Friday, April 6, 2012

The Artist's Kit

Minimizing Your Plein Air Kit

It's a matter of some interest to me to discover how fixated artists can become with minimizing their plein air painting kit. It almost seems to me that some of my friends will soon be down to one brush, two colors, and panels 1" x 2". While I understand the need of backpacking artists, those traveling deep into the wilderness, to have as light and portable a kit as possible, it seems there are an awful lot of students who feel that austerity and restriction are the way to enlightenment, and even to righteousness. 

I, personally, would like to bring my entire studio out into the open, were I only able.

I often marvel that we sometimes lose sight of the goal---at least what I suppose is the goal: the making of the very best paintings we can. Sometimes it seems that the goal has become making paintings with the fewest number of brushes, using the most starved palette, in the shortest possible time.

Considering that many students never venture much farther than nine feet from their vehicles, what possible reason can there be to see just how many obstacles can be put in the way of full expression? I don't propose that you bring every brush and every color that you have in the studio. But give yourself a break! Good painting is difficult enough without tying one hand behind your back.

Of course I know that I'm not going to to convince you. Thus, I have set out to find the smallest kit available, one that you can carry deep into the woods, while still keeping your hands free for texting. 

The winner is The Ear-Cache Kit which contains everything you need to make spectacularly small paintings. The only drawback is that it utilizes space that could otherwise be occupied by an ear bud.

But perhaps this isn't all bad. There's birdsong out there. 


  1. During your workshops, Donald, you will introduced to "my studio on wheels" (6) that is like a carry-on airline bag, but a little bit bigger. It's actually a rolling tool carrier that I bought at the local big chain hardware store with a telescoping handle. My pochade box, paints, brush caddy, and canvases fit inside (no larger than 9x12, though, unless you want the other hand to carry your large canvas carrier. My camera tripod and case can be strapped to the handle by bungee cord, along with an umbrella. It has about 8 compartments for full size liquin bottles, etc, as well as various outside covered pockets.I can stray farther than 9 feet from my car. It's a bit heavy for reloading into the car, but worth it. Doesn't do upstairs well, however....ah, maybe I could use a bellboy.

  2. Instead of sticking something in my ear, perhaps you could design a complete - but, portable - studio that would fit into the trunk of my SUV.
    Then I wouldn't have to walk the 9'.

  3. I agree, Donald. I use a FULL french easel which I have adapted to also serve as a wet canvas box. I still carry a backpack as well for raingear, trash bags, rags and other bulky stuff. As both have shoulder straps I can still blow my nose while scouting out the perfect view. I still have to find a flattish plastic box with lid that will fit into the french easel for my pallette as I almost never get the pleinair finished in the field.

  4. Bruce...not sure of the issue that's driving your search for the 'flattish box'. When the full easel closes up, there are blocks that hold the palette, and its paint, secure. But perhaps your wet- canvas modification has compromised this? You'll see, in the small b&w photo near my bio, that I'm perched on top of a rock, with the full easel. This site was several miles from the trailhead, and I was thirty years younger. I ultimately had to switch to the half-box because I couldn't break myself of bringing 20 tubes of paint, etc. About a week ago, I asked on my Facebook page (, if anyone had any experience with the Soltek easel ( Subsequently I bought the only one being offered on eBay. I also got a palette for it from "innie". Will take them out to the field on Wednesday. The easel is described as being 5 pounds lighter than the French easel. Seems to me that it's slightly heavier than my half-box. Perhaps they're comparing the Soltek to a full-box that's been soaking in a bathtub for a week? I have some getting used to it to do. I'm pretty much an old-wood/well-tanned leather sort of fellow. Having my kit look like it's in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art is disquieting. But, hey! Practicality begins to rule at my age. BTW, coming to Scotland? (You can reply to that via Todd. I'll get it.)

  5. Last time out I impressed my pallette paint on the back of the canvas stretchers but I was also thinking of slowing down the drying time on the paint. I'm still renovating an old stone farmhouse and can't always get back to the painting as quickly as I would like to.; Thanks for the advice. (I also am an old wood and leather type, broke my heart when I moved here as I had to sell my old wooden rowing shell.)