My plein air experiences began with lugging around a heavy, large French easel that tenuously held only one painting on the easel stand. After doing this a couple of times, I decided that I needed a dedicated wet painting carrier that held multiple panels and was lightweight.
I’d like to mention that I’m not getting paid for this recommendation although I wouldn’t be against that. I just think this is a very good, useful product and it could be a good addition to your plein air equipment.
Why use a wet painting panel carrier at all?
To carry and store your wet paintings when plein air painting
It’s a necessary piece of equipment especially when you’re producing multiple paintings
Convenience! It removes the hassle of carrying a wet painting in your hands
Advantages of using the Raymar carrier?
Every company that produces a pochade box most likely makes a wet painting carrier. Sometimes, the panel carrier is incorporated into the pochade box and sometimes it’s an entirely separate item. The problem with both of these options is that they’re heavy. In comes the Raymar wet painting panel carrier. It has 3 slots that can hold six 1/8” painting panels back-to-back (although I only use it for three panels). It’s made of fluted plastic making it lightweight and waterproof.
NOTE: this product holds painting panels not canvases.
As a backpacker, I’m very conscious of how much things weigh and what a drag it is to carry unnecessary weight. This product’s light weight was a big selling point for me. The price depends on the size. I went with the 8” x 10” although they have different size carriers and multi-width carriers. My 8” x 10” set me back $35 (including tax and shipping). This seems a bit pricey for plastic but it’s worth the cost (and convenience) as it’s a very sturdy item.
Above is the Raymar wet painting carrier in action. See the two canvas panels in one slot? It has a velcro closing lid and adjustable strap for easy transport
A dedicated wet painting carrier will simplify your plein air painting process
The Raymar wet painting carrier comes in different sizes (and multi sizes) to hold different size panting panels
One of my paintings is currently on view in an online exhibit at Hoboken Arts. The group show titled “Transformative, Picturing Life after the Pandemic” showcases 40 artists and their interpretation of the theme. Each detail of the artwork includes the artist’s description of the piece and its relationship to the theme. Kudos to Hoboken Arts for using this format as the viewer is able to understand the thought process of the artist and what they’re experiencing during this time. Click here for a detailed view of my painting and description. Click here to view the entire exhibit.
My oil painting titled “Forever” was painted in the early stages of the pandemic. Coincidentally, I had started a series of paintings with the theme of “Isolation” and “Self-Isolation”. This painting deals with isolation in a social setting. I wanted to convey detachment and separation; the figures are together but not interacting with one another. The bar creates a physical separation between two worlds: the world of the patrons and the world of the bar area (or presumably, bartender). The patrons being unaware of what goes on behind the bar.
My painting process
I wanted to create an apathetic mood by using cold blues. I used varying hues and tones of blues and emphasized loose brushwork. The only yellows exist in the figures helping them to stand out against the cool blues of the rest of the scene. To draw the viewer’s attention even further, I added dabs of oranges only on the faces and hands helping to make the figures more relatable.
The show is on view through May 31, 2020
What do you think about the exhibition? Please share your thoughts.
Have you ever worked on a plein air painting only to realize that some serious compositional issues existed halfway through the painting? The purpose of this post is to show you how you can use thumbnail sketches to work out these problems before you lay down any paint.
What are the advantages of using thumbnail sketches?
To quickly sketch different views of the subject matter
To crop a view to make it more visually interesting
Thumbnails help establish a strong composition
They reduce visual elements to values and shapes thereby making the painting process easier
What’s the process for creating thumbnail sketches?
I start with a 5b or 6b drawing pencil which allows me to get a dark black. I quickly sketch a small box (approximately 2”x3”) that’s proportional to the canvas or panel that I’ll be painting on. I sketch loosely and reduce the subject matter to simple, large shapes and tonal values. I limit my sketching time to 3 or 4 minutes to avoid getting bogged down with any detail. Finally, I use this thumbnail to lay out my painting.
Using this method I can create different thumbnails from different angles giving me options to choose from. Additionally, these sketches help me decide what view will work out best as a painting.
Examples of usage
Please note the four thumbnails on the top of this post. I’ve sketched out a couple of thumbnails to choose from. I think the top two are boring . The bottom two have a better composition with a strong focal point. But the bottom-right one is a better value study and I chose this one to create a painting.
