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A Peek At My Plein Air Gear

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

In my last post I discussed the benefits working en plein air can have on your artistic practice, so in this post I'd like to follow that up by talking about the equipment I use when I'm outside. I think seeing other artist's gear can be really helpful (especially if you're new to plein air) but remember supplies are unique to each artist, and can be different depending on which medium is being used. For example I use pastel and don't have to worry about getting wet paintings back to the studio, whereas an artist working in oil may need a wet panel carrier as an essential part of their gear. I also work in a style that only needs one brush, other pastelists may use more than one brush. So even if you work with pastel, if there's something you use in your practice that's not discussed here, definitely include it as part of your gear when you go outside.

The picture below shows most of the supplies I bring with me (other than pastels and pastel paper). I like to bring a small set of watercolors, I mostly use it for color sketches, but occasionally I use it in combination with pastel. I also bring biodegradable dog waste bags- they make the perfect trash bags as they're fairly inexpensive, small, and come in a refillable holder that can clip onto your gear. Bungee cords come in handy for all sorts of reasons, so I always have a few different sizes with me. I bring aluminium foil to catch my pastel dust so it doesn't fall on the ground, and in the interest of saving space I cut my paper towel rolls into thirds.

Painting supplies including travel watercolor set, pencils, paper towels cut into thirds, aluminium foil, paint brush, bungee cords, non-leak bottles, sketchbook, tape, and dog poop bags.

I also bring a shade umbrella, which is a must because you never want to paint in direct sunlight, it will skew your color perception. Plus, being relegated to painting only where you can find shade isn't practical. An umbrella that that can be stuck into the ground or clamped to another object is ideal because it will work in a variety of situations. It should also be a neutral color (gray, white, or black) not a bright colored beach umbrella, as that would also skew your colors.

The photo below shows my larger setup. In this configuration I use a tripod with an easel adapter and either a small folding table, or a shelf that attaches to the easel to hold my pastels. The shelf is lighter and smaller, but the table is more stable so if it's windy and there's a chance my easel could tip over I use the side table.

Picture of my large painting easel. There is a river and bridge behind the easel and a painting of the scene on it.

My mini setup is the most compact and lightweight option I have. It consists of a pochade box (which holds my pastels, paper, and underpainting supplies), a tripod, and some sketching supplies. The entire thing fits into a small backpack.

Picture of my small painting box on a tripod.

The pochade box can be attached to the tripod and serve as an easel or I can simply set it on my lap and paint that way.

Picture of my small pochade box on the ground. With a painting roughed in.

No matter which setup I use I also bring a folding stool. Many artists stand to paint, but I like to sit, it just depends on your working style and/or your physical ability.

Hope you've enjoyed this sneak peek into my plein air gear. If there are other supplies you like to use as part of your setup, leave a comment below and let me know about it.

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