I went to California a week or so ago and took a morning to go painting with a friend.
I did a study which did not satisfy me, but am I using it as a basis for another painting. Plein air provides the ideas for studio pieces, so I thought that while this piece was not successful, the experience was food for thought. The marina view I initially did was far too complex for a quick study. And while it had some nice passages, it was not simplified enough to present a cohesive painting. When my friend asked me how I felt about my painting, I told her “it sucks. But, if I take it apart, it can provide the ideas for several paintings”. So even a bad day can have good results. And a failed painting still has value in the learning of painting process.
My friend had a stumble while setting up and seemed to have difficulty getting going. It was obvious that she had not painted outside in a long while. Paints were hard to put out as caps had gotten stuck onto the tubes. She had not brought enough turps, and could not seem to begin effectively. She was having difficulty with her materials and palette. My friend was not having a good time. How could this have been changed?
These simple observations bring me to a few points. If you paint plein air, you need to get out and paint. Often. Not painting outdoors often makes you wear the wrong clothes, bring the wrong things, forget important stuff and deal with more frustration than you should have to. It’s supposed to be fun guys! At the very least a body needs to make a list while out painting, noting what was forgotten and needed, as well as what was just extra junk to cart. Weed out mercilessly. If you haven’t used it in three outings, trash it. Because I wanted to use Ken’s limited palette, I actually did not take any other colors with me. The temptation to grab that orange would have brought me to the near occasion of sin. So I had left it and others at home. Ruthless can be a good thing.
So what do I bring? Feel free to use this list if you are wondering what is important and what is needless baggage. Here’s the checklist for my outdoor painting days:
- Panels to paint on (canvas punctures too easily, so I prepare my own wood boards with gesso)
- Brushes – I do need to whittle this group down some, but I am still making field tests
- Paints (this time only 5 tubes) Sometimes I bring my paints in a plastic, closing pillbox, already set out.
- Turps in a spill proof container Bring enough. Too little will hamper your painting.
- Paper towels and trash bag - God didn't leave us a junkyard, don't leave one for Him
- Your easel, whatever kind you use (I use an open M box – love it) .
- Pliers to get that stubborn paint cap off. A match will only melt the caps.
- Paint trowel and/or painting knife
- Chair, if I am having a bad day with my knees (its not only the fit and buff kids who do this, you know)
- Wet panel carrier and a backpack to stuff all of this in
- Sun block, bug spray, hat, windbreaker, water and/or coffee and toilet paper
That last item, underlined in the last bullet is a necessity. There are often bushes, but not restrooms. Happy painting, and oh yes, make sure the far side of the bush is not visible to oncoming cars.