supplies for taking creative practice outside in this post (Hali Karla Arts)

Even if you're leaving some of your most beloved supplies or colors behind as you embark on a traveling or creative practice journey, this truly is a great way to freshen up and keep the sparks alive in your regular practice and art.

And besides, those not-so-portable art supplies will be back at home ready for you when you return - to finish up a piece with a fresh eye or start a new one inspired by your adventure, ‘sketches’ and experiments 'in the field.'

Sketching, painting or otherwise getting into your creative zone out in the elements is a wonderful, holistic way to self-care and connect deeply with a place you’ve never been before as well, or that you want to hold or honor in your memory as you move forward.

how you interpret your creativity through time forms you | Creative Practice Care

How You interpret your creativity through time forms you | Creative Practice Care with Hali Karla Arts

It can be extremely nourishing and revitalizing to your creative practice and process to take the time to revisit and reflect on what you have created in the distant past and not so distant past. Markers in your own creative timeline, so to speak.

If you’ve taken a creative practice class with me, you know we often reflect at all points in the process to remind us who we are, who we were, where we come from, where we are right now and how we’d like to move forward.

When we finish filling a journal or art journal or sketchbook - it can be insightful to flip through and identify what themes, patterns, interests or subjects keep coming up for us, for instance. Or what colors, textures, shapes, media and imagery.

One thing leads to another… and how we root (or uproot) our focus really does matter. By doing a little conscious retrospecting, we can often see what has been right under our noses, so close… too close sometimes to bring into focus unless we do so intentionally, with a posture of openness to surprise.

Because it is so common to forget or lose sight of those inherent things that make each of us who we are, or to find our focus and energy diverted while those parts of us go unnourished.

Or to interpret our journey so critically or one-pointedly, or from such a big picture, that we fail to see the shining golden threads of who we are (becoming) woven into our ordinary marks, encounters, perceptions, makings and scribbles of our daily life.

Even in those stolen moments that can so easily feel like ‘not enough’ at the time, but are part of the bigger tapestry of our creative energy emerging and forming into something yet unseen.

How we see our practice and process matters.

Every act of interpretation
is also an act of formation.
— (unknown source)

So today, I invite you to take some time soon to recall and reflect on what you have created in your practices and life - in the distant past, the not-so-distant past, more recently… and what you’d like to remind yourself moving forward.

Don’t search too hard or make a big ol’ project out of it, though - I want you to actually get to it! You are worth it, I promise.

Just look around, flip through some of your boxes, stacks, photos, books or what-have-you, to trigger your memory. See what wants to be seen again, to be remembered and acknowledged.

Maybe you have a lot, or a little… just give it a go.

Notice what you finished, what felt good or not, what surprises or resonates now, and what wants to be picked up again... or what new leads you get just from considering. And always feel free to thank and release anything that does not serve who you are moving forward. Marie Kondo approved.

As you do this, don’t discount all of the creative energy that you put into the art of showing up and engaging with your actual life and relationships either - this is not just ‘art’ or craft or productive results we’re interested in, but in how we see creative spirit alive in all aspects of our lives, backward and forward in time.

Below, I share just a few of the paintings I was revisiting and reflecting on in January to center in the New Year cycle. They range from awhile ago, to more recently.

Then I share a reminder about guarding the tenderness of beginning and bringing something to life in our creative process and awareness.

This first is from seven years ago, not long after I made my way back into art-making…

mixed-media prayer painting on paper, Hali Karla

This painting rests on a top shelf in my studio in a large cardboard folder, with some other pieces from a gateway time of returning to art after some intense years in grad school and end-of-life nursing.

What I found when I returned, unencumbered by the weight of art school and 'fine artist' connotations that weren't helpful for my path, was an unleashing of creative energy in connection to healing, joy and intuition, and a grounding, sometimes trance-like zone or state of prayer.

This is still a strange thing to put words to... words will never touch it. Nonetheless, in the midst, I woke one morning with a sort of 'directive' in that state between sleep and waking. To ask for prayers... to listen, trust, pray, surrender... and paint what came of it. So even though it made me nervous as heck, I asked a very small readership online at the time if anyone wanted to submit a prayer from their life, for me to hold with them and pray over, and to add to a collective prayer painting.

And much to my surprise, over 40 women responded with in-depth stories and prayers.

I printed out those prayers and prayed for every one submitted, collaged them onto this 18x24" paper and began to paint. This is what came of it.

Some of you may remember this, or contributed, or may have one of the limited simple prints from that time. If so... (((thank you))).

It is just one intuitive painting, but it is a collection of prayers given lots of love and something visible to show for it, and it was a resonant turning point within my heart and direction.

Something in me began to see more clearly, wake up a little more, to parts of myself I had lost touch with and denied or had yet to express, to trusting that inner voice within, Holy Creative Spirit herself.

{this was my musing from day 11 of Tara Leaver’s #21daysinmyartworld challenge in January}

Here is another, a piece from 2017:

a commissioned intuitive birth chart mandala, mixed-media, Hali Karla

I sort of stumbled upon making these intuitive birth chart mandalas a few years ago because I was translating more birth charts than ever before for people.

