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Plein Air Gear

May 13, 2013

As mentioned in my previous blog, this August, Rock Valley College will be offering a Plein Air art workshop.  In this blog I will offer thoughts concerning general equipment to aid your artistic efforts. I also offer some ideas concerning basic supplies for watercolor painting en plein air as well as supplies for oil painting en plein air.

Painting en plein air is enough of a challenge. Do yourself a favor. Do not expect to create a masterpiece. You are out to enjoy the nice weather, gather ideas, do research to aid your studio works, enjoy the company of others, or just paint. If you ease up on your expectations, the results will be far more beneficial than you could imagine (and occasionally, you will create a masterpiece).

 Lighten your load. Some painting locations are near our cars which makes it easier. In some cases, you may have to hike to your spot. I am often in one spot for 1 – 2 hours. Comfort and ease will be necessary to keep the experience more enjoyable. I would like to offer a few thoughts.

 General Supplies –

·         Dress for the weather, but prepare for change. I dress for 10 degrees cooler than what the weather people tell us. Once at your location, you will be standing (or sitting) for awhile (i.e. not moving). Most artists will find locations in shade and if the wind is blowing at all, it will feel cooler and you need to be comfortable when you paint.

o   Wear neutral colors. Avoid white, bright colors and/or black.

o   Suggest long sleeves and slacks/pants. Deters bugs and sun burn.

o   Have an extra layer available in case the wind kicks up, the clouds roll in or rain threatens. Have a long sleeved collared shirt, light jacket, or sweatshirt available.

o   Comfortable shoes

·         Insect repellent

·         Sun block

·         Snacks – suggest fruit, granola bars or trail mix. Not a full meal, just enough to help reenergize you.

·         Brimmed hat – protection from the sun. I avoid sunglasses so I can see the colors and values more accurately.

·         Water/water bottle – Especially when it is warm or hot.

·         Plastic bag for any trash which you generate or find.

·         Paper towels.

·         Before parking your car, scout out location of washrooms and drinking water.

·         Camera – suggested but not necessary. Captures details, fleeting moments and can even help you compose your design.

·         Cell phone – Safety.

·         Umbrella – optional.

·         Portable folding stool

·         Viewfinder – Optional but very helpful.

·         Small pliers and screwdriver.

·         Small bungee cords and clamps – Optional, but in windy conditions, helpful.

·         Sketchbook – to lock in the design and capture the shadow patterns. Also, there are some days (moods), locations, weather conditions or time factors which may prohibit painting. You can always sketch and learn.

·         Business cards or contact information – some passerby might just be interested in that masterpiece that you are creating.

Watercolor Plein Air Gear

Watercolor Plein Air Gear

·         Watercolor

o   Tote Bag – I use a back pack for plein air painting

o   Palette – I suggest a small folding palette (I load up with paint before heading to the site).

o   Paints – In addition to my usual palette, I keep a tube of Gouache White or Chinese White with my kit. I also keep a container with extra tubes of paint in my car, just in case. The usual colors on my palette include: Hookers Green, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Winsor Lemon, Aureolin (or New Gamboge) Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Winsor Red, Alizaron Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue and Paynes Gray.

o   Brushes – Do not bring your favorite brush (it will be the brush most likely to get lost). Your choice but, depending on the size paper I am using, I usually just use a #10 or 12 round and a #6 pointed round.

o   Paper – Arches 140# CP (300# is a good alternative). I suggest you either bring small pieces of paper and use a clip board or use watercolor paper in a block or sketchbook.

o   Water for brushes – I use a plastic container that formerly contained lemonade mix (it’s just the right size and seals up tight). I also keep a container of water in the car, just in case.

o   Portable Easel (ex. French Easel). – Optional. You may wish to sit and use your lap to support your paper.

o   Small towel and facial tissues.

o   Pencil and kneaded eraser

Oils Plein Air Gear

Oils Plein Air Gear

·         Oils/Acrylics – I usually stand so I either use my Judson’s Guerilla paint box and tripod or a French Easel

o   Tote Bag – I use a 5 gallon bucket with a cloth tool bag.

o   Palette – The Judson’s Guerilla Box has its own palette or I use a wooden palette in a Masterson’s Artist Palette Seal

o   Paints – The cloth tool bag holds all my necessary paints. My usual palette of colors includes: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon/Cadmium Light, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Grumbacher Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black. I also have  Permanent Rose, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Thalo Green, Transparent Oxide Red, and Naples Yellow – just in case.

o   Brushes – I use hog bristle flats #2 through #10 at least two of each. I prefer Robert Simmons Signet brand. I use a couple paper towel tubes to help keep them neatly inside my bucket

o   Support – I usually use canvas panels which I can carry in my paint box/easel. I also use a Handy Porter or canvas carrier for larger panels.

o   Small jar (ex. baby food jar) to carry odorless mineral spirits.

o   Disposable gloves

o   Disposable Diaper, paper towels and plastic bags.

o   View Finder

Photos of Tom Linden painting courtesy of Bob Logsdon Photography

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