Upcoming events

Sometimes I am grateful for the cool rainy days of spring. It makes me feel like I can do things like clean my studio or prep my plein air panels and frames without the tinge of guilt and regret from not being outside in the thick of it painting all of that spring color. But without the prep work, the other doesn't happen, so hooray for rain and clouds and wind! :-)  

This week I am preparing for a couple of upcoming events that I am excited to share with you. The first is coming up speedy-quick. It's a plein air painting event called "Plein Air Unleashed" in Whitestone, Virginia. I have never been to this area but from what I have read and heard, it sounds like a location ripe with subject matter for plein air painting. 


Starting this Thursday artists will descend on the charming, sleepy towns of Whitestone and Irvington and unleash actual havoc with flying paint and violent brushwork! Seriously though it should be lots of fun scheduled over a long weekend this Thursday, April 26th through Sunday April 29th. Please visit the Plein Air Unleashed Facebook Page for all of the information on the demos and events planned. The paintings from the event will be on exhibit at the Allure Art Center through May 26th.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

Also this month I will be participating in a spring-themed exhibit at Gallery Flux entitled "April Showers Bring May Flowers". Come enjoy the color on display in this floral themed exhibit with works by over 20 artists. The variety of mediums, sizes and floral interpretations make an eclectic mix of artwork celebrating the beauty of spring. Opening Reception : Thursday, May 3, 2018 5:30-8pm. Exhibit continues through May 25th. 

I hope to see some familiar faces at one or both of these events. If you are further afield, follow me online on Instagram and Facebook where I'll do my best to keep you updated!

Wet panel carriers, plus more on pochade boxes

I have a new painting to share, but the rain we're getting is making it hard for me to get good light for a photo. Hopefully I'll get something to show a little later today. Meanwhile, those readers who are "gear-heads" like me might enjoy some light reading on plein air gear: Wet Panel Carriers:

Raymar's wet panel carrier for plein air painting

Ever wonder how to carry those wet paintings around after a day of plein air painting? Never fear, that's why wet panel carriers were invented. :-)  There are a number of commercially available boxes designed with interior slots to hold a few wet panels at a time. Raymar is well knownamong plein air painters for their lightweight and moderately priced wet panel carrier made out of corrugated plastic.

But with very little time, ingenuity, and even less cash, it's easy to make your own, even if you aren't into gagetry or woodworking. The folks on the WetCanvas plein air forum have discussed this topic endlessly. Here are a few of the solutions I've bookmarked:

  1. Marc Hanson's wet panel carrier, cheap and fast.
  2. Cost Cutter Ideas from Larry Seiler and others- includes wet panel carriers and other home made solutions for some of your plein air painting gadgetry.
  3. And lastly, here's Wayne Gaudon's solution, and the one I've tried myself (with a few modifications.) Easy!  It uses el-cheapo Walmart picture frames and a few very simple tools. I pretty much ditched the tools and came up with the lazy woman's version. As soon as I photograph it I'll write about my own experience with this version of the home made panel carrier.

Pochade boxes

Don't worry, you'll not get another thousand-word dissertation from me on plein air easels (but if you missed it the first time, you can read my thoughts here, here here and here).

This time, Charlie Parker has taken good care of this task on his most interesting art blog Lines and Colors. If you're in the market for a pochade box and feel overwhelmed by the choices, this post will go a long way towards helping you along in your decision. I was happy to see that he wrote abouta new pochade box I've been lusting after myself- made by Alla Prima Pochade.

I first saw one of these boxes (the Bitterroot Lite)  demo'ed in France by fellow artist-traveler Joyce Gabriel, and I was impressed with the many thoughtful and unique features, and how all of it folded up into one neat little package to fit inside her everyday backpack.

