View Full Version : Could use some advice

08-25-2003, 01:32 PM
Could I get some advice from those of you who use pastels for Plein Aire painting?

I've done B&W sketching outside but want to take it up to the level of finished painting. I'm primarily an acrylic painter but thought pastels might be a bit simpler to start with in the field. I've used pastels in the studio in the past so I'm already somewhat familiar with them. Question is - what do you recommend for a simple field setup?

To get started I thought I would work from my lap on a drawing board. I want to keep the items I need to a minimum.

Thanks for any advice,

08-25-2003, 02:07 PM
I don't work sitting...so an easel (french type) is best. That way I have a place to sit my pastels out in front of the art...and a french easel can be tilted forward a bit to cause the dust to fall off as you work.

A one piece simple box is better than a lot of separate boxes for your pastels. You don't want to have to reach all over the place and search for colors when painting plein air....time is everything! I also don't take every color...I take a basic light to dark, warm to cool, range of colors (maybe 250 to 300 sticks which are broken in two to take up less space). Since I'm familiar with the "colors" in my area, its easier to put together a box for landscapes. After a few sessions plein air, you'll feel the same way.

You can prepare your paper ahead of time...staple a sheet of Canson or other to foamcore with a sheet of glassine taped over the paper. After you paint, the glassine is ready to fold back over the painting protecting it and you can slip it into a plastic portfolio which is handy to have in your car! I recently purchased a piece of foamcore which is thick...about 3/4 inch. I staple my paper onto this and then pop it onto the easel...the thicker foamcore is sturdier and I don't need another backing! The painting pops right off because the staples are stuck straight into the board. This is cheaper than gator board too!!

Take a towel for wiping your hands and sticks. I keep one hanging in front of me off the front of my easel.

Other than that...it's personal preference as to the gear you'll need. Always have bug spray on hand! and water for drinking!

I've worked a couple of times sitting with my drawing board in situations where I couldn't possibly use an easel. The biggest problem is your arm gets tired holding the board upright! but for a short period time it ok. Standing, you can back away to view the painting...if you're sitting, try looking at a mirror image over your shoulder or use a reducing glass.


08-25-2003, 02:37 PM

Thanks for the quick response.

I have a half-box French easel - bought it from YOU a couple of months ago. Thing is - I want to keep it simple till I get over the gitters, self-conciousness, awkwardness of being "out there".

I like the idea of taping the glassine over the paper and storing in a portfolio. What is glassine and where do I get it? Would just another sheet of paper (or craft paper) be an alternative to the glassine?


Kathryn Wilson
08-25-2003, 03:09 PM
Hi Steve: I am preparing for a trip to Utah and have purchased a pastel binder from Dakota Pastels - it is filled with wonderful art spectrum paper with glassine sheets to go between. The covers are rigid and they fold all the way over to provide the solid surface you are seeking to fit in your lap. I also have the Art Bin pastel field box that stores pastels in individual foam pockets.

Believe me I don't intend on taking an easel to some of the places we are going in Utah - LOL. I just need a solid rock to sit on or carry a small field seat - not sure I can get that in my pack - so that is still in the air.


08-25-2003, 03:49 PM
I've done plein aire a couple of times and I am not a very well organized person, just the basics. For me that was sitting on the ground in one of those baseball seats, you know the flat thing with a backrest, I have an art bin that I just spread out in front of me. I didn't even have a support, just used the pad of the mi teinte paper and kept it on my knees. And of course my clothes got dirty, but pastel doesn't stain. I found I forgot clips even, which were a pain because the wind blew the paper in all directions, so don't forget bull dog clips or some other device to secure your paper. And i use baby wipes to keep my fingers clean and charcoal for the drawing. And I forgot smething to drink even, so that would help.

08-25-2003, 04:58 PM
I've used my French easel or my lap and both work alright. I keep thinking maybe I will get a good, sturdy but lightweight easel I can just put a board onto. Then I can lay my box of pastels on a folding TV stand (which I recently picked up for $1)or a folding stool. It seems like it might be easier and certainly more lightweight.
I think it depends on where you are going. The trick is to strike a balance where you want to be comfortable, have what you need, but if it gets too complicated then you won't go! I keep my French easel in the car now. I never use it in the house anyhow.
Have fun...and let us see what you do!


08-25-2003, 06:18 PM
everyone sorts out their own setup in the end. This is what I do:

Sometimes I use luggage wheels, but more recently I use a rolling handluggage case,(the airline carry-on size) I have with me a wooden box of pastels, with lots inside, plus all the other bits of kit -seat, easel (collapsible aluminium tripod style) pencil case, sketchbook for thumbnails, fixative, and a pack of wet hand wipes. I also take a small plastic tray, the kind you get in a supermarket with vegetables in. This becomes my palette. When I start painting, I take out a dozen or so pastels, the main colours of the scene, and put them into my little tray. This is enough to hold, and if I need more colours (I usually dont) I can pick some more out of my main set, which is on the ground.

I cannot stand for long periods, so when I am tired, I sit on a small aluminium sketching stool, reduce my easel down in size, and rest my drawing board on the top of it, with the base of the board on my knees, so that the base isn't too close to my body (it makes it quite hard to work if the board is too close to your tummy). Sometimes, if that is too wobbly, I put the top edge of the board onto the handle of my luggage wheels, or rolling handluggage case , that works fine.

I clip my paper to a fome-core board, with bulldog clips. Over the top of the paper, I have a sheet of plastic. When I work on my lap, I only unclip the TOP bulldog clips, but leave the bottom ones clipped to the board, and then the plastic paper acts as a kind of apron, to keep my legs clean! This works BRILLIANTLY. When I have finished working, I simply shake off the dust, and then re-clip the plastic back up at the top, and this protects the finished pastel. It works!!!


08-25-2003, 07:09 PM
Thanks everyone for your input. I'll take your suggestions and experiment a bit until I find my own comfort zone.

Kyle, could you tell me where you found the Dakota Pastel Binder you mentioned? I searched at Jerry's and Pearl and didn't get any hits. Sounds interesting - I would like to take a look at it.

Thanks again,

08-25-2003, 07:25 PM
Steve, the binder would come from Dakota Art Pastels:


Have fun there...they have lots of good stuff! I can be pricey though...but they are really nice and have good information and some things you can't find anywhere else.


Kathryn Wilson
08-25-2003, 07:57 PM
Sorry Steve, I should have included the link - here 'tis


I am very pleased with this binder and it is on sale - comes in two sizes.

08-26-2003, 12:59 AM
Thanks Kat and Sandy for the link. I found the binder - the description sounds cool and in a size I would like. I also found spiral pads with interleaved glassine but they were all smallish (9X12 inches).

Thanks everyone for all the good advice. I have a pretty good idea now of what I need to get started. Depending on the outcome of this new adventure, I may be back with some results in a few weeks - barring complete disaster.

Thanks again everyone,