Category Archives: painting instruction

Useful art tools

Five useful art tools. 1, Composition aid. 2. Proportion scale. 3. Red gel. 4. View catcher. 5 Painting bridges.

It seems hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a catalogue or an e-mail trying to sell me art supplies and gadgets.  Oh, look, newer, better, scientific!  You’ve got to have this latest gizmo!  This will ensure your success and you’ll be the best in your field.

This is true not only for artists, but golfers, automobile enthusiasts, bikers, campers, what have you.  It seems as if the only people getting rich are the ones who keep trying to sell you things. 

But as an artist, I always like the challenge of trying to do things myself.  I guess that’s why I’m in a creative field. Here are five very simple tools that I use in my studio or outside.  Three I made myself and the other two can be purchased for less than ten dollars each.

1. The first tool is a simple composition aid made from a small 4 x 6 frame with the glass taped in.  On the back side, I’ve divided it into nine sections with a permanent marker.  I got the idea from an old drawing (Durer) of an artist who had created a standing frame divided into squares by threads.  He then divided his paper into squares, and then transferred what he saw in each square as he was viewing an object, into the respective square on his paper.  This same technique is used today for blowing up drawings. 

Woodcut of Durer’s perspective drawing tool.

In this case, I take the little frame and hold it up in front of a landscape, and draw with a felt pen on the front side.  This can be used for still lifes, figurative works, street scenes, whatever.  The trick is to keep the frame and my eye at the same level for the few minutes that I need to sketch on the glass.  Then I transfer the image to my paper or canvas.  Sometimes it’s amazing how different the actual drawing looks from the way my eye wanted to read it.  I’ve used this technique in teaching third graders up to adults.  Now, of course, you can buy a similar ready-made frame but these were not available when I first made mine.

Proportion Scale with several 20 x 16 equivalents marked by red arrows.

2. Proportion scale.  I’ve had this little plastic tool for so many years that I forgot where I bought it.  It is so easy to use for both reducing and increasing sizes proportionally.  Just line up the numbers of say, a 20 x 16 and then everything else on the scale will be proportional to that, 10 x 8, 5 x 4, 40 x 32, 80 x 64 and everything in between.  Or maybe you have a canvas of a certain size but you need to make adjustments in your drawing to fit; the proportion scale can help you do this.  Less than $10 online.

3. Red gel sheet.  I used to have access to colored gels (used for lights) when I worked in the theatre business.  These scraps are useful, particularly this red gel.  Hold it up in front of a green landscape, and it immediately grays everything out so you’re only left with values.  Commercial products are available now but you can probably get gel scraps from your local theatre or playhouse for free. See previous post here.

4.  The View Catcher has been around for a long time.  Made of grey plastic, the little slide opens the window to a variety of sizes from square to rectangles.  Marks on the plastic indicate the scale of the window (8 x 10, 11 x 14, etc.)  Less than $10.  We used to use old film slide windows but no one knows what those are anymore. 

5.  Painting bridges.  When I painted a lot of watercolor, particularly architectural images, it was helpful to have a steady hand when drawing the lines.  I made these two bridges from some wood scraps.  They kept my hand off the paper and from smearing the paint or ink.  Also, they were very helpful for guiding my pen when drawing lines.  My cost was nothing but now you can buy plastic ones for about $35.  I like free.

I hope these useful art tools will inspire you in your quest to be more creative.  And don’t be afraid to make something of your own invention, too.

Four categories of painting subjects

Central Park, acrylic on canvas board, 8 x 10. This was created from a sketch that I did while on a business trip to New York.

Do you ever feel like making some art but you just don’t know what to paint or draw?  For some people, this is a common frustration.  You have some free time and then what?

In my case, I keep a list.  I’m very fond of lists.  I often have many lists, here, there, everywhere.  I have a couple of lists in my studio, but I also keep an idea notebook. This is actually to just capture an idea which might flit through my mind…and then flit out.  These days I’m working on a lot of seasonal paintings for the upcoming holidays so I just brainstorm and write things down.  I also use this technique when I’m thinking about another series of paintings.

Most of my ideas fall into three or four broad categories:  still life, landscape, figurative and non-objective.

Nine Apples, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12. A variety of views of two apples. This could be a still life or an abstract painting. Not all paintings fit neatly into one category.

