Porthgwarra, plein air oil painting and details of what kit to take when painting plein air with oils, watercolours, mixed media
Porthgwarra from the cliffs, Tide in, Watched by a Seal, oil paint, about 11 inches square, not quite finished, Vivien Blackburn
A hazy, windy day, forecast rain stayed away, the tide in so no beach to be seen but a seal swimming out in the surf kept popping up to look at us.
I sat in a sheltered spot amongst the wildflowers on the cliff - just the sounds of the sea and the occasional gull - heaven. Even himself was quietly musing, no talking.
It needs just a little work doing before I'll call it finished. I often do just a little more when I get plein air works home - I'm looking at them as a painting then without distraction.
the sea seething on the rocks
3 corndered leeks, sea thrift and many other flowers around me
I made it to Porthgwarra without incident this time - last time I ended up having to reverse for about half a mile because I met a HUGE oncoming tanker touching both hedges and totally filling the road, followed by a massive tractor with some sort of digger attached. 8>O - the occasional little passing places are designed for 2 cars to pass - Carefully - not something like this! There are just a couple of houses down there so I assume it was to fill their gas or oil tanks..
I often get asked what kit I take when painting plein air. The answer is that in the car it's the kitchen sink and all! I can't bear not to have virtually everything there. Just In Case.
a very lightweight rucksack is what I use to cut down on what I carry - for the a typical day like the one painting at Porthgwarra it contains:
- An A3 oil paper sketch pad* which fits in the rucksack
- Alkyd Oil Paints ** in a plastic food box (fast drying but proper oil paints)
- Brushes - I like nylon brushes square, round, rigger - designed for acrylics and some hog brushes - don't go too small with these if you want to work freely. I carry these in a rolled up, recycled padded envelope to keep them upright and together - but not add extra weight to the bag.
- Disposable Palette - this beats having to clean a traditional palette
- Baby Oil for cleaning me and my brushes - skin and environmentally friendly, brushes (and me) then clean off totally with soap and water. I put this in a plastic bag, which also houses any oily rags on the return journey.
- Rags and tissues or kitchen roll for cleaning up, smudging paint, whatever
- Pencil Case with mechanical pencil, carbon pencil, Rotring pen, Pentel Brush pen, Jakar battery eraser, normal eraser
- bulldog clips and masking tape for holding things in place and preventing the wind flipping pages/book - I have worked in the teeth of a gale where I couldn't even hold a book still as the wind flipped it and my hands!
- alternative sketchbook if I feel like it - I can then do drawings of the scen
- something to sit on - I work in the countryside so take a thin, lightweight rain cape. It's ok if the grass is damp and keeps me dry if it starts to rain.
- possible extras
- If I'm working on the beach for any length of time I might take my half igloo beach tent - useful for sheltering from the wind, passing showers, nosy passers by(!) and throwing your gear in the back and providing a ground sheet to sit on.
- sunhat if it's hot and bright - it makes colours much easier to distinguish if your eyes are shaded
- sun tan lotion
- Bag 2 If it's a long session of painting, where I'll do a series of pieces, I might well take the shoulder bag with my watercolours, charcoal and mixed media stuff in - but that's another post :>)
- Lightweight drawing board and bulldog clips to attach sketch pad and palette
As the light changes so fast I don't usually work bigger than A3, much as I'd like to as it's not easy to finish in a short enough time.
If you close the book on a finished painting, carefully, the turn to the next page, let pages temporarily cling together, you can then continue working on another painting - and another and another ....
Leave the book closed until you get back to the house and then spread them all out to dry overnight. They never stick and don't get damaged (unless you trowel the paint on extremely thick).
Next day they'll be dry (if you use Griffin Alkyds) and you can make any adjustments with glazes or scumbling far quicker than with traditional paint.
I always buy the big 200ml tube of white, never the small one - you need a lot of white and the small ones run out too fast.
If you like the combined stool/rucksacks then these would be ok for you, particularly if you work a lot in towns. I tend to work in the countryside with uneven ground where it wouldn't be so practical - also there are often rocks to sit on or grass or sand, using my rain cape. If working near the car I may use a folding chair or sit on the back of the car with the hatch up.
Personally I'm not a great fan of pochade boxes. They are very heavy and for the weight, I'd rather take more materials. With arthritis, the weight matters. They also limit the size you can work in many cases. I tend to work holding the paper or use a sketching easel if I'm using canvas (which I rarely do plein air).
This post was triggered by several people asking me what kit I use plein air and most recently Katherine - who has been asking a million and one questions as she's off to Provence and thinking of using oil paints. I was invited but couldn't go - I shall read the posts about the trip with sad sad envy! It would have been so nice to work there with friends Katherine, Ronelle, Sarah and Robyn.
If anyone does a post on their plein air oils kit I'll add a link