Saturday, April 29, 2017

Plein Air Travel Supplies

Several weeks ago I visited my parents in Prince George, Virginia. While I was out there I wanted to make plein air studies of the countryside, trees, and the James River. I would have preferred to bring oil colors but I didn't want to pay for a checked bag. Instead I decided to focus on watercolor painting. It's an ideal, lightweight medium to take on trips long and short. J.M.W. Turner made a huge amount of watercolor and gouache sketches during his lifetime. He traveled to many places across Great Britain and Europe, taking his watercolors with him.

Here's all the stuff I brought with me in my backpack. 
This is also what I would carry on a long hike rated as hard.

I carried a sketch kit and watercolor kit. I brought several different items in each kit to provide options from which to work. For long hikes I would actually only carry a few things from each kit, keeping my load as light as possible.

My sketch Kit

I keep my sketch kit together using an elastic band. This helps keep my supplies together in one bundle so I can pull it out of my pack without looking for them.

Here it is broken down- Pencil pouch, watercolor pencils, toned 8 1/2 " x 5 1/2" hardcover sketch book, and  9" x 6" Bee Paper Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook. 

The pouch I use for my pencils is something one of my students gave me two years ago. In the pouch I carry three black pens for note taking and sketching, four sepia Pitt Pens, Tombow Mono Pencils (2H, HB, 2B, and 4B), eraser, kneaded rubber eraser, and two pencils sharpeners with ziplock bag for shavings. Among the pencils I rely on the 2H the most for sketching. I like it because the of the lower chance of smearing in my sketchbook, less sharpening, and the ability to draw fine details.

I tried watercolor pencils for the first time. I borrowed Cheryl's kit which she bought several years ago. It was fun to work with but so far I'm not sure how I feel about the pencils. I'd prefer straight watercolor instead of the pencils but I need to work with these more to get a better appreciation for them.

These are the two small sketchbooks I carry, a toned paper one and white paper. The white paper sketchbook is made by Bee Paper and is made for "wet or dry media." The weight of the paper is 93 lbs/ 150 gsm which I like for pen and pencil. I have used watercolor in this and I find the paper to be somewhat unsuitable for such purposes. A dryer approach works best and it looks like the paper will not tolerate much working while still wet.

My Watercolor Kit

Like my sketch kit I keep my watercolor supplies in a bundle. However I have been using a bungee cord to hold everything together. I started doing this before using elastic bands. I do prefer the elastic bands for safety reasons but the bungee cord has a firmer hold on my watercolor kit. 

This is my kit at it's fullest and it consists of my watercolor pochade box, brush case, 5" x 8 1/4" Moleskine Watercolor journal, block of Fluid Cold Pressed 4" x 8" watercolor paper, pad of 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" Strathmore 400 Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper (inside the box) , and two plastic jars for water. If I wanted to be truly minimal I'd limit my supplies to pochade box, size 8 red sable brush, the water jars and one of my three watercolor pads/ blocks.

These are all of my water media brushes I use for watercolors, gouache, casein, and egg tempera. I have labeled my casein brushes with green tape. I don't use all these brushes in the field. The case just happens to be where I keep them all. The vinyl pocket is pretty tight and I don't see much practical use for it especially since it's opposite the brush bristles. Putting stuff in this tight pocket can actually smash the bristles which I'm not happy about. I'd actually prefer a small bamboo brush roll for practicality and saving space. What I might do in the future is get a travel brush from Rosemary Brush Company and carry that in my pochade box.

In the brush case I have a small Altoid mint tin which I fitted with three full watercolor pans- zinc white, violet hematite, and Van Dyck Brown. I made this kit specifically for tone drawing/ painting in my toned paper sketch book.

I've shown my watercolor pochade box before but here it is again. I enjoy carrying my watercolors in this and it has worked well in the field. I usually sit and paint out of this but I have also painted standing up, holding the box in my left arm. The Strathmore 400 watercolor pad is seen here along with a quick sunset light on trees study I made at my parent's house the second day I was in Virginia.

Here's the box with the 4" x 8" Fluid block.

My Moleskine journal also fits in the box. Here is a James River panorama I had painted at Westover Plantation during my trip to Virginia. 

Here's all my stuff in my pack! TSA had no problem with it. I'm happy the empty jars, bungee cord, and pochade box didn't look unusual to them.

I'm still working on blog posts about oil painting plein air supplies. Check back in the future because I will be adding posts on oil paints and plein air accessories.