Plein air odds and ends

In this post I thought I'd share a little about some of the tools I carry with me in my plein air pack. Some are specifically designed for the plein air artist, and some I have co-opted for my own nefarious purposes. ;-) This first photo shows a picture of my current setup: 

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My paint box is one I have mentioned before, but I love it so much I will say it again! It's the Coulter Easel. It is so quick to set up and simple to use. It has lots of work space for color mixing as well. Mine is the Compact model. Coulter's site offers other sizes as well, but I felt that this model was the most versatile for me as while it is lightweight, it doesn't compromise valuable workspace. As for the other items in this photo, I will list them in a clockwise manner. 

  • A mini sun shield that closes up flat into a small circle. I use this to cast a shade on my palette so that I don't get the glare of sunlight on it. I do have an umbrella, but many times depending on how I position myself, this little shade is all I need. When I do find the need for an umbrella, the model I use is Bestbrella. It works great for me.  
  • An envelope-style brush holder.  Called a "brush wallet", this style brush holder comes with a loop at the top, which I loop onto my tripod handle. I like this brush holder because I can tuck this in behind my palette and have my brushes handy without taking up space on my paint box. (*Note- I couldn't find a source for my brush holder. I bought it a number of years ago and I am thinking I bought it from
  • A couple of zip-up pencil bags to carry my paints. In one I carry my large tube of white, my mediums (more about that in a minute) my paint scraper, and palette knife. In another I carry all of my other oil colors.  
  • A bungee cord to hold my paper towels. The hooks on the bungee loop right over the lip of the paint box.  
  • A mini trash can. This is something I picked up in the automotive section of a big box store. Like the sun shield it also twists down into a little circle. It stays closed with an elastic band that is attached to the plastic rim. A plastic shopping bag will work in a pinch, but I prefer this style holder over the plastic bag because it doesn't blow around in the wind and remains open as I'm working. This little model came with a plastic loop on the top that I used to thread the bungee cord through, eliminating the need for clips or clamps.
  • Protective gloves for my hands. As you can see, by my brush handles, I'm not the neatest painter around, so gloves are a must for me. I became allergic to both latex and nitrile gloves, so the gloves I use are actually food grade gloves by Platex. They are the only semi-sturdy gloves that I don't react to. They actually hold up great. One benefit to these gloves is that I can get them in the grocery store when I'm grocery shopping, so I don't have to make a special trip to the hardware store when I run out. 
  • A small cat food can. I use this little can to hold a small amount of  Gamsol that I use to thin my paint in the very beginning stages of painting. I just pour in a little amount at a time, so when I'm done painting for the day I can just wipe out the can and pack it away.
  • A small eyedropper for holding the Gamsol. I'm using an eye dropper because it's small and it's what I had on hand, but any small solvent-safe container will do. Gone are my days of carrying around those heavy metal turp containers.  Check the next photo to find out why. 

 

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  • Gamblin Solvent-free Gel. Okay, I am not painting completely solvent-free, as I prefer a thinned-down , lean application in the beginning for my preliminary drawing. I use Gamblin's Solvent-free Fluid in the studio, but I prefer the gel in my plein air pack as the fewer liquids I have to worry about spilling the better. You can even use this stuff to clean off your brushes between colors and just wash them all up with soap and water back home in the studio. 
  • A view finder. There are various offerings on the market, but I prefer this simple model. The little lever moves up and down to change the proportions. Several popular sizes are marked on the view finder (9x12, 8x10, 12x16, Etc.) The little holes in the view finder also serve as color isolators as well. 

This is not a comprehensive list but it covers most things. There may be a few other odds and ends to discuss, and if I come across them I will definitely share them here on the blog. 

More Plein Air to Studio

Last week I continued my quest to mine some of my favorite plein air paintings for larger studio pieces.  The inspiration piece was a little 9x12" Plein air painting I did in the spring down at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA:

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

I really wanted to keep the same freshness in the larger 24x30" painting, so aside from referencing my photos for some of the branch formations, I used my Plein air piece as my main reference. Here is my setup, with the large and small side by side: 

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If it appears that I'm using a toned canvas, it is because I am painting on one that was a false start for a painting that turned into a wiper. I will often reuse canvases as long as there is just a thin, non-textured base. Anything with too much of a texture is distracting to me and can sometimes create adhesion issues. There is a good deal of impasto (thick paint)  passages on this canvas. Here is a detail in progress:

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And finally, here is the completed studio painting:

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

Outer Banks love affair

Though I don't get there often enough,  I have long maintained a love affair with North Carolina's Outer Banks. Last week we again made our annual sojourn there, and what a week it was! The weather was near perfect, the water a crystal clear turquoise blue. There were dolphin sightings, beautiful sunrises, and pelicans, sandpipers, and seagulls presiding over it all. 

