Plein Air Favorites

The following is an aritcal I wrote for the Palette Newsletter for Art Association Napa Valley.

In a previous article, I described my favorite set of watercolor plein air brushes.  Here is a description of some other items you might like to take painting outdoors.

Plein Air Supplies

Plein Air Supplies

Absolute Essentials

  • Brushes in Easel-Style Brush Holder – protects brushes in transit and opens for convenient access.  See previous article for my brush favorites.  Be sure to use Amazon Smile and specify Napa Valley Art Association (our legal name) so that a portion of your purchase is donated.
  • Travel Palette- I like Cheap Joes American Journey travel palette available empty or filled with American Journey paints.  I prefer to purchase empty pans to fill with my own favorites.  I’ve ordered extra half and full pans so that I can experiment with different combinations.
  • Watercolor Paper in blocks- convenient for travel and makes a separate easel unnecessary.
  • Water container and collapsible water cup. I like Faber-castell’s Clic & Go Foldable Water Pot
  • Notebook for thumbnail sketches, mechanical pencil and gum eraser.  You really don’t need anything bigger than 5×7 for thumbnail sketches.  Napa Valley Art Supply has the Strathmore Visual Journals in many sizes and also the Softcover Drawing Journals.  Shown above is the Canson 140lb watercolor 7×10 notebook which is really more expensive paper than is needed for sketching.  Be advised that drawing paper weights and watercolor paper weights are not the same.

Useful Add-Ons

Secondary Plein Air Supplies

Secondary Plein Air Supplies

  • Smart Phone for Camera to capture the light before it changes and doubles for emergency contact.
  • Spray bottle to moisten watercolor pans and also create atmospheric effects.
  • Drinking Water for you!

Handy Supports

Plein Air Easel and chair

Plein Air Easel and chair

  • Stool – this folding seat from REI rotates 360 degrees and is lightweight and comfortable.  I found the typical soft triangle stools too floppy and uncomfortable.
  • Easel and Tray from En Plein Air Pro.  This website has all kinds of equipment for plein air painting for both watercolor and oil/acrylic, but I found the actual tripods much less expensive from my camera supplier. Or you can opt for the typical wood french easel.  Bear in mind that heavy is not bad because easels can easily catch the wind and blow over.  Lighter easels actually sell rock bags to weight them down.
    B&H Photo Sun-Pak Tri-Pod: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/247939-REG/Sunpak_620_060_6601UT_Tripod.html
  • A Bag to carry it all. It’s best to have a backpack or shoulder-style bag, OR a cart with large wheels to navigate uneven ground.  I found a folding metal market cart from Cal Mart in Calistoga.  En Plein Air Pro offers both a shoulder and a backpack.  Make sure the handles of any bag you choose are long enough to sling over your shoulder- the tote bag I took to Yosemite felt ok at home, but quickly got too heavy to walk from our campsite in Lower Pines to the painting site
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