P.S. If you have extra reading time, check out the rest of Charlie's site for lots of great art coverage, including his latest post on a painter I've long admired, Richard Schmid.  This is a timely post for me personally, as this summer I've been re-reading Schmid's wonderful book, "Alla Prima" (also available in a more  affordable paperback) and doing the color charts he recommends (incredibly enlightening!)  You also might enjoy Joyce's posts and pics on her trip to France . I met Joyce at Le Vieux Couvent where I'll be teaching my own workshop next spring.

Oil painting substrates; Multimedia Artboard

plein air painting board

The last few paintings I've featured from my recent France travels are done on Multimedia Artboard. I posted about this surface before when I was getting ready for my trip, and I thought I'd write a little more about it as a follow up. I really enjoyed this surface, especially for traveling and painting en plein air. For one thing, it is very thin, so you can pack a good number of these boards and not take up a ton of room in your suitcase. You can also cut the board to size very easily with either a guillotine-type paper cutter or an exacto knife.

In fact, it is so lightweight that when I first ordered this material I thought I had been sent the wrong product. I was expecting a board, and what I got was something that seemed more like a rigid watercolor paper. I even called the manufacturer to ask about it. I will say that the manufacturer was extremely helpful, and was almost at a point where he was willing to ship me some board from his own stock so that I'd have some for my trip, even though I hadn't originally purchased it from him. But he told me, "If it's my board it should be very rigid. In fact, it will shatter if you try to bend it." Sure enough, when I put it to the test, it did.

That's the one thing to be careful of with this product--but protect the corners in travel and don't drop it from a balcony, and you should be fine. It has a rough side and a smoother side to it, so you have a choice on which side to paint, depending on your needs. I also like that it accepts a variety of media--watercolor, acrylic AND oil. It can accept oils either as is, or primed, if you wish, with gesso. I double primed mine, but it was a little slick, so I think next go around I'll try it unprimed to see what that's like.

While the board is rigid, because it is thinner than a "board", I taped mine to a larger board (gatorboard or coroplast) to give me a stronger work surface.  For framing, I can simply pop it in a frame backed by a sturdier board and it's ready to go.

I am finding the Multimedia Artboard much easier to mount and frame after the fact than the other surface I took with me, a fine-weave primed linen. And while linen has luxurious qualities all its own, I can easily and happily see myself going back and forth between these two surfaces for my plein air painting travels.

Plein air panels for travel

This whole week I've been walking around telling myself that I was leaving for France in two weeks. What I realized today is that I'm actually leaving in a week. Ack! :-0 Yes, I have been known to fall down the worm-hole of time unless I am stringent about staying on a schedule. Many distractions at home have gotten me off of that lately, and here I am wondering where the time went! So since I've nothing much to say about the all the new work I've not done lately, I thought I'd still at least post something useful about traveling with art materials. I've written about this before, but it always seems to take me off guard when I actually have to get down to deciding what I'll take and what I'll leave behind. I'll be traveling to a very rural part of France , (okay, so it's not the jungle! But art supply stores are generally hard to come by in the countryside), so I really want to try not to be in a position of "need' when it comes to my supplies and my gear.

At the same time, I can't pack "everything but the kitchen sink", because for this trip I will be traveling solo to and from my destination. My husband, who named himself "Le Pack Mule" during our travels abroad, is sitting this one out (I can't imagine why? ;-) ) This means I have to be able to carry everything without relying on batting eyelashes for assistance. I haven't fleshed out my complete supply list, but my obvious "must haves" are also the things that can cause the most weight-- the easel and the painting substrates. Since it's been pointed out to me that I've spent so much time lately talking about easels, I'll mix it up by addressing the substrates:

Lightweight but still archival

I'll be painting on location for anywhere from 7 to 10 days. I really have no idea of an exact itinerary, but I always try and plan for the max. It is certainly possible to buy canvases overseas, (Hello? France? Home of the Impressionists!) but the problem is that since we've never gotten on board with the metric system here in the U.S., I'd have to deal with custom framing each non-standard canvas once I got back home.

