View Full Version : Plein Air - Best Practices for Setup?

05-20-2007, 08:06 PM
I've been doing pastels en plein air for a few years, and when it's going well, I love it. Still, the setup is so cumbersome. Comments are welcome:

Easel: I've got a Jullian half-box. Setup and striking is a bit cumbersome, but not too bad. It stands fine, adjusts fine. The center drawer is useless, adds weight, but I can't figure out anything I would put in there without feeling that it would fall right out. I've considered a large sketch easel from WN or from Mabef, but neither more than a pound or so lighter, and both are flimsier. The Soltek seems interesting, but it's expensive and reviews have been somewhat mixed. A Jullian full box would be heavier, but maybe I could store the pastels more securely in what appears to be a far better drawer.

Box o' Pastels: Usually, I start with either a 50-kit of Girault (if I want to travel light and do the whole painting with one type of pastel), or a 48-kit of Prismacolor with a few 72-boxes of Unison (for these, I'll carry a roll-up table). Usually, either setup is fine. When I'm working at the tripod without the table (my Girault setup), the box is balanced on the sticking-out part of the drawer. When a wind gust comes along, the pastels can fall.

Drawing Surface and Ground: I had Home Depot cut some lightweight masonite in 2' x 3' sheets. They cost me $2 each, and they're terrific. I tape a sheet of Wallis from one of her large pads before I leave the house. Works great. Often, I carry the drawing board with paper attached in the easel; the Jullian is designed to be used this way, and although it's a bit awkward, it saves a hand and is stable enough.

With this setup, it is (a) nearly impossible to move from car to site in one trip (even with a rolly cart); (b) the wind is a devil; (c) there's no easy way to tote a bottle or water or (as my family loving calls them) my baby butt wipes (I keep these in the car-- they are wonderful for quick cleanup on location); and (d) sometimes, the box of pastels falls to the ground. I'm certainly willing to go back to the car for my roll-up picnic table, but even without that, setup and schlepping is my least favorite part of the pastel experience.

So, I keep wondering whether to replace the easel and box with a photo tripod and Heilman setup; carry the pastels differently (even with the box of 50, which is half the size of a small notebook computer); forget the whole thing and just work indoors; or shut up and stop complaining.

Please send your comments, ideas, and experiences.


Kathryn Wilson
05-21-2007, 12:01 AM
Let me see if I can help - I think plein air painting set up is an on-going evolution for each artist, so don't get discouraged.

EASEL: Pros: I actually use a W&N sketch easel that is so easy to carry, holds larger or smaller boards equally well, and it is so light and the legs fold really easy. Cons: no shelf for my pastels, so I use a small folding camp table. This has worked well for me. I HATE carrying a french easel out into the field and fiddling with those awful legs.

PASTELS: I like Giraults for plein air, but they lack some very important colors (lights mostly) - so will be looking into adding to that set. I am also into doing an underpainting, so have to add paints/inks/watercolor/water to the mass of things to pack.

PAPER: I just tried out the Kitty Walls small boards for plein air and LOVE them. No extra board to carry, just throw it onto the easel and away you go.

So, you see, some things I have solved and some things I need to hone. I still find my W&N sketch easel to be the best for me. It comes in a sturdy bag with a strap, my camp table comes in a bag and is easy to carry. Oh, yes, I bought a small cart to take all this with me and it does its job well.

Donna T
05-21-2007, 09:11 AM
I'm just getting started with plein air so I'm glad you started this thread. I know my equipment needs improving and my set-up is not good for long hauls, but so far this is what I have:

Easel: A Feather easel that was one of several free gift choices when I placed a large order with Jerry's. It's lightweight and easy to carry in its case.

Pastels/Box: I carry an assortment of pastels in one of those plastic Art Bins with all the divided compartments and a separate tin of NuPastels.

Surface/Paper: I use a piece of masonite too and tape either Wallis or Art Spectrum to it. I carry extra paper in an 11x14 pad of tracing paper that is held closed with a clip. I put the finished painting between the sheets of tracing paper so it doesn't smudge.

I put everything that will fit in a Creativo bag - it has lots of pockets and zippered sections and a big shoulder strap so it's not too bad to carry. I carry a folding garden bench, kind of heavy, to set my pastels on when I'm working. When I get tired I move the pastels and set myself on it. I also carry a backpack for the extras. I hope to get the smaller Heilman box and their easel attachment someday. I would also like to find some sort of lightweight stool. I'd like it to sit up higher than a lawn chair and it would have to hold my box of pastels. My avatar picture is from my first plein air experience. I went with an oil painter friend to a nearby farm. That green blob between me and my easel is a peacock. Boy, are they noisy! I had a great time painting but was not prepared to be screamed at the whole time!

Donna T

05-21-2007, 09:37 AM
I use foam core as a board. Its very light

05-21-2007, 09:49 AM
Depending on the day, I have a few options for pastel plein air set up.

If it's a full day of painting then I take my full Julian easel. The drawers hold two artbin boxes that hold alot of pastels and it's very sturdy. The wood palette works as a shelf to put the pastels on that you're using. I paint on boards mostly but usually have the full box of pastels in the car along with an assortment of papers - just in case.

Sometimes I take my pochade that mounts on a tripod - with one box of pastels and some oil paint and decide when I get there. This all fits on my bike too. If it's pastels - the pastel box fits inside the pochade where the palette area is. You can set up a pochade to only hold pastels but I just keep my pastels in a separate box. The ultimate would be to have one pochade for pastels and one for oil. Take a look here: http://www.artworkessentials.com/

When going to a park where I'm sure there are picnic tables or at least a bench, I bring a bag - sort of like a briefcase - with just a pad and charcoal and a box of pastels. This is the least burdensome and works fine if you don't have a problem not using an easel.

