Painting outdoors can be a very rewarding as well
as a frustrating experience. The light changes, the bugs bite,
the wind blows, it is too hot or too cold. But the wonderful
sensory stimulation that accompanies plein air painting can't help
but give your paintings that extra "stuff" that even the
observer will feel when viewing your work. And you will
learn a lot!
First, you will learn that photos lie! The world
out there is three-dimensional ... not two. Shadows are not
black ... but full of color and reflected light. You will
become much more observant of the world around you, and your paintings
will be your own compositions and observations, not someone else's.
Second, you will learn to be prepared for the weather
and your surroundings. Comfort when painting is of the utmost
importance. Concentrating on your inner creativity is
pretty difficult when your knees are knocking with cold and the
mosquitoes are eating you alive.
Third, travel as light as possible! If your
equipment is heavy and cumbersome to carry, you may find that you
are selecting your painting sites by how far you might have to carry
your gear. I used to carry the French Easel and another bag
with all my equipment in it because the French easel was too heavy
if I loaded it. A luggage cart with wheels helped, but limited
me to painting on city streets, but only if they were not cobblestone
This changed when I decided to join a group of
artist friends in France. Our small rental car with four occupants
was definitely going to be off limits for the French easel, that
is if we wanted to take a change of clothes also. Other gear
that I researched was very expensive and limited the size of the
work that I could paint.
This is when the idea for a shelf to connect onto
my Stanrite telescoping easel was born. This easel had never
been convenient for me. I was continually leaning over to
retrieve supplies from the ground, which was hard on my back.
The Sun-Eden Artist Shelf revolutionized this system. I then
found the Sun-Eden Easel, which folded to 22" and at 1- pounds
fit in my backpack or Artist's Tote Bag. Now I had a means
to carry everything in one place at a fraction of the weight.
I was off and running!
Using a backpack (or Artist's Tote Bag) left my
hands free to look at a map, open doors or do a little shopping.
Setting my gear down somewhere had often been an invitation to forgetting
at least part of it. And when using unclean sanitary facilities
(where putting anything on the floor would have given me a stroke),
the backpack was a godsend!
The Sun-Eden Easel is the lightest easel and the only one that I
have found that fits in a backpack. It holds the canvas panel
or mounted watercolor or pastel paper firmly in place and comes
with rings on the legs and tie down stakes, a necessity on any easel
during a windy day. I always tie my easel down even if there
is no wind. I know that as soon as the canvas or paper goes
on the easel, the wind will blow. Because I favor back-lit
scenes, this easel also has the advantage of being short enough
that I can place it directly in front of me to keep the sun off
the canvas and still see over the easel. It telescopes into
three parts so that one can use it while standing, seated, or as
a table easel.
Sun-Eden Artist Shelf.
This shelf is wonderful for a place to put your palette, brushes,
paints, solvents, etc. Everything is kept close at hand and
this eliminates the need to dig in your bag or pack after you begin
painting ... or leaning over ... again and again.
Paints, pastels etc.
I carry my paints in the Sun-Eden Accessory Box, which clips onto
the easel legs behind the Artist Shelf and attaches to all three
legs of the easel. (It will not fit a tripod with a center
post.) This box will hold all the tubes of paint that I need,
as well as palette knife, mediums, etc. Or a small fanny pack
can also be used. When painting in the studio, I reserve paint
tubes at the to 1/3 full level for outdoor painting. Smaller
tubes lighten the load. A more limited palette is used in
outdoor painting to keep the weight down. When traveling abroad,
I may take a full palette of colors in my suitcase (in zip lock
bags), but I am selective with what I take each day depending on
where I paint and the weather.
Palette. I like
the Handy Palette by Masterson for oil or acrylic because of its
small size. I cut a piece of foam core, wrapped with waxed
paper (available in the supermarket) and taped underneath, to fit
each section. It fits tightly enough in the palette that it
will not blow away, as loose palette paper will. At the end
of the painting session, extra paint can be transferred to another
piece of foam core and waxed paper, and the used pieces of waxed
paper discarded as I like to start with a clean palette everyday.
When closed, the top and bottom lid are kept from touching by placing
push pins in the corner of the foam core. The Masterson Palette
keeps the paint workable for several days. I like the Pike
Palette for watercolor.
