Friday, June 15, 2018

Packing for Plein Air in Europe

If you're going with me to Provence this summer for my plein air painting workshop, you won't have to bring the following items with you because they will be provided for you!

This photo (above) shows some of the items being provided. Each artist will receive a 4x6 spiral bound sketchbook that they can fill with scenes from our trip, as well as studies, thumbnails, and notes. A pencil, eraser, black ink pen and a white ink pen round out the sketching supplies. Each artist will also get a 12x16 block of Cezanne watercolor paper from Hahnemuhle! Each block contains 10 sheets of 140# rough watercolor paper. Disposable accessories such as sand paper, salt, slide mounts (view finders), tape, Magic Eraser, and paper towels are also provided. Folding chairs will be provided by Mathieu, our host in Provence. 

What else should you bring? Well, this photo (above) shows the supplies that I use, which is a good example of what to bring. Top of the photo is my watercolor field easel and plein air umbrella in it's carrying bag. You don't have to bring an easel. Most of the watercolor artists in my plein air workshops paint while sitting in a chair, holding their painting on their lap and setting their supplies on the ground next to them. I prefer to stand while I paint, so I use an easel. The wire shelf in this photo fits on my easel. See an example in this previous blogpost
The red bottle in the lower left is a reusable water bottle. You must pack and carry your own water with you each day. 
My brush roll contains more brushes than I will actually use -- it is the one thing I tend to over pack. You will need an assortment of good rounds up to a size 12 or so, preferably sable or kolinsky, or a really good synthetic equivalent. At least one squirrel mop/quill, size 5, more or less. A 1" flat. If you have other favorites, bring them. 
Water container -- I use collapsible pet bowls. 
An extra block of paper -- this is optional, as Hahnemuhle is generously providing all of my students with a 12x16 block of 140# rough -- but if you want the option of using a different size or surface texture for some of your paintings then I suggest you bring one along. I'm bringing at least one small block of cold pressed, just for variety.

Assorted watercolor paints. I bring a small set of pans when I travel. Please do NOT bring tubes of watercolor paint. If you do not have a set of pans, you can get an inexpensive (or an expensive one, if you prefer -- it's your choice) folding travel palette and fill it with paint from your tubes, and let the paint dry in the palette. Give the paint at least a week to dry before you travel with it. 


You will need masking fluid. You can see in the photo that I transfer mine into a nail polish bottle. This allows me to self-store the brush in the bottle. It's a lot of work to clean out a nail polish bottle, so if you're thinking about it, you want to start that now. Or look at some alternatives available from your art supply stores. Be sure to wrap your masking fluid carefully in case it leaks in transit, and pack it in your checked bag -- do not attempt to carry it on the airplane. 

Also, I didn't include it in the photos, but you will need a hat for shade. It's summer, and you will need it. I also forgot to include a t-square. I will bring mine, of course, because I really just can't live with it. It's just a clear plastic t-square, only 12 inches long. The kind you find in the back-to-school section of the dollar store. I use it to square up my drawings of buildings and architectural features, developing symmetry, keeping my horizons level, and for determining perspective. You will also need a backpack or tote bag to carry your painting supplies each day as we travel to our painting locations. 

As for clothes, I pack light. You will catch me wearing the same thing on several occasions. I will also pack a few large ziplock baggies, to pack up some delicious french cheeses and other gourmet goodies that I might buy in the markets. Because painting and touring is only part of the adventure -- there's eating, drinking, and shopping, too! 

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:12 PM   0 Comments

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review of New Watercolor Paper!

A while back, Hahnemuhle sent me some new 9x12 blocks of watercolor paper to review. This month I tried out the "Expression" paper -- this paper is 140# cold pressed, 100% cotton. The best way to test a new product is to just give a hard workout in the studio, which I did with this paper. 

Hahnemuhle Expression Watercolor Paper

 I started by drawing out my subject and covering it liberally with masking fluid. The paper seems a little soft, making my pencil marks hard to see.

 After the masking fluid dried, I started splashing water and paint on it. I work really wet at this stage, and you can see the paper is buckling a little from the soaking i'm giving it. I splattered paint and water onto the painting several times, to get the random loose effect.

 After the background dried I peeled off the masking fluid. At this point the buckling has reversed itself and the paper has gone back to flat. I also got out a softer pencil and re-drew my subject, as my pencil marks were too light for me to see.

 I re-masked a few small areas to preserve my whites, and began layering my lightest values on the bird. The colors are basically gray, but to vary it up I mixed ivory black, violet, cobalt, and indigo to make my grays more lively and to keep the gray from getting flat and dull.

 As each layer died, I layered the next deeper value. Here I also painted in some shadow below the bird to "ground" him, and I was not thrilled with the background so I used a Magic Eraser to wipe some of it out -- particularly in the top section of the painting.

And, here's my finished painting. Last thing I did was remove the last of the masking fluid and paint in the small details.

Like all the Hahnemuhle papers that I've tried so far, this one performed beautifully. The masking fluid was easy to remove, the paper reverted to flat when it dried, and it took all the abuse that I threw at it. The paints seemed to soak in more and were a little more difficult to lift than the previous paper I tested, but still, they lifted fairly well for a cold pressed paper. I would definitely recommend this paper to other artists and students.

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:42 PM   0 Comments

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