Below you can see the quick thumbnail sketch that I used to begin the painting on the right. Looking back, I should’ve better developed the different values in the thumbnail.
How they improve your plein air painting
A thumbnail sketch will quickly show if a view is worth painting
Give the ability to crop or change elements that won’t work in the painting
Help in the painting process by simplifying the view to simple shapes and tonal values
You can quickly rework elements to improve the composition
When painting plein air, use thumbnail sketches to quickly lay out your painting
Sketch out approximately 2”x3” boxes that match the proportions of your painting surface
Work out any compositional issues in the thumbnail
Establish tonal values in the thumbnail that can transferred to the painting
Use the thumbnail to lay out your painting
Do you use thumbnail sketches when painting plein air? How do you avoid compositional problems?
To make a “white” canvas or panel less intimidating to paint
Toning creates a neutral background
It covers the entire surface leaving no areas of blank (white) canvas
How do you tone a canvas for oil painting?
In my experience earth colors work best. My preferred color is Burnt Sienna but I’ve also used Burnt Umber. Additionally, I’ve experimented with Ultramarine Blue and Perylene Red.
I use a rag dipped in Turpenoid. Then I dip the rag into a glob of paint on my palette. Finally, I cover the canvas with a thin layer of that paint. Make sure to let the background color fully dry before you begin painting. If wet, any colors you apply will mix with the background and muddy your colors.
CAUTION: Be careful when using strong colors like Ultramarine Blue or Perylene Red. When I’ve used Perylene Red, I struggled throughout the painting process to tame the strength of that color. This can be very frustrating.
Examples of usage
In the plein air painting above I used a Burnt Sienna background. Although strong colors dominate this painting, you can see hints of the background color through some parts it. Look at the reds as well as the yellows in the lower part of the painting.
“Forever” shows the usage of an Ultramarine Blue background. After my negative experience using Perylene Red, I used this blue background as a foundation for a monochromatic painting. The blue contrasts nicely with the highlights as well as the yellows in the painting.
How it improves your painting
It creates a neutral base that you can build upon
It’s particularly helpful when plein air painting when you’re fighting against time to capture a scene. The neutral background covers the entire panel eliminating the need to cover it with the paint you’re applying.
Tone your canvas to create a neutral background
Use earth colors (Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber)
Be cautious of using strong colors as a background
Toning creates a layer of color that you can build on
Helpful when plein air painting as you have a limited time to paint
Do you tone your canvas? What color(s) do you use? What have been your experiences with toned canvases?
…or mix Titanium White and Ivory Black to make gray? You can, but as a painter you should learn to mix paint:
to expand you understanding of color
to increase your range of color choices
How to start
I prefer Gamblin oil paints (my choice for using Gamblin may be a future post). To get a neutral gray, I start with equal parts Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Titanium White. But I prefer to mix equal parts Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to get a dark, rich gray. I then add small amounts of Titanium White to get the desired tint. My next step is to add small amounts of Burnt Sienna to make a “warm” gray or Ultramarine Blue to make a “cool” gray. Try experimenting to create a range of grays with different values.
Examples of usage
Above is a painting I recently finished. Detail A is an example of a warm gray. Detail B is an example of a cool gray. Since this is a night scene with many light sources, I wanted to emphasize the subtlety of the lighting by using a range of warm and cool grays. If you look at the entire painting, you can see that I’ve created cool colors on the left side to warm colors on the right side. This was done to create different moods.
Detail A shows a warm gray that creates a more interesting contrast in the lights and darks within the painting. It’s this subtlety that we’re trying to achieve.
Detail B shows cool grays that have more blue paint. You’ll notice that there are variations of cool blues within this detail.
How it improves your painting
As a painter, you want to increase your choices by creating a wide range of colors and values. Why settle for one choice (Payne’s gray) when I can mix a multitude of grays and have something that will create more visual interest in my painting.
Learn to mix color to become a better painter
Start with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to mix you initial gray
Add Titanium White to tint the gray
Add Ultramarine Blue to create a “cooler” gray
Add Burnt Sienna to create a “warmer” gray
Use this technique to improve your color range and create different moods within the painting
How do you mix grays in your painting? What colors/techniques do you use?