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This was the first year in a long time that I was able to get out and paint so often. I kind of made it my mission to do so, especially since the weather was so cooperative all week (my fabulous husband and daughter were pretty darn cooperative too.) My fair skin suffers from too much sun and heat, so I took to painting mostly in the early morning or early evening to salvage it as best I could. Here's a little slideshow of the plein air paintings I completed there. I plan to use these as jumping off points for developing larger pieces in the studio since I will likely have to curtail much of my plein air painting during the unforgivably hot month of August. 

All of these paintings are done in Gamblin traditional oils on linen mounted canvas board. I used my new favorite plein air medium, Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel as well as a small dropper bottle of Gamsol for laying in my design at the beginning stages of the painting. This really keeps the transport and setup of my plein air gear lighter and more streamlined. Hover your mouse over each of the enlarged images to read more about each piece. 

A tough road to a good week

Pardon my absence from blogging these last few weeks, but  I've had a bit of a tough road, health-wise this winter, and am only just coming out of it (I hope). For the last six months or so I have spent a good portion of my time chasing down the root cause of my aliments. In a nutshell it turns out that I have become allergic to many things. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my body developed rather alarming allergic reactions to common household products, metals, and even most of my clothing. Uncovering the culprits has been a bit like peeling an onion.

I have spent several weeks sorting through it all and purging what I could. It's costing us a small fortune and a lot of trial and error to replace these things in our home with ones that won't make me sick, but there is really no other way forward.

It's hard to pinpoint the how or why of it all. Could it be related to my occupation? Possibly. But just as easily it could have been set off by cleaning products, beauty products, or something in the water. Who knows? The only thing more I really want to say about it is that if you are an artist, protect yourself. I have been wearing latex free nitrile gloves for a number of years now, and consistently painting solvent-free en plein air and in the studio for the last 8 months or so. But there were many years before that when I was not so cautious and had my hands in solvents, likely breathed in volatile organic compounds on a regular basis, and allowed my materials too much direct contact with my skin. Bottom line, you have to treat your materials with a healthy dose of respect or else risk paying the price with your health.

Yes, I am still painting. I am trying to be less of a slob about it, and protecting myself as much as I can.  Things are calming down with the allergies from my efforts, but it has been a long, tough road. This week though, I got back outside to paint, and it felt so good! Here's an in-situ shot of one of my paintings during a visit to the Meadow Farm Museum, where I twice visited this week.  I haven't had a chance to photograph the finals but when the rain lets up I will share them also. 

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As a bonus this week, I was notified by Plein Air Magazine that they wanted to feature my painting "Spring Renewal" in their ezine OutdoorPainter.com in their "Why This Works" column. Yeah! It's good to be getting back in the swing.

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Local fare

Doing the mom/artist thing is a constant juggling act. For that matter, doing the mom/anything thing a juggling act! I love painting the early morning light, but so many mornings, despite my best intentions, I cannot get out of the door to paint on locations as early as I would like.  It seems silly, but this can actually be a source of considerable anxiety for me. But, as with so many other lessons that parenting teaches me, I have had to learn to make peace with what is, and perhaps even embrace it. 

This painting occurred on such a morning. With a late start I decided to see if I could find something of interest to paint in my neighborhood. It's actually not that hard in Ashland, as it's a small railroad town with beautiful historic houses and lots of charm. 

"Bicycle Garden," Oil on linen, 10x10"

"Bicycle Garden," Oil on linen, 10x10"

If I'm not mistaken, this bike has been on this corner since the fall, in anticipation of the UCI Road World Championships that whizzed through our locality in September. In Ashland, decorated bikes were set up everywhere. Even after the races, many of the bikes have remained, their decorations changing according to the season. I have been eyeing this corner for a while now, enjoying the charm of it. When the daffodils popped up, that sealed the deal for me. 

Incidentally, you never know what can happen when you stand on a street corner in a silly hat, no makeup, and sweatpants. You just might encounter a photographer who works for the local paper!

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