Canvas mounted on lightweight panel is a better optionfor travel than bulkier stretched canvas. In the past I've used birchboard. It's lightweight and compact compared to many other hardboard options (masonite, plywood, etc.), but if I consider that I may be painting two to four canvases each day, that's a whole lot of birch and the weight and volueme adds up fast.

Gatorfoam (gatorboard) is a great option, in that it is offered in archival form and is also one of the lightest supports available. It is basically a very, very strong foamcore board, offered in a variety of thicknesses.

plein air painting substrates

Picture framers often use Gatorboard, and this is what a lot of plein air painters use as a support for primed linen or canvas. Cheap Joe's and other art supply stores sell various size sheets,  and there are also companies that specialize in making panels of this material. But even if you make your own panels with this material, it can be pretty expensive when you start to consider any amount of quantity, and then there is the bulk of carting it all overseas.

One of the newer materials on the market is Coroplast. Coroplast is essentially corrugated plastic, and like Gatorfoam, it is extremely lightweight. However, while not as inexpensive as plywood, Coroplast is more economical than the Gator.

plein air painting panel substrates

Interestingly Coroplast seems also to be getting the archival nod, and a conservator for the National Gallery of Art has noted that it is virtually inert in terms of interference with the substrate. I've also found references to the use of Coroplast on art and museum conservator sites for packing and storing fine art. The biggest beef with Coroplast for a plein air panel seems to be the fluted corrugation between the sheets of plastic. The fear from conservators is that over time the canvas, if mounted directly onto Coroplast without an intermediate barrier, would adopt this same fluting texture.

...Enter Multimedia Artboard

Multimedia Artboard is another somewhat new material, designed to be an archival substrate for a variety of media from watercolor to acrylic to oil. I've seen several references to the use of this product by traveling plein air painters. This board is made of paper and epoxy resin and unlike canvas, it is rigid but extremely thin and lightweight:

plein air painting board

It has a smooth side and a textured side, both of which can be painted on. For oil painting, the common practice seems to be to gesso the board for a less absorbent surface ( though the company claims compatibility with oils without gessoing) and then clamp, mount, or to tape it to a larger piece of coroplast or gatorboard for painting on site. Since this surface is pretty thin, it would need to be backed or mounted to some kind of board with an archival, reversable adhesive before framing.

I've ordered some of this Multimedia Artboard and have a funny story about it that I'll save for another time. I had hoped to experiment a lot with this material prior to my departure, but given my current life pattern this may not happen! So here's the plan: I'm taking a number of pieces of gessoed MMAB as well as pre-primed linen in various sizes; all of which I will tape or clamp temporaily to a larger firm support of Coroplast on location. (I'm going for the Coroplast because it won't dent if clamped- Gatorfoam might.) Any painting could then be backed or mounted in a more permanent way if I want to frame it up at home.


  • Multimedia Artboard ( I chose 16x20 sheets, which could be cut down to a variety of sizes- 8x10, 11x14, 6x8, 9x12, 12x16, etc.) Sources: Multimedia ArtBoard's site, Jerry's Artarama, Dick Blick (to name a few)
  • Gesso (for above- any art supply store)
  • Primed linen canvas, (many sources for this) cut to size (allow about 2 inches on all sides if you want to stretch the canvas when you return home, or 1/4 to 1/2 inch all around for shrinkage if you intend to glue these to a panel.)
  • One 14x18 or 16x20 inch Coroplast board to use as a firm support for paintings on location. Sources: Check local sign companies- they may be willing to sell blank sheets. Otherwise there are online suppliers for this.
  • Painter's tape and/or clamps (for temporarily adhering substrate to support)

Don't feel like doing it yourself back home? You can get prepared lightweight panels from commercial sources. Here are just a few:


Wind River Arts

New Traditions Panels

Raymar (not as light as other options, but less costly and still much lighter than plywood. BTW- makes great, lightweight wet panel carriers out of --you guessed it! Coroplast!)