ART SUPPLIES and TRAVEL TIPS
Painting the Impressionist Landscape workshop is an exciting approach to seeing and painting color and light. It is important to know what you will need and what to expect. Bringing the right things for a location workshop will not only make the experience more enjoyable, but helps you to eliminate a lot of unnecessary packing and carrying. Please remember that these are suggestions. Feel free to bring additional colors, easels of your choice; whatever it takes to make you comfortable.
Because I will encourage you to explore color boldly and fearlessly, you must feel free to experiment with paint. Although you always get the best results with top of the line pigments, all manufacturers have a line of less expensive paint. These are more desirable than the very cheap, generic brands that you might find in hardware stores.
For example, Winsor-Newton makes a series of colors called Winsor. Winsor Red is less saturated and more fugitive than the more expensive Cadmium Red. There are though, many good quality paints available that are not costly, such Utrecht, and Van Gogh.
When selecting student grade paint, make sure the colors are not too thin and oily when squeezed out onto a palette. Very cheap, generic paints are made with fillers and extra oil, and do not have strong saturation and mixing properties. These can impede your progress and can end up costing you more in the long run!
Because they are not standardized, names of colors may be different than those listed here. I will explain them in detail in order to help you make your selection. Try to choose your colors according to my description and open the caps, if possible, to really see what they look like.
As you gain confidence in your work and begin to master the techniques, you should upgrade your pigments in order to maximize the quality of your color in your paintings!
I have honed down the list to include only the most important colors. The preferred colors are starred.* It is not necessary to buy all of them, unless you love color as much as I do!
Cadmium Lemon Yellow – Compared with other yellows, this is the lightest and coolest
*Cadmium Yellow Pale – This warm, luminous yellow is the primary yellow of the color wheel.
*Cadmium Yellow – It is darker in value than Cadmium Yellow Pale and lighter than Cadmium Orange.
*Cadmium Orange – Cadmium orange is a true secondary color.
*Cadmium Scarlet (warm red) –This should be a vibrant cherry red pigment
*Permanent Rose A true, transparent rose color.
*Alizarin Crimson or *Permanent Magenta – These colors are transparent One is warm and the other is cooler
*Purple Any pigment with the name Magenta, Mauve, purple or violet .
*Ultramarine Blue – This is a dark, transparent blue
*Cerulean Blue – This relatively warm blue.
Cobalt Blue – warmer than Ultramarine Blue and cooler than Cerulean
*Yellow Ochre – A warm gold earth tone
Burnt Sienna darker redder earth tones
White – I use a Titanium white because I love its covering power and opacity. Thinner and more transparent whites are also available, so you should experiment to decided which you prefer. Regardless of your choice, make sure you carry a large tube of it!
Please- do not bring or buy any green paints!
WATER SOLUABLE PAINTS
I’ve recently discovered water-soluble oil paints. The colors are as rich and saturated as regular oils. They have the advantage of drying quickly, but not as fast as acrylics. They feel like oils without the plastic quality of acrylic paint. Using one of the drying mediums made by the manufacturers, paintings are dry to the touch the next day. Talk about easy packing!
Paint left overnight on the palette remains moist and flexible.
I have tried all of the available water based oils. All have a lovely assortment of color, but can be a little dry. My favorite brand is Lukas Berliner Water Soluble paint. Their pigments are really gorgeous, moist and fluid.
Do not run out and buy these paints and then immediately take them on a painting trip. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to them before leaving for a workshop.
The color theory taught at the school can be easily applied to pastel, which makes it an excellent medium for learning color. Degas used pastels to the fullest potential, exploiting its vitality and brilliance.
It is most importance to have a big selection of colors. Many artists use Rembrandt pastels for the foundation of their painting, supplementing them with softer but more expensive brands for finishing notes. A large set of 300 Rembrandt pastels may seem like a huge investment, but it is actually the least expensive way to start. Pastels last for a long time so that you will get many paintings out of a large set. Don’t skimp!
Most Acrylic paint dry too quickly to be used outdoors while learning this technique because it requires mixing wet colors into wet. However, many artists apply what they have learned to acrylic painting and are extremely pleased with the results. Hawthorne’s color theory, is, after all, adaptable to all mediums.
Recently, I discovered Open Acrylics made by Golden. They are slow drying which makes them much more versatile and easier to use. Open Acrylics can be re-wet and work much better with the color theory. You will need a sta-wet palette set up, which is available in all art catalogs and stores. If you use regular acrylics, please bring extenders or mediums that are designed to keep them from drying too quickly on the painting surfaces. If you do bring acrylics, please be familiar with all of the pluses and minuses of painting outdoors with them.
