Cynthia Herron looking for painting location in park
Cynthia Herron looking for painting location in Rood Bridge Park

I set off for my first Plein Air painting event with my experienced Plein Air painter friend Cynthia Herron.¬† I asked her if she wanted a cup of coffee, and she said no since she didn’t want to have to run to the bathroom all morning. I heard her, but gulped down a cup of tea and grabbed a full thermos.

My Preparation

watercolor paints in box
The watercolor paint I brought

The day before the event I picked up a book from the library, Landscape Painting Inside & Out. It opens with a recommendation to stick with a simple collection of tools and materials. There are some wonderful recommendations for what you have in your studio, followed by how to pack for plein air. The book is focused on oil painting, but there are a lot of other supplies suggested that apply to all media.

I put the things I hadn’t thought of on the suggested list onto my growing pile. I didn’t really know what media I would work in so I brought watercolor, water soluble crayons, colored pencils (3 kinds), and assorted pens and pencils. I didn’t own many of the things on the list, but since I didn’t know if I’d like it, I decided to go with what I had.

I put the loose things like paint tubes in boxes, then put the boxes and watercolor blocks in several sizes and all the other junk I thought I might need into plastic tubs with lids. Three of them got stacked on a dolly which I tied with a thin rope and elastic cord.

 Settling into the Painting Location

Chair and supplies set up for plein air painting
My painting setup

Here is my chair and supplies all set up in the park. Looks just lovely, but the reality was a bit different. To get here we had to walk a ways on paved paths. They had a rough texture which caused my not quite tightly tied boxes to shift around. Then every time I wheeled them onto the bark dust, they would tip over and since they did not have locking tops, everything would spill out. The paint in particular, since it was just in a cardboard box without a locking top would spew across the dusty bark. I think it happened five times.

New Wisdom: Use boxes with locking tops. Listen to recommendations to bring a simple collection of supplies.

Nice comfy chair. Heavy to carry, but the cover is nice. Not easy to get out of, so it didn’t encourage a lot of getting up and checking out angles. I’m still not sure about whether the chair was a good idea.

New Wisdom: Go on a practice run to the backyard or close by just to see how things really work under actual conditions.

How Cynthia Setup

Cynthia Herron setting up to paint
Cynthia setting up to paint

Cynthia had a limited set of supplies all neatly placed in her French Easel that had a nice secure latch. The rest of her stuff was in a reasonable size bag with a cross body strap. Her stool was compact and light. She assured me that the French Easel box was heavy, and having wheels was a good idea.

She brought the one panel she planned to paint on that was all prepared with an under color.

New Wisdom: Call and talk to professional friend well in advance to get ideas. Order books from library earlier so there is more time to actualize suggestions.

New Wisdom: Pay close attention to what the pros say. Don’t drink tons of tea or coffee because just when you get settled, you have to walk all the way to the other side of the park to pee.

Who wants to join my practice group for next year?

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