Tag Archives: painting instruction

Paint for money…or paint for love?

If you’ve been an artist for any time at all….say more than a minute or two…you will begin to wonder what to do with all your wonderful creations.  Maybe the closet is full, or they’re being stacked in the back room or your studio.  Maybe someone in your house is urging you either subtly or more strenuously to get rid of that stuff!

I’m not really sure where the notion that creating something with the intention to sell it became tainted, particularly for artists.  After all, we have bills to pay, food to put on the table, braces to buy for the kids.  I can’t really think of any other profession where not making any money by your labor is considered a good thing.  So unless you are willing to live rough and sacrifice some of the niceties like flush toilets and a shelter, then you must really give some thought to creating in order to make money.

I painted several of these little pumpkins in watercolor with pen and ink outlines. They were fun to do. I sent them as postcards to some friends and will probably add them to one of my online shops.

This doesn’t mean that you should only consider the financial aspects of your work, but it should be in the equation somewhere. I think the key here is to find balance between doing what you love to do and making some things to sell. 

For instance, I did art fairs around the country for many years.  This can be a rough way to make a living but I knew quite a few artists who made their entire living doing fairs.  Packing up the vans and trucks, carting everything across the miles, setting up in various weather conditions….not easy.  But some of the artists and crafters loved the lifestyle.  Live up north in the summers; move to warmer climates in the winter.  I even knew a couple of jewelry makers who floated around the Gulf of Mexico all winter long, only stopping long enough to catch their mail.  They would then put the push on to hit the art fair circuit from May through September. 

I actually enjoyed talking with patrons.  I had figured that I could sell at least one red painting per show.  (For some reason, people always have room for a red painting.)  And I would have my big showstopper paintings which would entice people into my booth in the first place although they often settled for something more modestly priced. My bread and butter work were the all original line of fruit and vegetable paintings that I did, all 8 x 10, matted and wrapped.  Yes, that felt more like production work but well…

Since the advent of the internet, the world of options has expanded exponentially.  We’ve all become accustomed to shopping from our laptops or phones.  You can set up shops at Etsy or Ebay or your own websites for very low fees.  And guess what?  You don’t have to worry about the weather, either!  There are print on demand sites, and group websites, the list is endless.

But that brings us back.  What to sell? 

A couple of my autumn minis. Themes such as apples and pumpkins are very popular, but I also do small autumn landscapes for variety.

Here is where a little trial and error comes in.  Or just walk around some galleries, gift shops, art fairs, etc.  Do some online research, too.  (You can get ideas but don’t copy!)  What do you like to do?  Make chairs?  Do you really think you can sell those $2,000 masterpieces?  Well, maybe…eventually.  But how about looking at what you do like to do, then trying to scale it back?  You don’t have to give up the big, challenging pieces.  Those are what inspire you to keep going.  Your style may change over time.  That’s OK.  Maybe you’ll look back in ten years and wonder what you were thinking when you made it.  Or maybe it will be a collector’s item and the crowds will be demanding that you make more, and bigger.

I guess the bottom line here is that don’t let anyone tell you that you’re selling out if you decide to devote at least part of your time to creating work that has a ready market.  You’re not.  You’re trying to stay in the game and affording yourself the opportunity to make more, bigger, and better creations.  So, unless you have a large trust fund or a very wealthy sponsor, just keep digging in and keep on keeping on. You only have to answer to yourself. 

These are a few holiday minis that I’ve created over the years. Many times I’ll repeat a theme, or print them on cards. I sell these mini paintings online and in local gift shops. Each one is painted separately so they’re all individual but very similar.

Dealing with Rejection

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

Having your art rejected from a show or exhibition can often be baffling, and sometimes a bit painful.  Even for someone like me who has been entering shows for nearly forty years, there is still a little twinge when I receive that rejection letter.  More often I am just puzzled.

For instance, the painting above, Italian Eating Italian which is from my Intimate Space Series: Breaking Bread, and which was exhibited for a two month show.  It received a lot of attention and was a favorite among many.  It exudes a bonhomie and welcoming attitude.  I would watch visitors gravitate towards the painting from across the gallery.  Something about the hint of a smile, the subject matter, the lighting.  It was a very popular painting.

I have since entered the painting in a couple of exhibits.  One in which I felt sure it would be accepted…was instead rejected.  Whaaaaaa????  I’ve been in that show in previous years but not this year.  That pinched a little.  Also, since I have attended the show in previous years, I was aware of the quality of portraits in the show.  Not too impressed.  Oh, well.

