Lightening My Plein Air Pack

Scott Burdick often does plein air studies, like this one (Vermilion Cliffs, 2009, plein air oil painting, 9 x 12), on lightweight panels that are easy to travel with.
Scott Burdick often does plein air studies, like this one
(Vermilion Cliffs, 2009, plein air oil painting, 9 x 12),
on lightweight panels that are easy to travel with.

I was watching a documentary about the Appalachian Trail the other day and was amazed to hear that hikers stopping at one particular trail stop along the way left behind something like 4 million tons of goods every year in order to lighten their loads, mailing home the stuff they didn’t need. It made me realize that the last thing I want to do when I am plein air painting is get into a funky, sour mindset because I have a sore back and aching shoulders.

But when you are en plein air, you have to have certain things–paints, water, brushes, panels. And then there are things I don’t need. I don’t have a plein air easel, so that is one less thing to carry. I just prop my panel against something or have it on my lap or against my pack. For most serious plein air painters this may not be an option, but for me it works fine.

The RayMar Feather Lite panels are ideal for plein air outdoor painting and are half as thick as they used to be.
The RayMar Feather Lite panels are ideal
for plein air outdoor painting and are
half as thick as they used to be.

Another area to look into if you want to keep a light plein air landscape supply list is how bulky and heavy your panels are. RayMar has a Feather Lite panel that is only 1/16 in. thick and weighs just a few ounces. Plus the back of the board is covered in gray melamine that, in a pinch, you could use as a palette or write plein air notes on light and color with a permanent marker. Double duty–I love it! Scott Burdick actually turned me onto the RayMar panels, and he’s an amazing plein air painter and spends a lot of time out in nature. So I know if it works for him, it will work for me.

Do you have ideas on how to stay light on your feet when you are outdoor painting? I’m looking for all the tricks and tips I can get! Thanks,

 

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

12 thoughts on “Lightening My Plein Air Pack

  1. RayMar also makes a wet panel carrier that weighs almost nothing, that holds up to 6 of the thin panels, stored back to back, in slots, and has a carrying strap. Wonderful product.

  2. I find that my paints are the heaviest bit, so i put paint on my palette ahead of time and only take extras of those colors I use a lot–Sap green, white, ultramarine etc. It depends on how long you’re out for, of course.

  3. I transport oil paintings with a plastic device that has 2 pointed ends and is about 1 1/2″ long. I use 1 in each corner of the front of my painting then either use another stretched canvas or foam board face to face. The wet side is always inside. If you can’t find these, push pins will work. I also have a velcro strap with a handle that adjusts to the size of your canvas- easy to carry.

  4. Talk about minimal! I have a friend who made a TINY plein air watercolor kit that he can carry anywhere. He started with an old Altoids tin; added paint half-pan refills (maybe 6-7 colors), a telescoping brush, along with a cut-up piece of kitchen sponge. The lid is used as the palette. Unlined 3×5 cards for the support (you could also use a tiny watercolor paper pad), a couple of folded-up paper towels and a rubber band to hold it all together. He sticks that all in his shirt pocket and then uses a water bottle for the water supply (You could also use a small squirt bottle with a twist-down cap instead). Since it’s so small, you could use a small photo album to display all your finished paintings, while keeping them neat and organized. He loves it, and paints in cafe’s, museums, aircraft carriers, etc.

  5. I have found the Paint Saver Palette available from FineArtTech.com to be not only most helpful in lightening my pack, but also saving me from wasting unused paint, by being able to safely store it in the freezer when finished.

  6. In Australia the main problem when plein air painting is insects , so I always use a hat with a net attached to keep those pesky bugs out of my eyes and mouth. Those few that stick to the paint (oils) can easily be detached at home. (they seem to prefer humans to oils though and can be extremely distracting). I do take a lightweight easel with extra long picks attached to feet to set it deep into the ground, so the wind cannot pick it up and fly off with it. I also take a small lightweight digital camera for shots in every direction as light changes so quickly .
    Thanks for sharing .

  7. The Niji waterbrush is a great tool for plein air sketching. It’s a synthetic brush with a water reservoir in the handle; a squeeze wets the brush or adds a drop of water to your palette. Comes in a range of sizes and shapes–very handy!

  8. The Niji waterbrush is a great tool for plein air sketching. It’s a synthetic brush with a water reservoir in the handle; a squeeze wets the brush or adds a drop of water to your palette. Comes in a range of sizes and shapes–very handy!

  9. I almost exclusively paint on the trail. My watercolor kit is based on a kit of supplies I read about in a book called “Watercolor Painting on the Trail,” by Judith Campbell and published by Appalachian Trail Club Books (1993). I carry a Windsor Newton Field Kit with half pans of Alizarin Crimson, Indian Yellow, Antwerp Blue, Warm Sepia, and Olive Green; adding two to three other colors I may need for a particular trip. I also carry a Niji Watercolor Brush, a half sheet of paper towel, and 4×6 Fabriano 140 lb cold press block of paper. Everything fits in a nylon stuff sack and goes in a pocket on the side of my pack. If I’m on a particularly long trip (5 days or longer), I may take a couple of 5 mil tubes, too. I usually paint after I’ve made camp or first thing in the morning before leaving. When I need more water I get it from my water bladder (Camelback). One thing I never forget to bring is a fully brimmed hat! I leave the sketch to dry in my tent or under my tarp, depending on which I’m sleeping under. The whole kit weighs about 15 oz, including the paper.

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