Still life.  This can include any single or group of objects.  Fruit, flowers, vases, skulls, musical instruments.  The list is practically infinite.  Some artists select a group of objects and then keep rearranging them and paint them for their entire lives (Morandi).  Others choose themes – types of objects like all glass vases, or natural objects, or sports equipment.  The really nice thing about still lifes is that the objects stay put (usually) and you can come back to work on your painting another day if you run out of time.  This is a really good way to develop eye-hand coordination, composition, and learning to tell a story if that is what you choose to do.  Instructors start beginning art students off with still lifes to help build these skills.

Schnellville Rd, September. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. I used to drive this road on my way home from work. I loved the hills and small farms along the way. Sure beats fighting a few million people to work every day.

Landscape.  Just about anywhere in the world can be a subject of a landscape painting.  Painting outdoors (en plein air) is both challenging and fun.  Cityscapes, your house, your dog’s house, beautiful scenery, or even things that aren’t so beautiful.  Landscape painting can be a bit more challenging as the time of day and the seasons often dictate how long or when you can paint.  Many artists make quick sketches and bring them back to use as subjects for larger or more detailed paintings.  If you are painting out doors, then you have about two or three hours before the light and shadows change.  You can always return another day to finish your work, or start another painting while you’re outside.

I loved this small marble bust of a boy with a wreath in his hair. Sketched at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. You have to get used to people leaning over your shoulder when sketching in a crowd, but really, most people are very polite and may not even notice you at all.

Figurative.  This entails studying a figure, body, part, or group.  It can even encompass pets and animals.  For many people, this is one of the most difficult categories to approach.  Why?  Because your subjects move!  Stand still, dang it!  Again, the more you do, the better you become.  Building that eye – hand coordination.  A trip to a museum helps if they will allow you to sketch their sculptures.  Those usually stay still.  Or sit at your favorite eatery, a park, library, or any public space.  Plenty of subjects there.  The trick is to be stealthy but really, not everyone minds someone sketching them. And don’t try to make a finished piece if you only have a few minutes to just jot some sketches. 

Abstract or non-objective.  This is the anything goes category.  Do you want to make circles or squiggles?  Fine.  How about several canvasses of lines or shapes?  Add some sand or affix some found objects.  Maybe your favorite music will inspire you.  Ask any four year old and they’ll teach you how.

So next time you’re searching for something to paint, pull out your notebook or 3 x 5 card and check it for ideas.  Just keep it nearby, maybe by your reading or TV chair, to jot down ideas as they come to you.  You’ll always be ready for those times when you have a few hours to get creative.  Good luck!

What to do with a bad painting

Let’s face it, if you’ve been an artist for any length of time, you will inevitably create some bad paintings. Crap is the professional term.  (Just kidding.)  Not everything that comes off your easel, your brush, from your pencil is wonderful.  Actually, few pieces of art fit that description.

I remember when I was first getting back to my art roots after several years’ hiatus that I sat at the kitchen table one night and created a cute little flower painting. It was pink, I think.  I was so proud of that piece.  When I showed it to my husband, he said, “Oh, that’s nice, honey.”  Such a sweet supportive liar but I certainly needed the boost to my ego. 

I kept that painting for years, long after I realized what a wreck it was.  I would drag it out when teaching a class and point to it and say, “See, this is where I came from.  You can learn to paint, too.”  I have searched the studio for the piece as I would definitely show it but can’t locate it.  I’m sure that I never threw it away.

The point is, that we do the best we can with the skills we have at the time. When you know better, you do better.  I have painted plenty of really BAD paintings.  And still do, although not quite so many. 

So what do you do with a piece of art that just didn’t turn out the way that you wanted?  Here are several options.

  1. Examine the piece carefully and determine just what you are unhappy with.  The color, subject matter, composition, execution, the method of painting, etc.? 
  2. Ask yourself if there is some way to correct the mistake?  Not all mediums can be corrected but many can.
  3. Ask a friend for input.  Sometimes we know something is off but just can’t see the mistake although it may be glaring to some new eyes.
  4. Scrape off the paint or paint over the mistake.  You may even need to paint over the entire canvas.  I have done this many times and just started over. Or even explore a new idea rather the one you were pursuing.
  5. Trash it.  Burn it, destroy it.  Some people recommend that you keep your bad work to inspire you but I think it will only haunt you.  Use it as a learning experience and move on.  It can be very cathartic to throw your canvases into the burn barrel.  I’ve had very few regrets over many years.

