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Monday, May 07, 2012

Tips for a Successful Plein Air Paint-out Experience

'The Rain Shall Pass'            6x8        plein air oil on panel      ©Karen Margulis  available here $125
My Plein Air Set Up

 Being an artist is often a lonely business.  We spend a lot of time alone painting either in the studio or outdoors. Some of us are fortunate to live in an area with artists groups and this helps get artists together. And of course social media has given us the ability to connect with other artists online. But there is nothing like spending a few days totally immersed in art with a group of other like minded artists.
I am back from participating at the Blue Ridge Plein Air Festival. This is my 5th plein air even so I am by no means an expert but I do have some tips to share to help make your paint-out participation go smoothly.
  • Be prepared! Let's talk about clothing first. The weather doesn't always cooperate or do what the weather reports say so make sure you are prepared for the extremes. Dress in layers so you can add or take off layers as the weather changes. I didn't think I would need gloves when I was packing for Las Vegas and it was in the 90's but I could have used them when it ended up being in the 40's! (I did throw in a pair of knit gloves but couldn't find them in my duffel...so be organized too!) I have a wonderful packable windbreaker from REI that I always have with me. It is great for changeable weather.
  • Supplies:  Try to downsize your supplies so that you can easily manage carrying them by yourself. Practice setting up if anything is new. In my oil set-up I can fit everything I need into one small rolling tool bag. I need to find a backpack to fit it all for times when a cart won't work. You don't want to be worn out from managing too much stuff. Downsize and practice with it to make sure you aren't missing anything. I am working on a checklist so stay tuned.
  • Framing:  If you are planning to enter paintings in the show at the end of the event you will need to have frames and framing tools/supplies. I try to work in no more than 3 sizes so I don't have to carry to many frames. Don't forget a little tool kit with a screw driver,tape measure,and hardware. I also bring preprinted stickers to put on the back of my work. The stickers have my information and a space for title and medium.
  • Food: You need fuel for painting so a good breakfast is important. I like to bring my standard picnic lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It is great to take a break and have a nice picnic lunch. Don't forget portable snacks and drinks.
  • Comfort items: Don't forget some bug spray and sunscreen. 
  • Promote yourself. You never know who you will meet so be sure to bring some business cards. We met some wonderful people at the Blue Ridge event....both fellow artists and passer-bys. It was nice to be able to exchange cards.
These are the things that first come to mind and I am sure I will think of things to add. I would love to add your tips too so feel free to comment!  If you haven't done a plein air event I would encourage you to find one in your area and give it a try!


vickiandrandyrossart said...

A favorite tip for plain air painters...make or have produced a professional label for your box, front and back. Onlookers will know who you are.

Karen said...

What a great idea! I will have to do this before I head back out this weekend! Thanks for sharing!

adventureartist said...

I was at Vegas and yes it was cold! Had a blast though. Kelty makes backpacks that are front loading and great for carrying our pochades. I use the Redwing model (it's huge), and the Redtail (medium sized). Great packs and well made. My tripod straps perfect to the right or left side and the inside is plenty roomy for all my supplies plein air, lunch and rain gear, and my best brella.
Happy painting!

Karen said...

Hi Drusilla! Thanks for the info on the Kelty backpacks. Sounds perfect. I'll have to look into to them. I appreciate you sharing!

robertsloan2art said...

Great article! I have a few special needs for plein air, but most of this applies for whenever I go out.

One thing is essential for me whenever I leave the house. My daughter bought me a khaki fisherman's vest with dozens of small pockets, most of them zipper shut or have velcro flaps. I have that vest loaded with pocket watercolors, small watercolor blocks, colored pencils, some Conte crayons, a variety of mediums and pocket sketchbooks plus medication, smokes, phone, lighter, assorted personal items.

Keeping everything in the vest all the time means that even if an unexpected opportunity arises, I have several choices of medium available.

When I want more than that I'll pack up a small bag. That's what keeps me from going overboard on paints or pastels, limit the size of the bag and I won't bring the whole studio.