THERE are few things as disconcerting as arriving at a painting destination and forgetting critical supplies. A trip to Zion National Park comes to mind where I left my tube of cadmium red light at home (fortunately I did have a tube of quinacridone red). Other disasters include forgetting my tin of mineral spirits. Other times I brought so much gear it was a burden and I felt more like a porter on safari than a painter in the field. The trick is to bring the essentials and pare those essentials down to the bare bone.
As a precursor to actually going out into the field I decided to make a list of necessary items. This list will be growing, contracting, and generally evolving throughout the plein air season as I refine my methods.
The main item in any painter’s field kit will be a good portable easel. I have a French easel and a Gloucester easel for larger paintings. I prefer my gloucester easel but it is difficult to carry on airplanes and has a large palette I made for it that can be difficult to carry over large distances. The french easel has straps like a back pack so I can free my hands for other gear. I use a large white artist umbrella with a clamp to shade my canvas and palette.
I also have an attaché style wooden box which carries pencils, brushes, palette knives, and viewing devises. I carry a canvas bag with all my tubes of paint which are all 150 ml tubes. I have a large tin of mineral spirits (I use Gamsol for low toxicity) and a box of tissues for cleaning my brushes, a plastic bag for disposal (I place a rock in it in the field to keep it from blowing around). For canvases I bring a variety of Utrecht pre-stretched canvases already toned with Venetian red and placed face to face using metal canvas clips to hold the wet surfaces away from each other.
Regarding viewing tools my painting glasses are a must as well as my reduction glass and prism. I made a few composing viewers which I will demonstrate in a future video, one of them used by George Inness. I use my nine value grayscale a lot in the field so I take several of those. I use the palette that came with the French easel but I strap it to the open drawer with a bungee cord so it resembles my studio set-up. I need my left hand free to mix paint just like in the studio.
Concerning colors it is important to keep things simple without resorting to a limited palette (which personally is not to my taste although some use it masterfully). LaConte Stewart suggested a palette consisting of a warm and cool of each primary, which I believe is a good start. I’m going to suggest having dioxazine purple, and transparent earth yellow, two very deep hues that complement each other beautifully. I would add alizarin crimson permanent and sap green. Cadmium red light is a good warm version of red. For blues I use thalo blue (very warm) and Indanthrone blue (very cool). My transparent earth yellow with white works as yellow ochre but I do need a cool yellow so I add cadmium yellow light (which is cooler than the transparent earth yellow). That gives me a cool of each primary plus purple and green. Just to round out the secondary color spectrum I add transparent yellow, a very warm orange similar to Indian yellow (but cleaner). As I mentioned these suggestions will evolve as the season passes so stay tuned.