One thing that I don’t recommend is to donate the bad artwork.  It may come back to haunt you as when someone picks it up a resale shop or flea market.  And don’t pawn it off on your friends and relatives.  They’ll be too polite to tell you and will resent moving it around from place to place over the years.

Finally, don’t stress about a bad painting.  It happens.  That’s OK.  We learn from our mistakes and just promise yourself that you’ll do better next time.  It’s only a painting, after all. 

Preparing for the big exhibit

Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series. Hung on the side of my studio. It sure helps to have all the canvases the same size. At least for ease of framing and wiring.

The good news is that we were able to escape to warmer climates for a brief respite.  After two years of being stuck at home, we had a delightful and restful vacation.

However, upon returning, I had to start scrambling to prepare for my upcoming solo exhibit in May/June.  Fortunately, all the paintings are completed.  The frames were on hand.  So I jumped into the presentation process.

Framing back. Fortunately with gallery-wrapped canvases (where the canvas is stretched around the supports), there is no real need for frames. The sides are painted. The canvases only need to be wired.

All of the Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series are on two inch deep gallery-wrapped canvases.  This means no framing, only wiring.  Actually, the process went rather quickly, especially after I bought special wire snips to cut through the plastic-covered wire.  My professional wire scissors wouldn’t work.

Then I began the process of working on the Intimate Spaces: Beach series paintings.  About half of these canvases are also the deep, gallery-wrapped type.  Those went quickly.  BUT….when I began to frame the rest of the paintings. I realized that I didn’t have the correct hardware.  Plenty of Z clips, but no L clips.  They’re on order. 

Wait. Wait. Wait.

Fortunately, they’re due to arrive on Tuesday.  It won’t take long to finish once they actually arrive.  Remember, I’ve been framing my work for nearly forty years now! 

Anyway, the show is coming together. The marketing materials have been ordered.  The paintings will be delivered on Friday, April 30th.  The show will be hung.  It opens at the new Cultural Center on Thursday, May 6th.  Unfortunately, with the COVID restrictions, there won’t be a public reception. But I will be doing a demonstration painting on Saturday, May 8th from 10 to 2. If you would like a personal tour of the exhibit, let me know and I’ll try to meet you there.

If you’re in the area, please stop by. It’s even worth it to make a special trip.  Some great restaurants in Jasper, especially the Schnitzlebank, a German restaurant that attracts guests from miles around (closed Sundays). Plus, there are many other fine restaurants in the area and lots of neat shops downtown.

Address:  Jasper Cultural Center.  100 Third Avenue.  Turn right (North on Mill Street) and then right again (East) on Fourth street. Plenty of free parking in the rear of the building.

How to improve your art skills

One of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Many artists explore a subject in a series of paintings of the same subject. Van Gogh did at least twelve paintings of sunflowers.

I’m often asked, “How do I get better at my art?”  Hummmm….well, I have several suggestions.  They aren’t anything new but maybe they’re new to you.  In no particular order.

Make a LOT of art!  Studies have shown that students who create a lot of art eventually get better, especially compared to those who seek to create one perfect painting or poem or story or pot.  Like almost anything else, the more you do, the better you get.  This is the time to explore.  Try new things, new styles, new subjects, new mediums.  Just make a whole lot of it. Don’t worry if it’s any good yet.  Just do it.  The old adage that practice makes perfect applies here. While you are testing new things, your mind will begin to make connections and build on what you have done before.

Make it easy.  Make it easy to make art.  Do you have to clear the children’s homework from the dining table?  Drag out all your equipment and easel every time you want to paint? Find a space where you can keep your materials at hand.  Set up a corner in the bedroom to work.  Use a portable screen if the clutter annoys you.  Keep a sketchbook next to your TV chair.  Or in your purse or pocket.  I’ve often drawn mini-sketches while waiting for dinner or in the theater.  If your materials are nearby, you’ll be more likely to use them.

Don’t worry if it’s any good.  So many people worry about if their work is any good.  Stop that right now!  Refer to the first suggestion.  Just do it.  Do a lot of it.  ALL artists make some really bad paintings.  That’s Okay!  That is what preliminary work is for.  Try it out.  Maybe it will be brilliant. Maybe it won’t.  But you will have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Copy other artists.  Yes, I recommend studying other artists, your favorites perhaps.  Go to the museums or the library or even review their work online.  What do you like about their work?  What don’t you like?  Try making a few copies in the style of the artist. How does that feel to you?  Does it feel natural or awkward?  Look at what attracts you most.  Their subject matter?  Style?  Brushwork?  But do NOT EVER try to pass off someone else’s work as your own.  That is dishonest and plagerism. You won’t feel comfortable about it and you’ll be found out eventually.

