Mar 27, 2024 | 0 comments

Painting a Vibrant Melbourne Cafe Scene

In this post, I invite you to join me on a plein air painting adventure in Melbourne, where I captured the lively ambience of a cafe scene adorned with red umbrellas and diners savouring their meals in the open air.

Let’s dive into the process of painting this vibrant moment and immerse ourselves in the energy of the city.

Setting the Scene

Melbourne, known for its vibrant culture and culinary delights, provides an endless array of subjects for plein air painting. On a sunny afternoon, I stumbled upon a charming cafe with red umbrellas, nestled among the bustling streets. The scene immediately captivated me with its lively atmosphere, as people gathered to enjoy their meals, engage in lively conversations, and soak up the city’s energy.

Sketching the Composition

To begin, I found the perfect spot to set up my easel, ensuring a vantage point that captured the essence of the scene. With a light pencil, I lightly sketched the basic shapes and proportions of the buildings, the arrangement of tables, and the red umbrellas that provided a striking contrast against the surrounding architecture. Paying attention to the interplay of light and shadow, I made note of the areas where sunlight danced on the cobblestones and created interesting patterns on the outdoor seating.

Layering Colors with Watercolor

Watercolor, with its fluid nature, allows me to capture the spontaneity and freshness of the moment. Starting with a light wash of the sky, I blended delicate blues and hints of warm yellow ochre to create a soft, sun-kissed backdrop. Moving on to the buildings, I carefully built up layers of transparent washes, capturing the textures, shadows, and architectural details that defined their character.

Bringing Life to the Scene

To breathe life into the cafe scene, I turned my attention to the people dining outside. With loose brushstrokes and a keen eye for gesture and posture, I painted figures engaged in conversation, raising glasses in celebration, or lost in their own thoughts. These tiny brushstrokes infused the painting with a sense of movement and captured the lively spirit of the moment, as if freezing time in a snapshot of bustling city life.

The Vibrant Red Umbrellas

The red umbrellas were the focal point of the scene, attracting the eye and infusing the painting with a vibrant energy. Using a combination of red hues, from rich cadmium red to hints of crimson and warm oranges, I carefully applied the paint, capturing the translucency and subtle variations in color that make each umbrella unique. The interplay of light and shade added depth and dimension, further enhancing their visual impact.

Chengdu Lake watercolor painting

“With plein air painting, I want the viewer to feel what I felt, to have this sense that there is so much more to our existence than what we see superficially. Through my art, I get close to the big questions. I want the viewer to feel that, too. What is reality? What is our purpose? What does it all mean?”
~ Joseph McGurl (PleinAir Magazine)


Painting the plein air cafe scene in Melbourne with its red umbrellas and diners provided an exhilarating artistic experience. It allowed me to capture the vibrant melodies of the city, infusing my painting with the energy and charm that make Melbourne so captivating. As I completed the final brushstrokes, I felt a sense of satisfaction in creating a piece that celebrates the joys of outdoor dining and the harmonious intersection of architecture, nature, and human interaction.

I hope this blog post has transported you to the enchanting streets of Melbourne and allowed you to experience the pleasure of painting plein air. Stay tuned for more artistic adventures and musings as we continue to explore the world through the eyes of art. Until then, keep seeking inspiration and embracing the beauty that surrounds us.


Happy painting!

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