You will need something with which to draw simple shapes and outlines before starting to paint.
Pastels are excellent because they are actually dried oil pigments and the compositional outline mixes well with oil paint. Unfortunately, they tend to crumble when jarred around in a paint box. A good alternative is either Carbothello or Prismatic Pencils instead. Carbothello’s are pastel pencils that can be conveniently sharpened into points for thin sketch lines. Their pastel quality can sometimes crack when carried in a paint box or easel so the next best drawing tool are the Prismatic pencils. They are slicker than the Carbothellos and don’t mix into the oil paints as well, but they rarely break when sharpened. The colors chosen for these sketches should light in value, but discernible on the white boards. I usually use light blue or green.
Very important: Please bring a small sketch pad and some sketch pencils with you.
I recommend purchasing a good portable easel, especially one that is light and easy to open. There are several styles available from very cheap to very expensive.
A French easel (also called an outdoor easel) is a complete painting environment made specifically for portability. It consists of a paint box with adjustable legs that stores paint and a wet palette, with a canvas holder for safely carrying two wet paintings. However, when loaded they can be a little heavy and awkward to manage. For this reason I prefer a half-box French Easel instead of a full box. The smaller version holds almost as much, but is significantly lighter and easier to handle.
While I recommended French easels made by Julian, there are some ‘OK’ French easels sold at discount stores like Odd Lots, Big Lots, etc..
If you purchase a new French easel, become familiar it before attending the workshop. Open and close it a few times and become acquainted with how everything works. This will save you time and aggravation.
Practice packing your easel to make sure everything fits in. I can pack all of my paints and palette knife into my half box easel. There are lots of new gimmicks to make carrying mediums and other stuff light & compact. I use film canisters to carry medium such as linseed oil, driers and still have room to stuff in a lot of paper towel off the roll.
Some artists like to attach knapsack shoulder straps to their easels so they can keep their hands free while walking. You can attach a small canvas bag to the side which can hold additional tools, such as a brush-washing jar, sketch pad, etc.
If you do not want the expense of a French easel, aluminum easels are an inexpensive option. They are designed for portability, are easy to set up, but they are not as sturdy as they should be for painting outdoors. Read all of the specs in the art catalogs before buying one.
Another option is the Soltek easel, which you can check out and purchase at its website at www.Soltekarts.com. It is extremely easy to set up and compact enough to be carried on a plane. I really like its convenience, but I find it to be a little heavy once it is filled with paints. But if you “weigh” the facts, its advantages are that it is portable, extremely simple to set up, and very, very sturdy. (Sorry for the pun!).
POCHADES AND TRIPODS
Last but not least, another outdoor solution is a Pochades . They are small boxes that are designed to be contained painting stations. Pochades must provide a palette, and many have places to store wet panels or have room for paints and brushes
Pochades come in different sizes, which range from 5×8 to about 11×14. However, the size of your painting is limited to the size of the pochade.
Small pochades can be hand held so that you can paint while standing. You can paint holding a pochade of any size on your lap. As they get larger, they can be attached to a tripod. Buy a tripod that has a detachable clip in the headset that secures to the bottom of the pochade. Because it snaps into place on the tripod, it takes only seconds to set up instead of spending time having to screw the pochade into place.
An alternative to a pochade box is a PALETTE/PANEL holder from The Open Box M. Their website is www.openboxM.com. Open Box M makes a pochade as well, but it is heavy. I recommend only ordering the palette and panel holder. It is compact, lightweight and it folds to protect the palette. I like its efficiency, but you will need an additional item to carry wet panels and the rest of your supplies. Their website offers a variety of items including carrying cases.
Other alternatives in the pochade line-up are made by Guerilla Painter, EasylLite, and The Art Attack Painting system. You can find them at www.pochade.com and www.artworkessentials.com, and www.artworkessentials.com.
Check them out and try to chose one that has features that sound good to you.
The last word is that there is not one set up that is good for everyone. I cannot recommend one because there are so many available being designed and manufactured by a number of companies and by plein air artists as well . All artists swear by their favorite equipment. What is most important is that you find a set-up that accommodates your needs and strength.
I do not get any remuneration by recommending any of these products, but please mention my name when ordering from the private manufacturers.
PAINTING TRIPODS AND QUICK RELEASE HEADS
There are hundreds of tripods and quick release heads available. I used to recommend a few, but now there are so many that it would take up pages. Look for a tripod that is lightweight, (although you will pay for this,) very sturdy, and depending on the size of your back pack or what you plan to use for transportation of your gear to a location, also check the length of the tripod when closed.