Do a series.  A series is a group of artwork of, perhaps, the same subject or style or theme.  This helps you to dig deeper.  Find out what attracts you to this subject.  Van Gogh painted twelve sunflower paintings.  I’ll bet that he got better at them towards the end.  Monet painted thirty haystacks, 250 waterlillies, and over thirty of the Rouen Cathedral. Different angles, different times of day. 

My concluding advice is just keep at it.  Don’t let anyone discourage you. Only you know what you are learning.  If you have tried it before, try it again.  You’re in a different place and time.  Perhaps you have more skills and knowledge now.  Just keep moving forward. Good luck!

How Long Does It Take?

After the Dinner Party. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. Kit Miracle this is the final version of the painting. I’ve tweaked a few things. I didn’t like the shape of the wine bottle, added a few more highlights here and there. The whole idea with this type of impressionism is that the brush strokes are clear and bold. Your eyes will fill in the rest. I think this makes a much livelier painting than if I had meticulously smoothly brushed all of the shapes.

One of the most frequent questions that artists get is, How long did it take to paint this painting?  I’m not quite sure why people ask this question.  Are they trying to gage how much per hour that I’m charging based on the price of the painting?  Maybe.  Is it worth more if it takes more time?  I don’t know.

My flippant answer is, Thirty years and a week.  No artist reaches a professional level without a lot of work.  This is actually true for most professions.  Some people may have a little extra edge in a skill, maybe eye/hand coordination, color discernment, perfect pitch, but most people get where they are by plain hard work. I think this is true for athletes, musicians, artists, chefs, frankly nearly everyone.

I painted this painting After the Dinner Party in my Breaking Bread series pretty much in one day.  But that number is deceiving.  There was a whole lot of work required before I even began painting.

First there was the canvas prep.  I purchased the gallery-wrapped 24 x 30 canvas.  Then sanded it, applied two coats of gesso allowing for drying and sanding in between. I like a textured canvas so you will notice that in some of the photos. All of the canvasses in this series are primed with a greyish/greenish color. 

Then there was the time to sort through the hundreds (thousands) of photos that I had to select the one that I wanted to use.  Then to decide what I wanted to keep in and what to take out or move or change.  I did two small NOTAN (black and white) sketches, two large charcoal sketches, and a preliminary watercolor painting.  I noodled around with the idea of placing a bouquet of flowers in the background.  Which lead me to paint two possible floral candidates.  In the end, I did not use them as I thought they didn’t add anything to the painting set up.  Finally, I sketched the full painting on the primed canvas.

THEN….I could begin the actual painting part. 

I started in the morning with the colored outlines and painted in the larger areas first.  I pretty much worked all day until late evening.  Once I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll.

You can see the step-by-step at this link.

It takes time to achieve a certain level of skill in nearly anything.  Larry Bird shot 200 hoops before school every day and was known throughout the NBA for the hours he dedicated to conditioning.  Even after decades of success, Norman Rockwell agonized over the details of his paintings.  How many hours a day do you think Yo-Yo Ma practices his cello?  (He estimates over 10,000 hours every five years which is five hours every day.)

Next time you admire someone’s artistic skill (or other skill), keep in mind that the final product is just the tip of the iceberg of work behind the scene.  You can do it, too.  If you wish to work at it.

Six ideas for pricing your artwork

What should you charge for your artwork, your hours, days, weeks and more of effort and agony?  This is a question that every artist considers, at least at some time during their career.  This is, of course, assuming that you are willing to part with one of your creations, your children.

The first painting that I ever sold was when I was in high school.  My art teacher was preparing our pieces for an upcoming state show for students.  The actual painting was an illustration of The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver. One of her friends had seen it at her home where she was matting the works.  On the recommendation of my art teacher, I was offered $50 for it which was a whole lot of babysitting money back then.

Needless to say, this set me on the path to thinking that I could actually make some money from something that I had created.  But it was a decade before I actually began to pursue my art in such light and sold it.

Pricing your artwork is a tricky proposition and one that attracts many opinions and much advice.  After thirty-five years in the business, these are some of the considerations that I use to price my paintings.

