Mar 6, 2012

Packing For Plein Air Painting

Whenever I travel, I try to bring my painting supplies so that I can paint on the road.  The beauty of plein air painting is that it is super quick – you can paint one painting in about 2 hours usually.  You work fast because the light changes but also since you are working on smaller, more portable surfaces it just doesn’t take as long.  I really haven’t painted in so long and I miss it.  I kind of yearn for it actually so I really wanted to go for it this trip.  But knowing that I probably won’t have that much time, I decided to go even more portable and even smaller.

So typically on a driving trip or even a flying trip when I didn’t have a bunch of baby stuff to take with me, I would take my plein air field easel.  But since I was stuffed to the gills with all of our luggage, I opted to go even smaller and lighter. 

So here is my set up.

  1. Plastic school supplies case from Michael’s or Wal-mart – maybe $2?
  2. Paint – red, yellow, blue and white oil paint.  Very light and the norm when I paint.  I always mix my colors from scratch.  If you don’t, try it.  It is a fun challenge and my favorite thing about painting.
  3. 4 brushes
  4. palette knife
  5. 1 disposable palette paper pad.  I have brought folded up sheets of wax paper before but the pad doesn’t weigh all that much and I can put my finished pieces in between the sheets coming home to protect them.
  6. 4 binder clips for my palette pad – sometimes when it is windy the paper blows around – i.e. paint blobs in unwanted places.
  7. Surfaces – I took one sheet of heavy water color paper and gessoed 4 small areas.  I cut each one out to make 4 small surfaces.  Each area is probably at least 3 x 3 – maybe 3x4.  Not only is paper light but I will be able to paint quickly which will be key in order to finish one before the next time Reed needs to eat.  Paintings dry quicker on paper too which is helpful when it comes to flying back.
  8. 1 small wooden board and painters tape.  So when it comes time to paint, I will tape down my “canvas” on the board.
  9. Paper towels.
  10. Turpentine and jar – because turpentine is flammable, I did not bring it with me.  Plus it really smells and I didn’t want our clothing to smell like it in the suitcase.  We will just buy a jar of pickles and some turp on the road and leave it there.
Everything fits in the little box except for 3 of my brushes, the board and palette paper.  Because we will be in the desert, I will look for a rock to perch on or perhaps even use the back of the rental car so that I can stand and paint.

The goal is to paint one of the first few days we are on our trip so they will be nice and dry by the time we go home.  Odds are paintings 1 and 2 will not be anything to write home about but 3 and 4 should be better and maybe even good.  Then I can frame these or use them as a guide to paint them larger when I get back home.

Stay tuned for pictures of my painting from the road!


  1. I never thought of putting the finished painting in between the sheets of my disposable palette. What a great idea! Have fun painting. Can't wait to see the finished pieces.

    1. Thanks Jennifer! Are you doing jeans workshop? I hope so! She has the info on her blog,

  2. Don't EVER buy "artist grade" turpentine or mineral spirits on the road or off. Go for straight up paint thinner or mineral spirits from the crappiest hardware store you can find. Not kidding, a 90% cost reduction and it is the exact. same. stuff.
    Also, if you can find a reduced cupcake or sheetcake carrier, it makes for a VERY easy carrier for a finished piece without smudging, plus you can put your supplies underneath.
    Finally, I have to'll take my 6 colors from me (plus white) from my cold dead hands. Read "Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green". I won't even think until I have cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, alizarin, cadmium red, ultramarine and cerulean. You can't ask me to pick between the two blues, it's like asking someone to pick their favorite child. And I won't even talk about how much I loathe phthalo and Prussian blue. Read the book, I'm not kidding, it changed the way I saw color

    1. Ditto on the turp. Never have I once bought the artists stuff. Good idea in the cupcake travel case. Sorry aren't going to get me on the colors. I was taught this way and I enjoy mixing my colors soooooooo much. It is like a weird game or challenge. Not sure what you mean on the blue and yellow don't make green? Because they do a lot for me anyway. Yes let's paint and you can share your method with me. Join the class it will be so much fun!! But let me clarify my colors and paints. No cheap paints for me either. Artists colors only or prof grade if I can get it without breaking the bank. But I prefer cadmium or sennelier red, ultramarine blue, or cadmium yellow. I bought the wrong yellow one time and used up so much paint because it wasn't strong enough just trying to get the right color.


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