(If you're not that familiar with astrology, it's not just memes, fortune-telling, cookie-cutter horoscopes or personality descriptions at all. It is a nuanced and dignified language that speaks quite well to the human experience and our interconnectivity with all of creation and Creative Source. Some call astrology the parent of modern psychology.)

Anyhow, I was in my head space with the analysis a lot, and needed an intentionally creative, intuitive approach to drop into my heart process with the bigger picture and get out of the way of what really wanted to be seen and shared via the tool of the chart.

So I would make these mandalas for each chart I was looking at. I didn't think much of it, but then when I shared them with others, people really seemed to like them, so occasionally I offered custom orders and sets for individuals.

They feel like little surprise 'celebrations' of each beautiful, unique, wonderfully made person that the respective chart speaks to. Each is one-of-a-kind, by the nature of my process with the chart that inspires it.

This one was a custom order.

{day 18: "celebrate" in #21daysinmyartworld}

And another, finished at the beginning of this year:

mixed media prayer painting on paper, Hali Karla

creation and contemplation. transformation. presence and seeing. withness. listening.

the moment of connective resonance, forgetting myself just long enough to be moved beyond myself and into the rivers of participation, emergence, expression, insight, unity.

inspiration (the noun) IS everywhere as our senses and associations delight and respond accordingly to what is before us in our inner and outer experiences - backwards, forwards and right here right now... we know inherently that everything is connected.

but INSPIRE is a verb... and this is what fills and fuels me most. the breathing of it - to be inspired, a reciprocity of sorts, between the observer and the observed - no matter the object of its incarnation.

i am inspired when i remember that all life and love done well and given our all is a sort of prayer like this. and that creative practice and prayer or contemplation is so often, for me, the ground where stillness breathes honestly, no more and no less, vibrating with the whisper of creation and Creator, into the moment of my own participation and activation.

the layers of inspiration and wholeness and engagement are infinite... what a gift to be alive to this.

{form day 8 #21daysinmyartworld challenge, over on Instagram}

Finally, a reminder for your practice and process, just in case this is the balm or nudge your creative heart needs today:

Creative Practice explorations with Hali Karla Arts

Your creative process, practice and art is first and foremost a sacred gift between you and Creative Source, worthy of healthy boundaries in honor of just how precious its incubation, first expressions and initial moments of formation can be.

Get a feel for the energy and relationship before you invite outside perception, perspective and distraction in. Let the true message or revelation of the encounter show itself.

I learn - and have to remember to remember this one - again and again, and find the dance to look different in different seasons, but mostly I feel best when I treat the whispers of my ordinary practice or unfolding creative vision and work with great care and respect, no matter how excited I might get to share in the early stages.

{from day 13: #21daysinmyartworld}

How you SEE and interpret your Creative Practice and energy matters, my friends. Backwards and forwards in time.

Who you let see and interpret your creations - and when - matters as well.

We get to learn about this with trial and error, as we figure out and evolve our own personal WHY for what we feel called to explore, experience and breathe life into.

How do you keep your creative heart, eyes, mind and spirit guarded with the care it deserves, and yet still wide open to what wants to be seen anew or for the first time in your process and life?

Creative Practice Revelations Happen in Acts Between the Seen and the Unseen

Which Way, mixed-media painting, Hali Karla Arts
Art mirrors [our] struggle and captures the process of letting go. Every stroke pushes the painting to sacrifice itself: every creative act destroys something previously built. Imagination reveals not new vistas but revelations of reality behind reality. All art points to a transaction between reality of the seen and reality of the unseen.
— Makoto Fujimura

There is a Way that we only find in taking action.

Being present. Seeing. Listening.

Feeling. Not turning away.

Doing the hard work that is called upon us.

And then…

Believing so deeply in what we know to be real in what can’t be measured or seen, that we are willing to disarm, destroy, risk, transform, and let go of what is real in what can be seen.

To surrender to change.

Yes, there is something about this that speaks to my soul.


I was ‘supposed’ to be writing about re-releasing two well-loved Creative Practice ecourses today - now self-guided with unlimited access - but you know, these days I’m just not feeling the catchy-inspiration, lead-page, funnel-pitch in my creative energy… so, here’s to random shameless plugs at the end of short posts and keeping it real, because I trust my process AND yours:

IMPULSE self-guided mixed-media Creative Practice ecourse on awakening, trusting and relating to your intuitive, spontaneous artist’s style

IMPULSE self-guided mixed-media Creative Practice ecourse on awakening, trusting and relating to your intuitive, spontaneous artist’s style

ESSENCE self-guided creative portrait practice ecourse to develop and explore how you see, relate and translate in mixed-media, plus connect with your sense of self (and other)

ESSENCE self-guided creative portrait practice ecourse to develop and explore how you see, relate and translate in mixed-media, plus connect with your sense of self (and other)

Click the image above to learn more about each course. I’d truly would love to connect and be your guide on the side for a bit as you develop your Creative Practice. THAT is where my creative energy loves to flow. ;-)

Note: Both of these courses were previously released as part of my Making Art Medicine program.