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Preparing for a Plein Air Adventure

As Spring gets in gear, now is the time to start planning for spending more time outdoors. This past winter has been very harsh, keeping everyone practically indoors much longer than we all wanted. This year is the year I plan to do more plein air painting. I have been told, and have read, time and time again, painting from life is essential to all artists in being able to learn how to take the most complex landscape and breaking it down into essential basic shapes/components. Working full time in a job that isn't an artist has caused me to focus on painting exclusively from photos as most of my free time is in the evening. Well, we all have 24 hours in a day, so I must start focusing on scheduling some creative time when the time is appropriate to be outside on days off.


As I plan to embark on this journey I decided to choose a medium that is easy to work with but also doesn't require a lot of gear. It is also a new medium for me so gives me extra creative license to make mistakes. I plan to explore plein-air painting with gouache - which is a medium between watercolor and acrylic. It is all water based so the toxicity that comes with oils can be avoided. Once I get a handle on seeing shape and form in the great outdoors I will move to painting with oil.


I may even take what I paint in gouache and create a larger scale painting from exclusively my miniature, vs a photo. Just to see what I can come up with. Maybe it will help me with being able to paint looser.


But why gouache?

Using gouache will allow for me to channel my inner child creativity in that I will only have a limited palette of colors, have very little control over the development of details, and have a quick drying time. The quick drying time is a bonus and will allow me to layer and/or move on to another painting in the same afternoon. So if I don't hit the right value, I can just remix and paint over it. Similar to how I work in oil, I would just scrape off the paint and try again. This is a new medium for me, and by restricting my palette colors to just the basic colors of 3 primaries + black and white, I should be able to explore more in my color mixing and keeping all the work simple.


My Gear - all packed in a back
  1. Backpack

  2. Easal - my midsize Strada Easel

  3. Sketchbook for Notan sketches

  4. Pencils and value markers for Notan sketching

  5. Royal Talens Artist Gouache set (basic set) in ziplock

  6. 10 paper towels (if I was painting with oil, I would bring a whole roll)

  7. 4 paint brushes (3 sizes of rounds, and 1 small flat brush)

  8. Water containers (2 different containers, one will be direct dirty while the other will be just clean water to keep the paint from becoming muddy)

  9. Easy go watercolor palette (with mustache ;-) )

  10. Painters tape

  11. Water sprits bottle

  12. Ampersand panel to tape watercolor paper on

  13. Watercolor journal for small paintings

  14. Various sizes of 300 lb watercolor board (prevents warping); and a book of 140 lb watercolor paper for other odd water sketches.

All the above will be placed in the backpack, except the easel, as I would just carry that with me. Overall, not too heavy, I think with time, I will continue to pair down my equipment. All there is to do next is find the outdoor scene to paint.


Stay tuned as I plan to share all of my sketches (the good, bad and ugly)


plein air gear
My plein air gear - all to be packed in my backpack

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