Thursday, August 2, 2012

This Post is for Nikki Jacquin in Saskatchewan!

Nikki ( asked me recently for a list of things I take with me when I go plein air painting.  I chuckled to myself and explained that it would take more than 140 characters to tell her.  Actually, it wouldn't have.  I take everything but the kitchen sink!  (That's only 39 characters!)

The truth is I always WANT to take everything but the kitchen sink, but I know I can't.  The essentials are as follows:

pigments (pastels, oils, and acrylics are heavy; watercolors aren't bad, but they aren't my preferred pigment)
brushes (I once forgot them & had to paint with twigs, plastic "silverware," and the stub of a rope I found)
palette knife
water/medium/or turp
something to clean brushes in (the plastic container I use to dip my acrylic brushes in--or a portable metal brush washer when I paint in oils)
*Easel (unless you are going to paint in a notebook or on your lap)
Paper towels or rags
Gloves (disposable)
Drinking water

Also important to take:

Bug spray
Something to eat easily (A peanut butter & jelly sandwich doesn't need refrigeration.)

*My first plein air easel was a Julian French easel that my husband bought me on a trip to New York City over thirty years ago.  He chivalrously trudged all over the city, carrying it for me while we took in the sights and toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I used it for many years; however, a Julian is heavy when it is filled with paints, etc. (To reduce the weight, some artists remove the metal drawer liner, but I never did.)  I still have that easel and use it mostly to paint in the yard.  

My second plein air easel we bought at Dick Blick's on sale in Las Vegas where we were visiting our daughter.  It is a very light, simple black metal easel.  I used it when I painted in the Valley of Fire and in Red Rock Park.  It is fine if wind is not a factor.

I later bought a Easy-L pochade box and tripod, which I have used when I paint locally.  It is compact, easy to set up, and fairly stable in moderate wind--as long as you attach the sling to hold a rock or two.  When rocks aren't available, I use my backpack as a weight; it works just fine.

My favorite plein air easel is a Gloucester easel.  It is a wood tripod that sets up and takes down fairly quickly once you get the hang of it.  It has the most stability of any outdoor easel.  Each leg of the tripod can be adjusted to whatever length is needed.  On Schoodic Peninsula in Maine last week, I often had each of the legs set at three different lengths to accommodate for the rocky terrain.

Joan Cole painting the Saco River in Biddeford, Maine  Photo by Marina Lamb
Here's a photo of me at my Gloucester easel over a week ago.  It was taken by a lovely lady named Marina Lamb who was walking her dogs with her husband at the public boat ramp in Biddeford.  She took many photos of me during the time we all visited and has sent them to me.  Thank you so much, Marina.

**Umbrellas are helpful, if you aren't painting in a lot of wind.  My preference when at all possible is to find a spot that is naturally shaded.  I don't mind painting in the woods, if I can be out of the direct sun and have a great view to paint.

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