Author: Phil_Levine, Contributing Editor
Planning your next overseas plein air
painting trip can be quite daunting if you have never done this before. Drawing
from my experience as an organizer of painting tours to France since 1993, I can
tell you that most of your problems or questions can and should be addressed
before you take that first step. I'd like to share a few tips with you and
answer any other questions that you might have.
|To begin with, you should take precautions when carrying your art supplies onto airplanes. This was always an issue, but now, since 9-11, it is more important than ever. Security at check-in is your first hurdle. Even though our oil paints are not flammable you may have the bad fortune of running into a security guard at X-ray that will not understand this. In my 9 years of organizing painting tours there have only been two incidents of security guards confiscating art materials (tubes of paint). Those two people never got their supplies returned to them and had to stock up at local stores in France to go ahead with the workshop.|
|One of my instructors actually carries copies of letters written by the CEO's of several major art supply manufacturers. The letters state that the paints are non-flammable. |
I still wouldn't attempt to carry my paints onto the plane. Guess I don't want to lose my investment. Now I tell people to check their paints in with their luggage and just carry on their easels. Make sure that your easel is one of those that can fold to fit in the overhead luggage compartments or under the seat. Nothing can be left loose and the airlines are getting very strict about all aspects of flying. Don't even put your brushes in the easel as security guards are taking anything away that could be perceived of as weapons. If you paint in watercolors and have them in tubes I would still be careful about where you decide to put them.
When was the last time a plane was hijacked by an artist? We all know this would be a very long shot, but because of the security regulations, some new and some old, we all have to be on the alert for those that might try to use ordinary tools as weapons against us. Who would have thought a bomb would or could be carried inside someone's shoe?
|Now let's deal with your choice of materials. I have one gripe; well, kind of a gripe. Why would you come all the way to France and pay all that good money and limit yourself to painting only on one size canvas? I know lots of people don't share these feelings, but it still amazes me that people would consider taking a pochade box and not be able to paint any picture larger than 8 X 10!|
Now, I must say that some of the artists I most respect never travel overseas with anything larger than one of these boxes. It's mighty tempting to take one. It's highly portable, you can carry a number of wet paintings in them; and it's so easy to set up and take down.
When I lived in Colorado and took my painting trips to Manhattan, I would bring a pochade box and do maybe 30 little canvases in two weeks, then use them to make larger paintings back in the studio, or just frame them and put them in 'miniature' shows. People do like to buy those little fellers!
|No more for me. Now it's the 1/2 box French Julian easel and that's after trying everything else on the market. Or at lease seeing people use other equipment. I determined that even some of the new high tech easels were no big improvement over the French easel. They had certain attractive features, but lacked other fundamental qualities that ol' Julian has. Some people love to paint using an umbrella shading their canvas from the sun. There are a number of options for you. Some of the art supply mail order houses like Dick Blick and ASW list them in their catalogues. There are also places to get them much cheaper, like recreation stores that sell items for the beach. A cheap umbrella is made with an equally cheap thumb screw to attach the umbrella onto your French easel. I've seen resourceful artists buy umbrellas and durable mounts at photography supply stores. The umbrellas are generally smaller, but do the job. I haven't used an umbrella for years, instead prefering to set up my easel at an angle where the sun is not shining on it. Seems like paintings painted with the glare of sun on the canvas never look the same once you bring them inside.|