People often ask about the best equipment for plein air painting so here is a look at my kit and some links to suppliers.
I have two kinds of easel that I use outside: a French Easel and a panel/palette holder on a tripod.
The French easel is the one that looks most like a traditional easel. It’s made of wood, has a tray on the back to rest my brushes, brush washer/turps can etc. There is a drawer at the front to store tubes of paint and the palette sits on top of this. It’s a very versatile piece of kit that can support anything from a tiny board a few inches high to large canvas four feet across.
Jullian Half box French Easel JB40
I also have a more lightwight kit in the form of a Palette/Panel Holder from Open Box M. This sits on a tripod with a quick release plate and has a small shelf for brushes, dipper etc. A spring clamp system holds panels up to 20 inches across.
The tripod I use with my pochades and Open Box M panel holder is a Velbon Ultra Rexi L. It’s light weight, packs up small and is very sturdy. The legs are able to open out wide which is great for setting up in windy locations and when set up normally it takes up very little room – ideal for street scenes. I recommend using a tripod head with a quick release plate as that allows you to set up and dismantle your kit quickly. I have found a small Manfrotto ball head is ideal, it’s compact in size and rock solid.
Velbon Ultra 655 – updated replacement for the Ultra Rexi L.
Manfrotto 494RC2 Ball Head with Friction Control
Painting at Lands End.
Pochade: Open Box M. Tripod: Velbon Ultra Rexi L.
A good friend of mine has just returned from a trip to the Far East. Not wanting to fall foul of airline baggage rules, he travelled out with his painting kit but no turps or white spirit. To help him buy some locally, he had translated the words for white spirit and paint thinner via the internet before he went.
After a long trawl through many shops, he was eventually offered a bottle of strange smelling liquid and off he went to do some painting. Setting up in front of his chosen view, he carefully set out his paints on the palette and decanted some of his newly aquired “white spirit”.
As he began to lay in the first washes of colour a strange thing started to happen. The paint curdled then bubbled and eventually started to eat through the gesso priming of his board. Then it dawned on him – he was mixing his colours with paint stripper!
To save him from embarrassment, I won’t name him (yet!) but if you would like to share your tips for successful travelling with oil paints – or even share a few of your own disaster stories – please email me or leave a comment.
- Raindrops on my palette
This evening I found myself rushing to try and finish a picture before the rain started. I was set up on a hill and could see the rain sweeping towards me across the valley.
The rain won on this occassion. I often finish pictures in the rain and sometimes even start them in the rain. Working in oils it is possible to carry on in quite bad weather when my watercolour colleagues have long packed up.
It is quite easy to remove enough water from the palette to keep painting just by giving it a good shake (remember to remove the dipper first). In theory the paint stays in place and the water slides off. In practice, well, that depends on how much you like to thin your paint.
If you have any tips or comments on painting in adverse onditions you can add them using the comments link below.