Since my last post on simplifying a complex scene, I have had several readers ask about my plein air painting setup. So, in case anyone else is curious, I have put together this post about what I have in my setup and why I have it.
Requirements of the Plein Air Setup
I had several requirements when putting together this setup:
- It needs to be portable and able to fit within a hiking backpack, without compromising too many of the studio benefits;
- It needs to be lightweight;
- It needs to be easy to clean and pack up; and
- It needs to be environmentally friendly (I want to leave the environment as it was before I painted there).
Summary of What Is Included
Here is a summary of everything included in my plein air painting setup:
- New Wave pochade box with a clear glass palette;
- Side tray which attaches to the pochade box and holds my brushes;
- Cinch and carabiner sets for securing accessories to the pochade box;
- Camera tripod for holding the pochade box;
- A variety of Rosemary & Co brushes (flats, rounds, and liner brushes);
- Canvas boards/panels;
- Oil paints by Winsor & Newton (colors are discussed later in the post);
- Odorless solvent;
- Paper towel (for wiping my brush between strokes and general cleanup);
- Plastic bags (for cleanup and holding brushes and paints); and
- An old mug for holding solvent.
All this (excluding the camera tripod) fits conveniently within a small hiking backpack.
The pochade box is 8.4" x 11.25" and sold by New Wave. To go with this, I also purchased:
- A clear glass palette (the pochade box does not come with a palette);
- Anywhere side tray (for holding brushes); and
- Cinch and carabiner sets (for securing accessories to the pochade box).
The pochade box is made to conveniently attach to a camera tripod (the tripod does not come with the purchase).
For the brushes, I lean towards the larger sizes because I need to paint quickly and efficiently. I use a handful of different flats, rounds, and a small liner brush for detailing. The brand I use is Rosemary & Co, which I highly recommend if your budget allows.
Whilst I am painting, I can rest the brushes on the side tray which you can purchase with the pochade box. But just be aware the side tray only holds a handful of brushes, so you will need to limit your selection.
I paint on small canvas boards by Mont Marte. These are cheap, portable, and sturdy. I stay away from stretched canvas, as it tends to be less portable and more fragile.
Depending on the size, the canvas boards can be kept in the hiking backpack. However, you will need to consider how to get the painting back to the studio once you are finished painting. I go into more detail on this in the "What I Need" section at the end of the post.
I use Winsor & Newton artist quality oil paints in the following colors:
- Ultramarine blue
- Viridian green
- Permanent alizarin crimson
- Cadmium red
- Cadmium yellow
- Titanium white
This is a fairly limited palette, which is ideal for painting plein air. The fewer colors you have on your palette, the easier it is to manage.
The main compromise of a limited palette is being unable to mix certain colors which you might need. But you could always change the colors on your palette if you know in advance what you are going to paint. For example, if you are going to paint a scene with bright, orange flowers, then you might want to include a cadmium orange on your palette for that occasion.
Since I paint with oils, I use odorless solvent to add some fluidity to the paint and also for cleaning. I do not use any other medium (like linseed oil).
If you are painting with acrylics, watercolors or gouache, then you can just use water as your solvent to add fluidity to the paint.
Here are the other accessories I use:
- Paper towels (for wiping down my brush between strokes and for general clean up);
- Plastic bags (for storing waste); and
- Cups and other containers (for holding solvent and storing waste).
What I Need
Next on my purchase list is a wet canvas carrier to transport paintings back to the studio. Something like this.
An umbrella would also be handy for painting under the sun and for controlling light.
Using this Setup
Here are some general tips for using this setup:
- Place a large, plastic bag between the legs of the tripod. You can use this as a portable bin for paper towels or other rubbish.
- Use thinned paint to quickly sketch and block-in the composition. You want to capture your initial impression of the scene before the environment changes too much.
- Use larger brushes, as they allow you to paint faster and more efficiently.
- The pochade box which I purchased does not allow for large canvas sizes. If you want to create large-scale paintings on location, then you might want to consider something more sturdy, like a French easel.
- If you are oil painting like me, then make sure you take all your waste away with you. Bring containers for any solvent or medium and plastic bags for any paper towels and excess paint.