Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Packing for Hiking and Plein Air

Buoys at the Lighthouse, Bernard, Maine
watercolor, 6"x6", $35

As mentioned in the previous post, my upcoming trip to Monhegan made me re-evaluate how I pack for plein air painting. On an island 10-miles out to sea with no cars (save for the few trucks relegated to hauling luggage and equipment), no bicycles and small narrow hiking trails ill suited for anything with wheels, I would need to channel my inner girl scout-self if I wanted to paint using an easel anywhere other than in the village.
I needed to find a backpack to carry my Cheap Joe's Field easel (sadly, unavailable at this time - I am told that it's undergoing some revisions). Sort of a combo of guerilla box and a french easel, its proportions (16" x 12.5" x 7.5") make finding a suitable case tricky. Researching packs on line was nearly impossible. The dimensions given can be deceptive – they are usually exterior specs, with the capacity given in cubic inches. (Helpful, I suppose, if your packing clothing, equipment, or food, but not when packing something inflexible.) So, off I went to REI with the easel.
This is what I chose: 
Mammut 45

It's a climbing pack with only one outer pocket (top flap). The back is semi-rigid and unzips to access the inside of the pack. There are only three inner pockets - two on the inner back - one mesh and one suitable for a "Camelback" bladder, the third is inside the top flap. It's bigger than I wanted – it could easily get too heavy, so it will be important to pack carefully.

I trimmed the backing from an (empty) Arches watercolor block - it slips behind the easel easier. The watercolor block board is fairly lightweight, is great way to tote paper and also provides a good solid backing when painting.

Inside The Easel Compartment

With very few pockets, I have to utilize the limited space inside the easel. There is one compartment big enough to fit brushes, and my paint palettes.
Obviously, there are loads of brush holders out there – zip cases, bamboo or canvas roll-ups – but nothing I had was flat enough to fit the space, so I created my own with some things I had – leftover foam core, elastic, hook&loop and scrap denim.

The Palettes

I use two small portable, foldable plastic palettes. I have all my basic colors and some extras. I glued some hook and loop on to the backs of the palettes and to the front tray on the easel. To secure the palettes and the brushes I also glued some hook to the inside of the easel compartment.

Last Items

A few last items and I should be ready to travel. I tuck a small rug into the easel, and bungie cord it to keep the legs together.

In the inner top pocket I put pencils, the folding water bucket, markers, tiny containers of mask and watercolor ground, a tiny spray bottle, tape. I can tuck the sketchbook on top of the easel. The outer top pocket is great for my wallet, wipes, camera (though that will likely end up in a pocket), drier sheets (aka bug repellant), sunscreen, hand sanitizer, extra ziplock bags.
Finally, I bungie a small three-legged stool to the outside and I'm ready to go!

Obviously, everyone will have their own solution. I've seen some really fabulous bags by a messenger bag company, Chrome. There is a Creativo bag and a backpack/roller bag I haven't tried, available on a few sites - Jerry's Artarama, and Cheap Joe's, to name two.

Though I'll probably bring a few extras to Monhegan, (maybe a small box of pastels, colored pencils, a larger sketchbook) I don't necessarily have to carry them with me at all times. Ultimately the point for me was to decide before hand, what medium I'm going to use that day, pare down and pack only enough for one or two paintings. 
My advise is to look around at what you already own and adapt what you can. It doesn't take a lot of fancy equipment - my big investment was the pack itself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ONE Week Countdown to NH & Monhegan Island!

Seagull, Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island, Maine
6x6 colored pencil on black paper

I'm getting very excited about my up coming trip!

First visiting friends in NH and going to the Hopington State Fair! Piggies and Cows and Goats and Sheep! Love it!

Then it's off to Monhegan Island. A wonderful pilgrimage if you're an artist.

(From the Boston GlobeLocated 10 miles off the mid-Maine coast, the island has been drawing artists from around the world for more than 150 years. Giants in the US art world have been inspired by Monhegan, including George Bellows, C. K. Chatterton, Randall Davey, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, Edward Willis Redfield, Frederick Judd Waugh, and three generations of the Wyeth family: N.C., Andrew, and Jamie.
“All the major American artists were here at one time,” said Ed Deci, director of the Monhegan Museum. “You can actually study American art by studying Monhegan art.
Have I mentioned that I'm excited?
Monhegan (from what I've read and seen) is a wonderful place - no cars or bicycles, sort of like Fire Island only less beachy and more wild and rocky. I'm staying three nights & two full days in the rustic and lovely Monhegan House
So, here's my challenge - for all the years I have taken workshops and classes, my car has never been more than a few hundred feet away. Wherever I was, there was always plenty of room for the "what-ifs." What if I'd rather use pastel today? or What if I want bigger or different paper? A cooler with lunch or extra water were always near by.

Paring down my supplies isn't too tough, I can easily and happily carry just a watercolor sketch book, travel brushes, some pencils and watercolor palettes in a little zip bag if I'm at the beach, birdwatching in the local preserve, or bike riding.

In fact, for many years, I've not bothered with an easel. I just threw a blanket on the ground or sat at a picnic table. I even figured out how to use the bike rack on my car as an easel.

This trip to Monhegan (and my obsessive need to bring my Cheap Joe's Field Easel), made me reconsider how to pack for plein air. It's time to channel my inner McGyver-girl-scout-backpacker and figure out how to get everything I need for a day of hiking and painting into one compact streamlined unit.  

Stay tuned as I bring you: My search for the perfect backpack (ie: one that fits the field easel) and what goes in the pack.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Upcoming 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Loon on Jordon Pond, watercolor and colored pencil on mi-teintes paper
6" x 6", unframed.

It's been a while since I posted here! Though I have at least two posts in the drafting stage!

I'm excited about the month of September for two reasons - First: My up-coming trip to the artist's "bucket list," Monhegan Island, 10 miles off the coat of Maine. The Wyeths painted/paint there, as did Rockwell Kent, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, and a myriad of others. It would be difficult to talk about the history of American painting in the late 19th – early 20th centuries without including Monhegan Island.

The second reason I'm excited is because Leslie Saeta is having another 30/30 Challenge! I do like that it fits nicely with the beginning of my trip to Monhegan and all the creative, painting energies that will be coursing through my brain (and hopefully, my hands)!

So stay tuned! Much more will be happening here!