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.
Okay I am back! Hawaii was fantastic ! Frankly, however, I have been itching to return to the easel here at home.
After posting a non objective piece last week, I immediately ran to the easel to do another. Sketches were already done and I was psyched to hit a home run! I have worked on this piece daily for over a week, putting in three to four hours per day.
Few a few days I have been alternately prepping for a workshop and painting . . .among other things. This is a hurried painting on the back of a ruined painting . . .in other words, a trial of a few ideas.
Nope! It just Izzn’t!
Our eyeballs just can’t see what we think we see.
Yesterday was another beautiful day in the sun . . .warm and bright . . . .a perfect day for Butch, my painting buddy, and I to go out and paint. So we went back to the harbor where lots and lots and lots of white boats live. I am telling you true: What seems white just is NOT!
The little device you see above is a value viewer. It is very helpful to look at an area, (such as the side of a white boat hull in shadow) to judge the value. When peeking through the little hole and comparing the value of the white in shadow, one can instantly see that it is more a mid value than a light white. Then . . . comes the problem of getting that value onto the paper or canvas. That big piece of white paper can really throw off our judgment, too. We make a paint mark on the big white page and the mark seems darker than it really is because we are unconsciously comparing all that white field with the value of the mark . Yikes! That little viewer helps.
BUT . . . .there is still another problem (these difficulties are some of the reasons artists find plein air painting so difficult) . . . .that is if you are painting watercolor, the paint fades after it dries. Which compounds the value difficulty!!!!! One must be able to predict how the value of a mark or wash after it is dry. GAAAADS !!!! Is there any end to this stuff??? !!
How does one solve it? The viewer helps. The rest of it is fixed with plain old mileage.
Huh? Did you say Mileage?
Yep! That is what I said. Let me clarify: BRUSH mileage. Translated, it means tons of practice.
I have been painting for 20 plus years and still find plein air painting full of problems and difficulties. Yesterday was no exception. After getting home from a 4 hour painting stint and looking at the painting in normal indoor light, I could see the values of my boat hulls were wrong . . .not dark enough. Like I said, white just izzn’t white!!! So, several glazes later (and spoiled pristine washes) I came up with this painting. A lot of fussing and much self talk about what I will do next time and solemn vows about not letting this happen again, I finished the painting attempt.
You may think this is an okay painting. It was certainly fun and most instructive, but I simply MUST go back and try again and again. Butch and I discussed this aspect of being a painter: the compulsion to get better . . . . .and it is indeed a compulsion. Maybe someday, with enough brush mileage under my belt, it might happen. For now, though, it is best to focus on doing the best I can and having fun in the process because to be out there is simply a total gassss!!!!