Let’s face it — a really good set up for painting outdoors has not been invented.
You need to decide how far you are planning to walk from your car. You need to take into consideration if you are planning on flying. If you are really on the go, check the equipment suggestions in the Island Hopping class. We used this set up on a hiking-painting-sketching trip to Cornwall.
If you are within easy walking distance of the car you will probably choose an easel. The problem with most easels is that you do not have a sturdy place to put your water and palette that is also in easy reach.
If you cannot reach them comfortably, the painting suffers. You also need a sturdy place for your board and paper — no wobbling. And — I believe it is imperative that you do not paint with the board in your lap. You get picky atrophied paintings simply because you are folded up on it. Rex Brandt used to say, “Dance into your painting.” How can you dance with your painting against your belly?
Those that stand can use a French or Italian easel but most find they need a tall table for their water and palette. You must be sure you can reach your palette and water without bending. Those that sit with an easel still need a table.
A lightweight board is a must for outdoor work.
- If you use corrugated plastic, foam core covered with contact, or gator board, you may want to cut two and make yourself a portfolio by taping them together at the bottom. You can carry your paper protected and have a board by clipping or taping the paper to the outside when you are painting.
- If you are traveling, cut the foam core to the size of the interior of your suitcase. Hinge the two, give it a little handle, and pack your paper inside it, in a plastic bag.
How you put together your outdoor painting set-up is up to you.
You need to be able to pack everything so you can carry it.
Be sure you can reach your palette and water without bending.
- One Solution: two folding tables, one for her board and one for her palette and water + a chair. It all fit in a dufflebag.
- A really simple solution is a chair and two sturdy boxes. These worked to carry the stuff and then, set on end, hold the palette, water and board.
- The woman in the red jacket packed everything in the cart on wheel and then used the top as a table for her water and palette.
- Very compact: piping fit over the arms of the chair and was arranged to make a siting easel + TV tray for palette and water.
- Two Solutions: shows two easels one with a chair with a carrying pouch found atDaniel Smith (see equipment links) and one with a chair that is part of an efficient cart found at Jerry’s Artarama, “Art Comber.” The cart (with somewhat questionable wheels) holds the easel, a small table for palette and water and a painting board: see Valerie painting on the dock and loading all of her equipment.
Don’t forget you: sunshade or hat, sun block, a scarf or cap for windy days, layered clothing: t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, light sweater, windbreaker. Here in the Islands, jeans or slacks are more likely than shorts most days. Maybe an easel umbrella.
A last hint: try to sit in shade. Your paper is not happy with the sun directly on it. If you cannot find shade, it helps if you sit so that your hat and body (sun behind you) shade the paper.
See an outdoor class like Watercolor Summer for the list of painting materials.
Don’t forget to include something to carry water.
It may seem like a lot of trouble — it is — but people become addicted to plein air painting, me included. Why? You get a sense of your subject that just doesn’t come from a photo. It may be a battle but the authentic experience shows in your work. See you painting outside this summer!
©2008, Buchanan Watercolors Ltd.