The quick release heads come with their own attachment for your pochade. Get one that rotates comfortably. Many good on line camera stores, such as Adarama .com, B&Hphotoandvideo.com have extensive lists of tripods and releases, in varied prices, with their specs.
A palette may be the most important item when painting outdoors because it is the main vehicle of your color mixing. This is not the item to skimp on. Frustration caused by mixing color only reduces the enjoyment of learning to see it!
The Julian French easels come with good wooden palettes. Pochades have wooden drawers that are used for mixing. Prepare a new palette by rubbing some boiled linseed oil into it before using it. This gives you a slick surface preferable for mixing and keeps the paint from staining and drying too fast.
If you don’t have a travel easel, you can buy a good wooden palette or make one from good quality plywood with a birch or mahogany surface, called luan or ‘doorskin.’ Prepare the luan palette by sealing it with varnish or polyurethane, following with the linseed oil mentioned above. You may have to purchase a full sheet of luan from a lumber company, but after you cut out a palette about 12 x 16 or 16 x 20, you can cut the rest into small sizes and gesso them. They make a terrific and very lightweight painting surface.
You may prefer to mix color on a white palette which is usually made of plexi-glass. This type can be cleaned easily while working, and travels well, fitting inside your easel or sketch box.
I readily acknowledge the convenience of palette paper. You can buy plastic containers which have airtight lids that are made to carry them. The limitation to paper is that once the paper becomes filled with paint, it is impossible to continue using it. When you are trying to capture a light effect, it takes too much time to save colors & mixtures and transfer them to a fresh sheet.
Many art instructors won’t let you bring paper palettes with you. I am not such a martinet, but there is a solution. Purchase a large paper palette pad to hold the squeezed colors and then place a smaller pad on it. When the smaller mixing palette is covered, simply tear off that page and you instantly have a fresh surface to work on.
At first, using a palette knife feels similar to frosting a cake-unwieldy, stiff, and foreign. It is intended to keep painters from focusing on insignificant details and being too preoccupied with doing a ‘finished’ painting.
You may not think so at first, but the knife really becomes enjoyable. It is easier to clean than a brush, you need fewer knives than brushes and you don’t need to carry additional items such as brush cleaning mediums and containers. It really lightens the load when walking to painting sites.
A palette knife should allow you to spread a lot of color while the point makes it easy to paint thin strokes and a bit of detail. I recommend a knife that is about 2 inches in length with a pointed tip. Everyone likes different sizes, and strength, so it might be best to bring 2-3.
Please bring at least 5 brushes in varying sizes such as 2,4,6,8. I do not suggest any one style of brush because that is a personal choice. However, I do recommend bristle brushes, not the softer type such as sable.
My choice for an overall medium is Liquin because I don’t have to mix it. I carry it in a plastic prescription pill container with tight lids.
I am a ‘less-is-more’ person, and prefer not to do anything if I can buy it ready to use. However, if you like to do this, there are many great formulas and recipes presented in art books on technique. You should experiment and find the one you like the best, and perhaps, which odor you can best tolerate.
Cleaning solvents like turpentine, turpenoid or mineral spirits are not painting mediums!!! Using them this way causes the paints to be applied too thinly lacking vitality. The choice brush cleaner is up to you. There are a number of products available that are made without resins. Using less toxic ingredients such as walnut oils makes painting much healthier.
Make sure your brush cleaner can be carried easily from car to location. I do not recommend coffee cans because their lids will start to ‘melt’ from the fumes of the solvent. If you don’t want to purchase an expensive portable brush washer, make sure that whatever screw type jar you use, has a firm cover.
DEALING WITH WET PAINTINGS
To speed up the drying time of oil paint, you can use an Alkyd white paint or Underpainting White paint instead of your regular oil white. Winsor-Newton offers a complete line of Griffin Alkyd colors which dry much faster than oil. They have all of the advantages of oil’s flexibility, but dry rapidly. If you do not want to buy an entire set of Griffin paints, using only an alkyd white with the rest of your colors will speed the drying process.
Another solution is to use Cobalt or Japan Drier. The Cobalt dryer tends to look as if it going to discover the pigment, but it doesn’t. Use these dryers by adding 3 or 4 drops into three to four inches of white oil paint on the palette.
To make life even easier, you might want to find a small cardboard box that will hold your paintings once prepared to travel. Then you can load them into your car without worry or slip it into a shopping bag to take onto a plane and stash under your seat.
PAINTING PANELS AND CANVAS
THE BEST WAY TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW IS TO NOT BE WORRIED ABOUT EXPENSE. Following are suggestions for home made and store bought painting panels.