If you plan to carry solvent in a container, it must be leak proof
(Holbein makes several models). I have used a can suspended
on wire from the hooks on the Sun-Eden Artist Shelf, filling it
with solvent from a leak-proof plastic bottle before each painting
session. The only problem is that you must get the solvent
back into the plastic bottle at the end of the day. Please
don't pollute the ground or water by leaving it behind.
paper, etc. I paint with oils on unstretched canvas
taped with transfer tape (ATG gun dispenser) to a piece of Gatorboard
or Masonite. My favorite size is 11"x14" with a
half inch extra on each side. I can paint smaller on that
size if I change my mind after finding my painting site. The
Gatorboard is cut one-inch larger than the desired canvas size as
there is then room to grasp the gator board for carrying.
The great thing about unstretched canvas is that I don't feel badly
about throwing a painting away that hasn't gone well. If I
wish to keep a painting, I pull it off the Gatorboard, let it dry
and then mount it on another piece of acid free Gatorboard with
acid free glue such as Seal VacuGlue 300. The canvas shrinks
just a little so it needs to be a bit larger than the board to be
covered. The glue is brushed over the entire surface of the
board and the canvas. A rolling pin is then used to make sure
that it adheres over the entire painting. The corners
of the board are weighted so that the canvas does not pull up while
drying. When the glue is dry, I trim the edges of excess canvas
to fit the board. These panels are light, very easy to frame,
Holder. I use the Sun-Eden Brush Holder as it easily
slips into my pack and stands upright. It hangs from the Sun-Eden
Easel Shelf for real convenience. At the end of the day when
I have used oil, I slip a small sandwich bag (usually left from
my lunch) over the brushes that I have used during the day so that
I know which ones need further cleaning when I return to the studio.
The plastic bag that your newspaper comes in works well also.
Rags, paper towels, or Handi
Wipes. All work well. A paper towel holder can
be easily created with a bungee cord and a standard roll of paper
towels and hung between the legs of the Sun-Eden Easel or Sun-Eden
Tripod. Don't forget to take a bag to hang on your easel in
which to dispose of used towels. This keeps them from blowing
around. Pack out what you take in!
When using this, hands can be cleaned easily with water. It
goes on like hand cream and lasts as long as your hands don't get
wet. It may be purchased at a hardware store or sometimes
a paint store, like Sherwin Williams.
After much searching I found a very durable pack that holds all
my equipment. This is the Sun-Eden Genie Pac with a top-loading,
extra large pocket and four additional pockets. It allows
me to keep my painting gear separate from my lunch and extra clothing.
A backpack should have padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap and
a waist strap. Cheap backpacks make for a short day!
- Hat with a visor that is not reflective.
I don't like umbrellas. They just invite wind chaos.
- Sun Screen
- Lunch or snacks
- Apron or smock. This is
a real clothes saver.
- Kiss Off or some substance to
remove paint or mess-ups if the apron misses.
- Extra clothing. Layer up
so items can be put on or taken off easily ... depending upon
- Bug Spray. Makes a difference
on where you paint and how long you stay!
- Good walking or hiking shoes.
Make sure they are comfortable to stand in.
- Rain Poncho. I have used
this to cover my canvas as well as myself.
- Ziploc Bags. They come in
handy for so many things.
There are days when the temperature
is perfect, there is but a soft breeze, no bugs, no threatening
clouds on the horizon and a gentle hand touches deep into your creative
spirit. These days I call "Gift Days".
May you be blessed with many in your painting experience!
Jeanne Elizer painting in Laroque, France
A painter of nature and the human experience, Jeanne
paints from life whenever possible. Painting in the mountains
of Colorado provides unlimited subject matter for paintings.
However, travels in recent years to countries including Ecuador,
China, Thailand, Mexico, and France, have led to paintings demonstrating
the commonality of man and her love for people. Her
motto is, "Hike for miles, paint for hours."
She says, "The quiet time I spend walking or hiking to reach
a painting site is my time for meditation, and I need it to get
into a place within myself that will release my creative juices."
Material in this pamphlet is
1999 - 2006 by Sun-Eden
Design and may not be reproduced in any form without prior
written consent of the artist. All rights reserved.