Monday, May 25, 2015

Packing for a Plein Air Trip part 3....the Pastels

'Wishes Do Come True'          12x12              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $150  
It begins with a mess. It ends with controlled chaos. It takes a few hours. In the end my box of pastels are packed and ready to travel. I have been through the bell curve of plein air pastel supplies. I began with a small cardboard box of pastels and a bulky french easel. I gradually added supplies and carts and folding chairs and an assortment of 'necessities'.

Now I am on the way down. Getting rid of the excess weight and paring down my supplies to the bare minimum. Sometimes it scares me. What if I need something? But in the end I am grateful for the lighter load.

Paring down and simplifying my pastel selection was the most difficult part of the process.


I began with an empty box. I am using a Heilman double Sketchbox. Yes the backpack size fits into my backpack but it is heavy and I can make do with less pastels. I will use the Heilman easel attachment and a tripod.  I decided to bring an assortment of Terry Ludwig pastels in one half of the box and Girault pastels in the other half. The Giraults have been cut in half so that I could fit the entire Richard McKinley plein air sets.

But they still look messy. Why?  Yes I didn't organize them by color or value. In fact they are not in any order at all. I work better that way when I am painting quick plein air studies. I don't have to worry about putting them back where they belong. I just paint...make a mess and put them back wherever they fit. It works because the palette is very limited. There aren't  many pastels to choose from so I can scan and find an appropriate color and value.

The Heilman double sketchbox

The Heilman double and single sketchbox
I also have my Heilman single sketchbox packed and ready to go. It will come in handy on day trips when I don't want to bring all of my supplies. I can slip this little box into my daypack and I have pastels and paper all in one place.

Ready to travel!

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Oh this is beautiful. Those Heilmans hold quite a lot! When you leave out the slotted foam the number of pastels or pieces goes way up. I've got about 275 pieces in a small Dakota Traveller and that is more unique pieces than the tray of 200 halves in my Winsor & Newton box.

Even the single Heilmann sketchbox is a good assortment with plenty of tints and darks. I'm really tempted to save up for that someday to put together a field kit that's all in one. Like you I'm always redesigning how I carry plein air materials.

Interesting that you don't organize by hue and value. Everyone's different. I take along small set boxes and sometimes work with a very minimal sketch palette like a dozen Winsor & Newton half sticks in a little cardboard box or the 36 Holbein half sticks box that fits in my vest pocket.

I love color Conte for hard pastel sketching and pocket portability, the tiny skinny short sticks seem to last a lot longer than any others. However, they redesigned the case and when I replaced my 48 color set it went from a compact reasonably sturdy box that always went with me to a much wider unwieldy one with too thin slotted foam that distorts and makes it challenging just putting the sticks back wherever I put them. Any suggestions on how to carry hard pastel sticks in an easier, more compact way?

I'm considering recycling a colored pencils tin as something to hold them, especially if I use a hinged one for it and add tape for a closure.