Please have two prepared panels per day to accommodate most of the week’s activities. Many people work very quickly and can complete three or four paintings per day. If you are such an artist or if you have the stamina to accompany me on a late afternoon or evening painting, bring extra.
Many workshop participants only use the best materials, but they too cautious or concerned about experimenting and wasting supplies. I am not recommending cheap, inferior quality supplies, but it is important to paint freely and feel unencumbered to waste some paint and canvas.
If save money, you can to prepare your own panels by purchasing 1/4 or 1/8 inch standard masonite cut into 9″ x 12″, 11″ x 14″, 12″ x 16.” I do not advise using larger sizes for the workshop. Apply one or two thin coats of gesso, sanding lightly between each coat. You decide whether you want a smooth surface or prefer to leave brush strokes showing.
Painting on a panel outdoors eliminates the problem of sun reflecting through canvas and it is less susceptible to punctures. Most pochades, by the way, are only fitted for panels. In the past, artists have used masonite for their indoor painting as well. As to the question of permanence, paintings done on masonite by my teacher Henry over sixty years ago have never needed restoration, They are as vibrant and beautiful as the day they were painted. Careful preparation is the key to permanence.
If traveling by air, you can lighten the weight of your luggage by preparing panels of “Birch plywood,” sometimes called “door- skin” or “ luan” found at lumber companies. It is more expensive than masonite, but incredibly light so I use it only for traveling. Because it can warp, gessoing both sides is a must.
Fortunately, plein air painting has gotten so popular that a number of excellent professionally manufactured gessoed panels are now on the market. There are many good brands such as Panelli, Ambersand, (not their smooth surface) Fresco Art Panels, and Ray Mar. Only buy gessoed panels made with real board or panels that have good quality linen glued onto their surface.
Avoid products only called “canvas board” unless it says “”archival’ and acid free. Cheap canvas board is very porous which causes paint to dry too rapidly, especially outdoors. This makes it hard to cover the surface when trying to get a quick start.
If you do buy canvas board, prime them with at least two additional layers of gesso. This will create a less absorbent painting surface making it easier to spread paint.
Keep your supplies to a minimum and lightweight. We will always try to stay near a painting site, but if there is a short walk, you will not be happy if you are dragging or carrying a u-haul behind you. Practice using and walking with your art gear before attending a workshop.
Get used to everything you are carrying and how things work., especially easels.
Paint, canvas, palette, brushes, mediums, etc., your general supplies. . . think “portable”. Bring small tubes daily. . I also keep save half used , small tubes of paint for outdoor painting. That eliminates even more of the weight.
Compartmented pill containers are wonderful for carrying squeezed out paint! They seal shut, come in many different sizes and keep well in the freezer between sessions. Use 2 or 3 sections for white. Keep the large tubes at home in your studio, your car, or motel an refill every day.
Paper Towels Trust me, old rags and torn sheets are not absorbent enough.
Mirror – A hand mirror is useful for giving you a new point of view of your painting.
Umbrella with clamp — for shade. Clamps on to your easel or chair. Avoid brightly colored umbrellas. Although small, Walmart carries the “chairbrella” in the camping goods section. Inexpensive, light weight and easy to clamp onto an easel.
Hat with a very good brim and possibly a shade for your neck. Sunscreen (not sticky or greasy) I try
to get ones with UV sensor glasses and as light as possible.
Bugs – Insect repellent can prevent a lot of annoyance!
Painting Clothes – When deciding what to wear, avoid bright colored shirts, jackets and sweaters. They reflect into your wet painting, (especially on sunny days) and can make accurate color mixing difficult. Gray or neutral colors minimize this problem. And once again, don’t forget a hat or sun-visor!
Stool or chair — Standing can be taxing and lunch much better if comfortable! There are many lightweight walking stools in all art catalogs
Air travel prohibits the taking of turpentine onto a plane (the small amount in a medium is OK) If you plan on doing some painting on your own, and need turpentine for your brushes, you can buy a car when you get to Provincetown . I provide the workshop with paint thinner in order to clean palettes and knives, (and sometimes ourselves!) at the end of the day.
Cobalt drier sometimes can be a problem because the ingredients listed on the label look suspicious and the security people might not let it through. There are a couple of solutions. The first is to tape a label over the ingredients and write something like Painting Medium on it. The other is to get an empty bottle of a familiar substance like Robitussin, fill the bottle with drier and include it with your shampoo and toothpaste. Metal objects such as pliers also make security people nervous, so you may want to put items like these in your check-in luggage rather than carry them through security in your paint box.