My last post about plein air painting addressed how to do watercolors. In this final post, I will address how to do oils and / or acrylics.
There are many similarities with painting plein air in oil or acrylics. Same supports – panels or canvasses, same (similar) brushes, same easel, etc. The biggest difference is that oils take a long time to dry and use some volatile chemicals, such as, mineral spirits. Acrylics are painted with water and dry in less than fifteen minutes. This makes a big difference if you are transporting the canvasses. Oil painting will smear and get everywhere, whereas, acrylic paintings will dry quickly and be ready to transport within minutes.
Although I painted in oils for over a decade, now I do plein air painting almost exclusively in acrylics. Mostly for the ease of transport and quick drying times.
As always, my main concern in plein air painting is weight and ease of transport. There are many wonderful easels but the most common is the French easel which has been around for over 100 years. There is also the half-box easel and new aluminum easels which help a bit with the weight. Another option is the pochade box, either homemade or purchased. It seems everyone is trying to get smaller and smaller. I have a pochade box which is a beautiful piece of art furniture, but not really practical for my needs. I never want to get it messed up!
As usual, my main concerns are with weight and portability. I use another light weight aluminum easel (Stanrite 100) this one with spikes which fold out, but the whole thing collapses to about 25 inches. That I carry in the same homemade carrier as my watercolor easel. And another backpack devoted to acrylic (oil) painting. For some reason, Stanrite quit making these easels but I expect that is mostly because they last so long. You can probably find them on Ebay or one of the resale sites.
Many of the items that I carry with me are the same, but some are devoted to acrylic painting. Paints, types of brushes, larger water jar, rags, etc. For oils that would be oil paints, brushes, and two jars of mineral spirits (one for cleaning brushes and one clean). Backpacks are cheap so just keep one packed for each of the type of work you wish to do. I have made separate lists for each type of plein air art activities that I do to remind myself what to take.
Chair / stool
Umbrella / bungees
Acrylic travel palette (Mijello)
Or…oil travel palette
Paints – assorted
Water and cup
Or Mineral spirits (two jars)
|Tape / clips
Multi-tool / pliers
Paper towels / cloth rags
Camera / cell phone
Scissors / knife
Some folding green stuff (money)
My backpack will hold canvasses or panels up to 11 x 14 inches. Larger canvasses will have to be hand carried or strapped onto your pack. When I travel, I will keep a plastic bin to contain all my canvasses.
Most of the other equipment is the same as listed in my previous post about watercolor painting. Bug spray is a must to ward off mosquitoes or biting flies. I once had a guy who was hauling manure and (I think) deliberately let some out near where I was painting. Bungees help to anchor your easel or attach an umbrella. Very disappointing to return to your easel only to discover it face down in the weeds. Oh, well, such is the life of the artist.
And, yes, it is OK to tweak your painting when you return to your studio. Yes, there are some purists who think that is awful, but, hey, it’s your art and you can do what you like!
The main thing is to relax, enjoy yourself and have fun. It’s not a competition; it’s an adventure.