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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plein Air Tip #2...Know Your Equipment!

'By the Sea'           5x7       Plein air   pastel          ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $50
I have been doing a lot of reflecting since I returned from Iceland. I am grateful for the luxury of time which has enabled me to paint and write my Iceland travelog. So often when I return home after a trip I go immediately back to work. The memories of the trip get pushed aside. This time I made sure I would have some downtime after my trip. I have shared about half of my story so far. I hope to put in in book form and include my narrative, photos, paintings and travel tips for artists. Over the next week I will share the rest of the story.

Today I wanted to share a plein air tip since I know we are in the height of summer travel season and many of you are getting outside to paint. A few days ago I shared my first plein air tip and you can read that post here.  Here is another tip that I have had to learn by trial and error.

Get to know your painting equipment and supplies before you take them outside or on a trip!

'Cliffside Colors'        Plein air  5x7         pastel  $50
Here I am with my Gogh Box pastel set up
 It is a simple thing to do but so often overlooked. I know that I am always tweaking my plein air set up. I have lost track of the number of boxes and easels and bags and carts I have tried. I am always looking for the most efficient and light , yet comprehensive set up. I am always downsizing!  But I always practice with a new set up before I take it out on the road.  Take the time to do a test run even if it is in your own back yard. It will save you so much aggravation and could even make or break a plein air trip!

  • Make sure you can set up and break down your easel or tripod and box quickly and with confidence. This means you should practice setting it up over and over until it becomes rote. Ideally you should be able to do it with your eyes closed. This way when you are on location and you are faced with changing weather you can quickly get up and running (or closed up). Practice!
  • Tripods....Make sure you know how the tripod folds up. If it comes apart make sure you can get it back together. (when I practiced with mine, a screw got jammed and I needed a wrench to fix it so I was glad this happened at home. )
  • Bring along a leatherman tool or compact tool of some sort. You never know when you may need to tighten or loosen a screw.
  • Your bag or cart: Make sure all your supplies fit in your bag or cart and that you can manage it on your own. Test it out...put it on your back and /or take a walk with your cart. I recommend not packing it so full that everything is jammed in and you cannot easily take things out. I promise you that it will never go back in as easily as it does at home so you will appreciate a little breathing space in your bag.
  • Pastel and paints: This deserves it's own post but I try to keep my palette limited and simple and make what I have work. It is sometimes frustrating....but it is so much better than dealing with too many supplies (they will get heavy) Keep it simple!

The view from our home in Iceland inspired many paintings
You can find links to part 1 through 7 of my travelog "Iceland: Through the Eye's of an Artist" on my Pinterest page. Click here. 


Sandi G said...

Hi Karen,
I enjoy each and every post . Love your work. There are mountains of info contained here . I recently went through
Your older posts ( using my ipad ) and when I found an interesting article or tip (all) I either bookmarked it or copied and pasted to my notebook so I could print later.
You have the makings of a book ! I hope you may be considering ,I would be the first to buy.
My best Sandi


I too travel abroad and just returned home from ten days of painting in France. Packing is critical....but so is travel insurance. Maybe you should mention that. On my trip, weather in the NE USA kept me in Chicago for over six hours and I missed my international flight. I arrived a day late and my luggage arrived four days after that. Though time and money can't replace what I feel I missed, my Travel Insurance is looking like I will receive a settlement of approximately $5500.

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing Carol! I'm sorry to hear of the trouble you had annd your advice to get travel insurance is so important. I didnt get it but the week of my trip Icelandair went on strike! I was sweating it out. It all worked out but I had a close call and a lesson learned! I will be sure to blog about this!!!!

robertsloan2art said...

This series would make a wonderful book! I went back and read from post one and enjoyed thoroughly even when I haven't commented, catching up again now on several new ones since I did.

Love this one on plein air setup. I have still been refining my own plein air setup in different ways.

Derwent's pastel wraps aren't as effective as the pencil wraps. I've got all 60 Carb-Othello pastel pencils in two inexpensive Niji wraps. So I got two Derwent pastel wraps for 72 Cretacolor Pastels Carre because I couldn't even use their styrofoam tray at home - sticks get stuck in it!

The wraps work at home as long as they're on a flat stable surface. I could even break the sticks and get all the colors into one wrap easily - but if I took it out, I'd need a flat table and weights to keep the protective flaps from falling back into place as soon as I got out a stick.

What I found best so far is Single Layer cardboard boxes and trays, like Unison boxes or something with good foam in. All of them on one layer so I'm not spreading out sideways, box small enough for lap, assortment worked out.

I got a small Dakota Traveller but that became more of an at-home item due to lack of a folding table to set it up on. Tempting to try getting a cheap sturdy stool as a support for it, that might work.

I also tried a stool with an art bag under it, but unfortunately the fabric stretched over time and the thing is now only about 5" high when folded out. Not effective. I probably had too much weight on it using it as something to hold up a flat tray of pastels or the open Traveller. Still trying to think of a way to fix that though, since it worked at first till the fabric stretched.

Trial and error at home really beats doing it in the field! I agree with you 100%!