1  Materials and costs

Obviously any business person can tell you that you need to cover your costs.  This includes overhead, such as, rent, utilities, computer services and websites. Include your equipment to make your work – easels, kilns, brushes, even your vehicle if you need to transport it.  Materials like clay, canvases, paints, drawing materials count, too.

You need to eat and keep a roof over your head and pay the kids’ orthodontist’s bills so you must pay yourself a salary.  Hopefully, you can eventually do this solely with your art but you may need to take a part-time job here and there.  The whole point is that the more time you can spend creating, the more money you can make.

If you are not tracking your costs you need to start doing this right now.  You are in business so get a sales tax license and be professional.  After a year or two, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you need to bring in to cover your expenses.  Everything above that is profit.

2  Size matters

Frankly, I think the bigger the painting, the more you should charge for it.  You may have more work in a smaller painting, but the show pieces are generally the largest.  Customers expect to pay more for size. Plus, you have more materials in them.

I created a chart which quickly gives me the ballpark figure for the size of painting that I have to what I should charge for it.  I may not always stick with this, but it gives me a starting place. Price calculator

3  Talent and skill

Be realistic.  Your mother may have told you how wonderful you are and what a great artist you are.  But, take a look around.  How does your work compare to others, especially in your area and medium.  I have seen so many artists who just come on the scene and start attaching really high prices to their work, only to be disappointed when nothing sells.

Maybe you are one of the gifted people who will command high prices right from the beginning, but most artists do not.  It’s always easier to raise your prices than to fumble around and lower them.

4  Location

Where you live and where you sell your work can have a significant impact on the fees you can charge for your work.  In big cities, especially the coasts, the audience is expecting to pay more.  Galleries and museums have their own overhead to cover and, of course, higher rents in metropolitian areas.

In most rural areas, it’s difficult to command the same price structure.  Cost of living and wages are lower, thus people expect to pay less.  For the most part, not always.

Art fairs are mostly entertainment but few visitors are going to shell out thousands for a painting at most art fairs.  This also includes street artists so set your prices accordingly.

There are some caveats with this theory.  With the internet, artists can live in low rent areas but sell across the country, indeed the world.  But again, most people are not going to spend big money on something they haven’t seen in person.

5  Awards and shows

If you are an award-winning artist and have lots of credentials as well as significant shows and exhibitions, you can command higher fees.  You have proven your worth and the customer can feel comfortable that they are buying something from someone with good credentials.  Do you belong to any special art societies?  List them on your resume or website.

I was fortunate that my work was exhibited in some really good shows when I was still pretty early in my career.  I didn’t even know how good they were then but am pretty proud to list them on my website now.

6  Age

No, not your age.  The age of the pieces you still have hanging around your studio.  If it’s something fresh, maybe a new style or direction, stick with your best prices.  However, if you’ve got that box of photographs that you took twenty years ago gathering dust under your bed, do yourself a favor and price them to sell.  Yes, they really may be worth what you originally priced them at, but if you sell them, then you will at least recover some of your expenses and can use the money for more materials to create new work.

I will sometimes host a studio sale where I’ll invite local and regional friends out for a weekend.  I’ll clear my studio of most furniture, set up all the paintings that I want to move, and put some really attractive prices on them.  I usually do this in the fall before holiday shopping takes off.  And I always have some music, food and beverages for an added attraction.  I picked up this idea from a potter friend of mine who would unload his summer inventory every autumn.

I have another friend who actually rented the high school auditorium and set up thousands of paintings to move.  He made $50K that weekend!  I don’t make nearly that much but it’s good to make some extra dough around the holidays and clear some room for new work.

Occasionally I will have an online sale but I don’t want to do that too often.  My patrons should realize that I charge a reasonable price and shouldn’t wait around for the sales.

7  Bonus point.   Be fair

Make sure the prices you list on your website are the same you’re charging in a gallery or somewhere else.  The quickest way to lose a gallery is to undercut their prices.  I give my galleries some leeway to negotiate prices or to bundle sales.  Everyone comes out happy.

These are some of my suggestions for setting prices for your artwork.  You’ll probably find some helpful or maybe you’ll create your own set of rules.  Whatever you do, remember to keep creating and have fun!

Travel easels for plein air painting

Homemade carry bag, the oil-acrylic easel, and the watercolor easel. The watercolor easel must be disassembled to fit into the bag. I can’t get both of the easels in the bag simultaneously, either.

