The last item is seemingly unimportant to the novice, but I can attest that it is enormously helpful. . . . .the plein air painting umbrella. The one in the above picture is “okay” and is also from artworkessentials.com and can be seen here. They have improved their clamping system from the one shown in the picture above and seems to be fairly good. I recently bought another umbrella for my oil painting kit, “Best Brella” . . . .which has a superior clamping mechanism and really tuffs it out in a wind. Their website and product can be seen here. If I was able to compare the two side by each, I believe I would have opted for the “Best Brella” because it is a superior product. These both clamp to one of the tripod legs.
You wouldn’t believe the positions these umbrellas take when attached to different artists equipment! You’ll see them sticking straight out, parallel to the ground, when the sun is low. And you will see them at all sorts of odd angles as the day’s artwork progresses.
The umbrella will be of immense assistance in mixing your colors when subtlety is necessary. Sun glare bleaches out what we see on our palette, causes our eyes to dilate down to null and reduces our proclivity to see color nuances. In addition, the umbrella shades the work in progress. The sun creates evil on the face of a watercolor while painting, believe me! So, make sure that you have this piece of equipment. If you go cheap, you will be very disappointed!
While you and your work are protected from the sun with the umbrella, you are also vulnerable to the least amount of wind, should it come up. The umbrella, though designed to be in a wind, can act as a parachute and will carry away your gear if you don’t weigh down your easel with plenty of weight. And it does happen. Chasing a renegade easel in the wind can be very dis-heartening! (believe me, I know!) When painting on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean it would be tragic to see your equipment sail over the edge and be lost forever!
There are a few other items, which I have found imperative . . . .one of which is a wide brimmed hat. Aside from UV protection, that brim shades your eyes and continues to give you the vision acuity you need to be able to truly see color subtleties. Another is a pocket full of Kleenex (tissues). These necessary for a variety of little chores while painting . . . .and nose blowing isn’t one of them! . . . .palette cleaning and blotting paint being the chief chores.
The last and final item is a back pack. You might find this humorous, but I brought all my paraphernalia into a shop and, with the help of a sales clerk, loaded pack after pack until we found the right pack that could accommodate everything (with room for a lunch in the pack) and was comfortable! Once found and assured that all would indeed fit, the test was to fill the pack and walk around the store with it on.
Now, instead of needing a trailer attached to my car to get the gear to the painting site, I can literally RUN with all my gear on my back and do so in comfort. The pack I chose was a small “day pack.” It isn’t big and bulky and there is lots of room inside to add the incidental stuff, if needed.
I have yet to mention the important board and paper . . . . I use Gator Board, extremely lightweight, and stretch my paper on it the day before going out . . . . and I carry that piece in my hand. I have paper stretched on both sides of the board (to protect the board from warping under the pressure of shrinking cotton paper) to allow me the luxury of making more than one painting when I am out. Generally, I paint on half sheets (15 x 22 inches) but this equipment allows me to work on full sheets, 22 x 30 inches.
If you have questions about any of this, leave them in the comments. I promise to answer.
By the way, this painting, like most all of my paintings, was an experiment. The challenge with this painting was to make the figure on the hydrant appear to be close to the viewer without using some absurd dramatic effect. If you can imagine him to be in the foreground while all else in the picture space to be in the “background” (a term I rarely use), you will quickly understand my painting strategy as I explain it here: To use all transparent watercolor on the entire background and to push the colors there toward cool, neutral grays. If there was color there, the intention was to take the “edge” of the color saturation and press it toward cool. Additionally, to reduce the amount of contrast in the back ground so there would not be attention grabbing distractions there. To bring the subject forward and to have him appear closer, I painted him entirely with gouache . . . .very opaque watercolor . . . . . his opacity versus the transparency of the background brings him forward in the picture space almost to the extent that the viewer has a sense of wanting to touch the figure.
I have been playing with this strategy for some time and find the different opaqueness of the parts of the paintings to be a most valuable tool. I am using it more and more in my work.