The same painting was later entered into another show.   It won BEST OF SHOW.  That is always a pleasant surprise.  But I try not to get too full of myself, either. 

The whole point is that on any given day, the selection could have gone either way.  Best to keep that in mind.

I have been the judge for a number of shows over the years.  It is not easy and sometimes the organizations have special conditions to be met:  X number of landscapes, portraits, abstracts, etc.  Sometimes the shows are open to members only.  On any given day, the selections could go one way or another.

Many times over the years, I’ve sat with judges as they reviewed and selected the entrants for exhibits.  Some judges are cursory and flippant about the matter, speeding through so they can get to their free lunch.  Others review and review and review, taking enormous amounts of time to make their selections.  And there have been a few who only seemed to focus on artists who paint in their own style or medium.  That irritates me quite a bit.

Over the years my work has been accepted into shows which I now realize I probably wasn’t skilled or talented enough to actually merit being in.  And other shows where my work and experience exceeded the expectations, it was rejected.

It’s a puzzle.  

My suggestion is….no matter what your artistic talent or medium….to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back into the fray.  Maybe a review of the exhibit will help you to get a better grasp of what was considered acceptable and desirable.  Maybe you don’t (yet) have the skills or professionalism to have your work hung in the exhibit.  Maybe it just wasn’t your year.  Many times you can enter the exact same piece the following year with a different judge and it will be accepted.

If this is what you really want, don’t give up.  Be objective about your work and keep trying.  It will happen eventually. 

Italian Eating Italian, close up of head. Notice the slight Mona Lisa smile.

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. 

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!

Lunch at the Museum

Lunch at the Museum, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24.

This is the seventh painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.  A bold, vertical portrait, this painting certainly grabs attention.  I’ve been noticing that in addition to telling a story, my portraits often include a wry sense of irony.  Yeah, I just now figured that out but looking back at much of my work, I can see what often attracted me to the scenes initially.  Maybe it’s my quirky sense of humor but hey, it’s my work and I can do what I want.

Anyway, this scene was when I took my granddaughter to the Carnegie Museum complex in Pittsburgh a few years ago.  All that walking around to see dinosaurs and artwork and more is hard work.  We stopped for lunch in the museum restaurant.

I guess that the first thing that strikes the viewer is, “What are those things coming out of her head?”  This, of course, as any photographer will tell you is a definite no no in composition.  You don’t want trees sprouting from your subject’s head.  But here with those globe-shaped lights, it works.  Some rules are made to be broken.

Lunch – detail 1. A sweet portrait but not saccharine.

There is a lot of vertical in this painting.  Not only the canvas but the stripes, the lights, the straw for the girl, the wood on the table.  The head is not quite in the center but everything leads to the face.

Lunch detail 5. Those squiggles become chairs and tables on the outdoor patio, viewed through the window of the restaurant.

Lunch detail 4. Up close, the people in the background look like beans, but again, from a distance, they come together.

I particularly like the balance between the warm and cool colors.  Even within the cool areas, you can see quite a bit of color if you look closely.  It’s about one third to two thirds ratio of warm to cool.

Lunch, detail 2. I captured this little still life even in a portrait.

Another little still life. The loosely painted silverware and napkin come together when viewed at a distance.

Some people like to see a photo realistic finish on paintings but that is not my style. (Been there, done that.)  As a contemporary impressionist, I look to convey the message with as few strokes as possible.  Looking at my paintings up close often reveals a jumble of bold brush strokes.  But stepping back about six to eight feet, it all comes together.  This is done to deliberately allow the viewer to become a participant in the experience by filling in the details with their own eyes where there may actually be none.

Canvas prep and under painting. This abstract painting doesn’t necessarily follow the composition of the painting but is designed to give a little guidance. Look closely to see my initial sketch of the subject before I begin to paint.

I also like to paint on a toned canvas, often with a rough gesso base to add texture.  One of my favorite colors is a reddish tone which adds sparkle where it peeks between the brush strokes.  This is particularly good for landscapes that have lots of green.  However, the tones on this series of paintings are more somber, greys with some splashes of color.  The subject is then drawn on top before I start painting.  When my husband saw all the prepped canvasses in my studio, he thought I was switching to abstract painting.  Well….not yet.

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.