Compare the oil-acrylic ease with the watercolor easel. The first is a bit taller than the latter when the legs are extended fully.

I thought I would elaborate a little more about the benefits of plein air easels and the differences.  Last week I mentioned the French easel which is made of wood.  It contains most of your equipment but it is heavy.  Also, the pochade box which is very attractive but limited to the size of canvas or panels you can use.

My main two plein air easels are both by Stanrite.  One is a watercolor easel which will tilt to many angles and has extendable legs. It has clips which will hold a board to which I’ve attached my watercolor paper.

Closeup of the watercolor easel showing the tilt adjustment.

Stanrite watercolor easel.

The other easel, and my go-to easel in the field, is for oils or acrylics.  It, too, has collapsible legs, plus it has fold-out spikes which can provide extra security by stabbing into the soil.  The easel will take canvases up to 18 x 24, maybe a little larger.  The two hooks will adjust to hold panels or canvasses of different depths, too.

The oil – acrylic easel showing the adjustable supports at the bottom and the clamp at the top. It, too, is adjustable.

Stanrite oil-acrylic easel showing the fold-out spikes to secure the legs to the ground.

Close up of the top clamp for the oil-acrylic easel

I have used these easels for years.  They each fit into a homemade carry bag (made from a pair of old blue jeans) which I can toss over a shoulder or attach to my bicycle.  Neither weighs more than a few pounds.

There are some new light weight aluminum French easels but they’re a bit pricey.  I probably didn’t pay more than $40 for either of these easels.

In the end, it’s all up to you and personal choice.  What works for me may not work for you but these are some nice options for travel easels.

Plein air painting – oil and acrylics, tips and tricks Part III

Plein air painting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Duck on a Rock is the name of the formation. It was very, very windy that morning so I had to secure the easel.

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.

This is a typical French easel. It is a wooden carry box and easel all together. These have been around for over 100 years. There is also another smaller French easel called a half-easel. Both weigh quite a bit and, in my opinion, not too comfortable to lug around.

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!

This is a beautiful little pochade box, similar to the one that I have. It is so exquisitely made that I hate to get it dirty. One needs to use a camera tripod to attach to the bottom as it doesn’t come with legs. However, you can just set it on a table or bench to use. The one that I have will hold a canvas up to 16 x 20 but that is not very practical for this size.

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.

The typical gear that I take with me for acrylic painting. Backpack, selection of brushes and paints. portable travel palette, sketch book, panels and canvasses, gloves, water. Not shown would be a container for water. For oil paint, there would be two containers of mineral spirits and a portable oil paint palette.

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.

Easel

Chair / stool

Umbrella / bungees

Bag

Paper

Support

Clips

Acrylic travel palette (Mijello)

Or…oil travel palette

Brushes -assorted

Paints – assorted

Water and cup

Or Mineral spirits (two jars)

Spray bottle

Pencils/pens

Sketch book

Tape / clips

Multi-tool / pliers

Paper towels / cloth rags

Sponge

Bug spray

Sunscreen

Hat

Camera / cell phone

Apron

Scissors / knife

Snacks

Business cards

Some folding green stuff (money)

Bandaids

 

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.

These are the reminder cards that I keep in my kits. They remind me of what I need to take. I’ve used these kinds of cards for many things, vacations, camping, etc.

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.

This is what can happen when you don’t anchor your easel on a windy day.

Using my beautiful little pochade box.

On a bluff overlooking the White River in Loogootee, Indiana.

Italian Eating Italian: Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series

Italian Eating Italian – Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. Kit Miracle

Painting a portrait head on is a bit challenging.  However, the distinct lighting of this portrait helps define the features.  The painting has a very robust feeling; a man eating a piece of bread and drinking some vino.

Italian Eating Italian, detail, chin. Notice the reflective light on the chin and neck. Also notice that I rarely use a direct white paint. Most of my whites are mixed to add more vibrancy.

If you look carefully at the closeups, you can see that although I paint in a loose impressionistic style, the brush strokes are sure and vibrant.  I’ve been working with some colorful and contrasting lines which add a bit of spark to the painting.  The colorful outlines are not always related to the painting as far as contrasts go, but sometimes they are.

Italian Eating Italian, detail, hand and glass of wine. Here you see the wine glass, slight angle, gripped by the hand but all loosely painted.

Italian Eating Italian, detail. Hand with piece of bread. The challenge here was to paint a piece of rustic white bread against a white shirt.

This is another painting in the Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series.