Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yarka Field Easel

Here is my Yarka medium size field easel, purchased in the 1990's. It fits in my medium size suitcase as well as being light enough to carry with the shoulder strap. I regret to say that it is not widely available now. That's a shame, because it is the only box type easel with aluminum legs, except for the new one with four legs by Cheap Joe. This makes it strong but lighter to carry and the legs don't wick up moisture while standing in the damp ground. Click the image to zoom in for details.

I have a Julian French easel, which is heavier with wooden legs. I used it in the tulip fields and once the legs got so swollen with moisture that I couldn't turn the wing nuts. So I closed up the top and drove down the freeway with the easel legs sticking up in the back of my car. It looked almost as if I had brought back a dead animal in full rigor!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Backpack Outdoor Kit

A single strap sling backpack is small but useful for carrying your outdoor kit while traveling. Make sure it's big enough to carry your favorite size sketchbook or watercolor block.

This is my windbreaker (folds down and fits into its own pocket), single strap backpack, and Anderson easel (in its own case).

For photos and description of contents click here.

To see it all set up on location click here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easel for Car Use

If you drive to your location and paint near or in your car you can carry more stuff and larger paper.

This little easel is small enough to use in the car (Pacific NW artists still consider that to be outdoor painting) You can keep your watercolors and yourself dry during occasional rain showers. I plan to use it this spring during the April SNOW that's predicted this week. Aaaack!

Called a book stand with drawer, it's only 13 1/4" x 10 1/4" x 2 3/4" and even fits into some larger back packs or sports bags. A drawer holds the implements of your work - pencils, brushes, papers, mini palettes, whatever; while a pop-up easel stand holds open your journal, or sketchpad.

Tri-Dee and Brushstrokes both sell the easel at their local art supply stores.

You can order the whole kit with carry bag, paints, brushes, etc. online.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Watercolor Kit in a Waist pack

Cheap Joe's used to sell an outdoor watercolor "Survival Kit" that was the perfect size for me when I took a group to Italy. It was packed with just the right stuff to paint anything you want and just the right size to go anywhere. I rode the vaporeti all over Venice with it and demonstrated for my class, too.

Now this great little bag comes empty and it's on clearance. You can pack it with your own personal collection of outdoor painting essentials.

If enough readers are interested, I can post a photo and list of my supplies that fit into it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Zip up Outdoor Watercolor Kit

Now for medium size portable painting kits that have their own case or can fit in a backpack or messenger bag. They come with a variety of supplies. You can add some of your own like I did here.

This entire kit zips up into its own case. It even has its own wrist strap. See it in use here with a description of contents. It's still small enough to use comfortably in the car.

Additional materials shown: small plastic mixing palette, 4"x6" watercolor sketch block and tiny Altoids mini kit. I can use the Altoids kit for quick field sketches in the small sketchbook. For larger field studies, I squeeze out fresh paint on the plastic palette and use my 9x12" Kilimanjaro Paintbook, a 10x14" watercolor block or 1/4 sheet 200# Saunders Waterford paper.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sucrets Compact Pocket Palette

This compact travel set will fit in your pocket, fanny pack or handbag. It's about the size of a digital camera case.
It consists of:
  • Small plastic accordion folder, like the ones used for coupons or index cards
  • It holds a dozen pieces of watercolor paper cut to fit
On the far right, from top to bottom:
  • I have a clip to hold loose papers together while painting
  • A travel bottle that allows you to use a little or a lot of water at a time
  • The Sucrets box is deeper than the Altoids one, so it can hold a travel brush, bottle cap for water, sponge, pencil, eraser, etc.
  • A business card size diagram of the colors and their names. Fits in an inside card pocket.
  • Use Sculpey or watercolor pans to arrange colors in the Sucrets tin as you would in the Altoids tin. See here or here for description

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Altoids tin pocket palette next size up

The regular size Altoids tin can be used to carry your tiny one, plus a sponge, additional color half-pans, travel brushes and bottle caps for water.

Peel and stick magnetic strips can be used to make sure the contents don't shift around as you paint or carry the tin in your pocket.

If you prefer, you can mold palette wells out of Sculpey or Fimo. This tin would hold 8-10 colors.

The whole idea is to be as inconspicuous, portable and compact as possible while taking advantage of incidental sketching opportunities.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pocket Palette Possibilities

Here are just three possibilities for reusing items you already have to make your own pocket travel palette.
  • Some eyeshadow and makeup compacts even have removable sections that can be filled with your choice of watercolors from tubes. The mirror works fine as a mixing area. There's even a slot for your travel brush.
  • You can purchase empty or filled pans and half pans of watercolor. Attach a peel and stick magnetic strip under the bottom of each one and arrange as desired in your regular size Altoids tin. This has the advantage of repositioning and removal for cleaning. Spray the entire inside of the box with white enamel for waterproofing.
  • As seen in previous posts, there is the Altoids mini with pans made from Sculpey.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pencil Box Kit for your tiny Altoids palette

This little slide pencil box from Staples will hold an entire mini painting kit, including a full size #8 round brush, pencil, sponge, paper towel, Altoids mini palette, extra tubes or pans, etc.

Add a small watercolor sketchbook or block and a water bottle and the whole kit fits into a handbag or small waist bag or fanny pack.

Here's another way to Travel Light with Plein Air Watercolor.

Tiny Travel Palette DIY with Altoids Mini

For the next week, I will post my array of mini, compact and travel plein air set ups, from the tiniest to the biggest.

Make a mini pocket palette with
  • a tiny Altoids smalls tin,
  • Sculpey Oven Bake Clay
  • Wisp
  • plastic deli lid
  • self stick magnetic strips.

Cover the interior of the box with a thin (about 3mm or 1/4") layer of Sculpey or Fimo. Once you've covered the interior of the box with Sculpey, split it in 6 equal parts using strips of Sculpey. I started by laying a strip lengthwise in the middle of the tin, separating the interior in 2 long compartments. Then, I put four equally-spaced squares of clay to split each half-tray in 3.

Once you're done, you should have 6 compartments of roughly equal size. Use the Wisp to carve and smooth out any sections too small for your fingers. A crochet hook can be used as well. I baked this in the oven at 275 degrees F for 17 minutes. Thinner clay takes a little less time.

After it cooled off, I cut a thick plastic deli lid to fit inside the Altoids lid. I attached it with self-stick magnetic strips. It makes a nice mixing area for my paint and is removable for cleaning or replacement. (You could spray the inside of the lid with white enamel for a similar effect.)

Fill each of the empty sections from tubes of artist's quality watercolor. I used a warm and cool of each of the three primary colors.

Top Row: Permanent Yellow Deep, Vermilion, Manganese Blue

Second Row: Winsor Yellow, Crimson Red Lake, Ultramarine Blue Deep

Tip: Stir freshly squeezed color with a toothpick to make sure it is evenly distributed. Fill each well in two stages, halfway to start. Allow paints to dry with the lid open overnight before topping up and/or transporting.

You can use empty or purchased half pans with self adhesive magnet tape attached on the bottom to hold them in place. However, I prefer the extra width the Sculpey provides so that the adjacent colors don't mix together so easily.
Update: Scroll down my list of broadcasts for a replay of my live demonstration on

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Charcoal Drawing

Original Charcoal Drawing 14x20"

What I love about charcoal is the speed and expressiveness that comes from the medium. It's the perfect choice for a preliminary sketch.

Charcoal gives you the soft edges and gradations that will eventually be used to express the subject in watercolor.