Long and boring entry today unless you care about an anal, indecisive artist...
I plan to paint en plein air beginning in a few weeks. I should have good 3 hour blocks for painting in this waterside, kinda touristy yet relatively quiet town. I want to paint one each day.
Preparing for one's first en plein air expedition is no small feat.
One needs an easel. I have an awkward, heavy French one like this, which I've never used.
One needs a stool. I found one much like this at a camping store.
One needs something solid to paint on. This one is tricky. I have large and small boards, the large I use for classes/larger paper and the small is new and not yet used.
One needs a surface. This is tricky again. Oils and canvases are tough, b/c you're returning to your car with wet paintings. Pastels are tough, b/c the paintings are fragile and easily smeared. They have to be transported and stored with care.
I am trying to solve this two-fold, using these Koool Bind pads/folders some days and these hard boards (but I'm not sure about protecting them after painting) on other days.
And you also need to get supplies to the site . There are many ways to transport pastel sticks, most very expensive. You can get the easel/box combo set for almost $500, or one a little less expensive at $360, or you can get the custom-ish wooden box (pochade/guerilla Box or Open Box M) that attaches to a regular tripod for say $300, or you can have a separate wooden briefcase-ish box.
I am going with the latter.
B/c I really hate the French easel, I have toiled with the idea of buying a more modern easel combo thing; there is one that is less expensive than the above one. There are also lots of simple, light easels for $50 or so. With the lighter easel, however, you have a less sturdy set up in the field - wind can be a real issue, so there's a trade off on weight and ease of transport. And if the easel doesn't have an attached box thingie, then you have to figure a way to get stuff out to the site and, once there, to have some sort of table substitute, b/c it is too hard on the back to store all the supplies on the ground.
Further, b/c I really do hate the French easel, I have debated the logic of investing in accessories/time to beef up something I know I don't like. See, they have very small drawers that don't hold much. The philosophy is that you should pare down stuff well enough that you don't need a bunch more space. Hooey, says me, the owner of Stanley, now Fat Stanley, as he is mighty full. I have too much crap, anal pack rat that I am.
By French easel accessories, I mean a couple things. There's this contraption that converts the unyielding, heavy French easel into an unyielding, heavy backpack encumbered by lots of straps that take lots of time to rig and un-rig, precious time when one is fighting the clock outdoors. Or this contraption, which converts the French easel into a rolling luggage cart that wouldn't make it across a bumpy field.
I got clever on this one, crafting my own accessory in seconds. Instead of buying a backpack thing, I am faking it, me, the backpack loving chick. On the top end of the easel are two D-rings toard each corner; the other end has one in the middle. I am stringing a luggage strap from each of the D-rings on the top end and joining them in the D-ring on the bottom end. Voila! Instant backpack for no bucks. [I just found this version - it is similar to what I made, but it is on a half-sized easel.] Yes, unyielding and heavy, but, unlike the store-bought fancy version that has big straps securing it, mine will convert to an easel very quickly at set up. Yeah, for free.
Returning to the storage accessory idea above, there's the carrying art supplies (vs. carrying easel) accessory and desire for one I mentioned above. Besides for the pochade-type boxes I mentioned, there's the other boxes lovingly called the French Mistress and the French Companion. (I think wine, pastries, and good head should come along with these new friends.)
These things simply open up flat and rest on the open drawer of the French easel. They're wooden like the easel, so awkward and heavy. As such, tho, they're good for carrying soft pastels safely once foam inserts are purchased and sized. (Nothing is easy with this process. Everything brings on another DIY project and more cost.)
One additional accessory... I am declining on the umbrella for now. They make a painter float like a butterfly even more probable. Solid ground, no broken or lost pastels.
So, my big expense with all this, after much toil, reading, and research, is the French Companion for storing stuff. I figure it'll be easier to carry on location and it is versatile enough that if I invest in another easel, I'll still be able to use it. It isn't too big and heavy, but it should carry a lot.
But I'm not finished. I am sweating delivery, probably b/c I want this stuff so much.
In summary, the have done/to do lists include:
purchased the paper notebooks (paper plus storage, but soft mounting) and the pastel boards (painting surface plus mounting, but no storage).
finding and sizing foam for the inside of the French Companion and for the bottom storage of the French easel.
cutting some foam core to use to secure paintings on the easel and to separate the finished paintings.
These many things coming together will facilitate whether I'll be able to paint outside for a few days and to see if I even like painting outside enough to continue it.
I wonder if Monet went through all this?