Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tips for Packing Plein Air Painting Gear!

 One of my friends commented that she would like to see more of my plein air painting set-up, so I shot these photos to show how I organize and pack my gear for a day of painting outdoors. I usually use a plain Julian style easel, which affords me plenty of room to stow everything I need. When I'm painting in the studio, I open and use this easel on my work table. So it's always full of my supplies, and ready to just snap shut to take it out for a day outside.

In the bottom drawer, I have my oil paints and a ruler (I often use a ruler to draw straight lines, and also use it for sight perspective) on one side, and the other side contains my brushes, spatulas (for mixing paint, painting, and wiping out), pliers (in an eyeglass case to keep it from banging around), and some wadded up bags for garbage.  The piece of foam is used as a divider, to hold the brushes in place so they don't get all mangled up when I travel. I don't carry a lot of oil colors with me, as I prefer to use a split primary system and mix colors as needed. Here I have three reds, three yellows, and three blues, and an extra large tube of white. These are the Pre-tested Professional Oils from Grumbacher - an excellent quality paint which I'm currently testing and reviewing. 

I tend to switch back and forth between watercolors and oils when I go out to paint en plein air, so I pack what I need for both. The top drawer contains a travel palette of half-pan watercolors in a protective drawstring bag so the case doesn't get all banged up. Next to that is a bungee cord for holding paper towels, and a collapsible cup for water. I have a jar of Liquin and a piece of shelf liner to help me get the lid off. That's all I use to mix my oils, and I don't carry any turps, either. The film can is in case I need an empty container for something. There's a small spray bottle of water to moisten my watercolors, a bit of sea sponge to create textures, a piece of Magic Eraser for lifting watercolor, and a pack of moist towelettes  that will remove oil paint off of hands and other surfaces. The next section is 1" and 2" wide brushes. Normally, brushes that are that wide have really long handles, which take up a lot of space. I like short handles for plein air because they free up space for me to pack other gear. This line of brushes from Dynasty Brush is called "Palmer" because they fit in the palm of your hand. I  also have some pencils, marking pens, and a value finder (red for landscapes and seascapes). In the plastic zippered pouch I keep a pencil sharpener, some sandpaper, salt (for texture in watercolors), a paint scraper to clean my oil palette, eraser, some binder clips, leg spikes, and some rubber bands. The old slide mounts are great little view finders, and I always keep a spare pair of  eyeglasses in the case.

Here's the drawer with my freshly scraped palette in place. It's just a piece of 11x14 glass, and I taped a piece of neutral grey matboard to the back of it. The matboard helps me to see true color when I'm mixing my paint, and it provides a layer of protection between the glass and the stuff in the drawer.

This is a wheeled bag/cart/chair! As you can see, my plein air easel fits in it perfectly. On the seat are some canvas panels, watercolors pads, and a sketchbook which all fit in the front pocket, leaving room for my water bottles, paper towels, and umbrella to still fit in with my easel.

This is the whole kit and caboodle, all packed and folded up, ready to wheel away. After I photographed this, I tucked my camera into it too, and strapped my tripod to the top with a bungee.
So, that's my set-up and gear for plein air. Everything I need to paint both watercolors and oils! When I go out to paint "just for fun" (ie: when I'm not painting in a plein air competition) I just take a pan of watercolors and a few things. Wanna see the details of my watercolor kit? click here!

After I originally posted this, I became flooded with inquiries from artists who want to get one of these folding carts for their own. It appears that no one is making this particular item anymore. Their are similar carts available, which you can find by searching for Wheeled Carts with Seats on the internet. Seeing how a standard size french easel fits perfectly in the bag, this really should be an item for artist supply retailers to add to their catalogs! 

posted by Annie Strack @ 7:04 PM   4 Comments


At May 29, 2014 at 12:17 PM , Blogger Indigene Theresa said...

Annie, thanks for sharing this! I love it.Where did you get that sweet rolling chair/cart? :)

At May 29, 2014 at 5:57 PM , Blogger Annie Strack said...

Hi Indigene! I added the link to the bottom of my blogpost where you can shop for a cart! :)

At October 26, 2015 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Happycolors and Granny Gee... That's Me! said...

They are out of the carts.

At August 26, 2016 at 12:55 AM , Blogger Deborah said...

I remember reading this when you first published it, though at the time painting in plein air was not on my radar. Terrific post Annie!


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