05-21-2007, 10:43 AM
Well, this is going to be unusual or, perhaps, controversial:

1. Tripod not easel. The photographic industry cannot be beat for making things like this. They even made a rock sack to attach to the legs. You pick up the rocks in the field to prevent the wind from blowing it over. No "head" on the tripod (which can cost an extra $100). If you want a light one, get graphite, but usually a relatively cheap, light, and short-legged tripod will do because we are not using heavy photo equipment. They make tripods with legs that telescope exactly like the Soltek easel incidently. But all this adds expense and is unnecessary

2. Make your own pochade box. When I was in shop class in Junior High School the first thing they taught us was how to make a box. Sure the professisonals make a box out of fancy wood and brass fixing, but so can you if you take the time and you save several hundred dollars. Copy any of the ones on the market. Even if you bought some tools, it would be cheaper.

3. Umbrella and clamp: from the photo industry or else for the baby carriage (a clamp unbrella from WalMart or something like that.) This is the most overlooked thing in plein air equipment. It is never intregrated into the system.

One thing that I did to intergrate the umbrella was to take a tripod and first put a thick dowel (like the diameter of a boomstick) into the tripod's center hole. At the top I made an arrangement for clamping an umbrella: umbrella and clamps from B&H, the photo store --all made my Manfrotto the tripod manufacturer. At the top of the tripod at waist level I cut a piece of wood and drilled a hole in it that the dowel could go through as close to the edge as I could and reinforced the hole because I used thin wood. On this flat piece of wood I put my pastels in cardboard boxes. Midway up the dowel I made a shelf for a support with paper. I works well in the field and is minimal equipment.


05-21-2007, 10:49 AM
It's probably far from the best, Maybe it's a good exmple of how NOT to do it but here 'tis anyway. (see photo)

I use a regular French easel (about 9#). I added the metal wing shelves on both right and left side. I carry these disassembled inside the easel. I forgot where I got them mailorder.

I carry my pastels in plastic boxes filled with rice which acts as buffer and helps clean the pastels. The boxes are laid out on the shelves. I use the open drawer with a paper towel liner as my "pallette. I use 1/2 inch chunks of Mount Vision pastels. They act like big sized brushes which help me avoid my tendency to get involved into too much detail. The plastic boxes came with the ArtBin zipper carrying bag. Sometimes if I feel the need to have more pastels I will bring a bigger set in an ArtBin box that has 3 trays which I can set out on the ground. I load all this junk in my cart (which has a fold out seat) that I got last year on sale at Jerrys. I found out about it here on WetCanvas and it was just the thing because I have to sit when I paint. It's not a setup that would work if you have to travel by air.

I usually do small sketches and take photo references to use later for larger works in the studio. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and my road is well paved. I did frame some of the better sketches though.

Chasing the Light - Pingree Park CO. Sept.06

A few years ago -- 50 yards to the left in this photo -- I had an encounter with an angry mama moose with her yearling calf. Then papa moose came along too. :eek:


05-21-2007, 11:52 AM
mine is not the best but
has worked for me over 35 years

Kathryn Wilson
05-21-2007, 11:58 AM
Yup, mine is very similar to Dan's. One thing is important here - if you are painting in parks, you can carry heavy equipment, but if you are hiking trails or climbing over rocks and fallen trees, you need to go as light as possible. It all depends on how "in the wild" you paint.

05-22-2007, 02:25 AM
Well now I must say I tend to do little plein air - mostly because I'm allergic to the sun (I can burn right through denim, and then itch like crazy - guess that's what comes from living in the great NorthWET!). I also have disk and joint disease in my lower back which makes "in the wild" not so easy if I have to walk very far or uphill.

However, I do enjoy painting outside, and have finally found a solution that works for me. It is very similar to what ColorofMagic (Jim) uses. I too have Jerry's Art Cart. I had to reinforce some seams, but it is otherwise very sturdy for my purposes. I have both a full and half plein aire French easel, but use the half size as it fits easily into the pack of the art cart, leaving room for a roll of paper towel, a can of spray fixative, and my large Dakota art box. I work no larger than 9 x 12 outside, and can fit my specially made backing board into the cart too. That board is thin masonite that has single cell foam glued to it (think camping ground covers for under sleeping bags - my "boy scouts" have long since stopped needing them, and I have several sizes for my use. It cleans up easily, is a nice soft surface to work upon, and tape doesn't tear the surface as it does foam core.) I hate to sit to paint, and even though my back sometimes says othewise I still prefer to stand. That leaves the seat portion of the art cart for me to place my open Dakota pastel box upon. I may have to give in and buy a small folding seat some day, but until then if necessary I look for a big rock of fallen log to sit on.

I long ago learned I don't need every color in my studio to paint outside. I've broken various brands of pastel into 1/2inch pieces, and there's more than enough of them in the box. I seldom finish a plein aire piece on site. The light changes way too quickly so I take mulitple photos before I start, and don't work on any one piece more than two hours. Then I can finish it in the studio - or on rare occassions I return to the same site at the same time of day to finish it. However, depending upon the weather to be the same two days in a row isn't very practical here.

One thing I do that saves space is I use a wet washcloth stored in a plastic bag rather than "wet ones" or "baby butt wipes" to clean my hands. There is also room for sun screen, bug spray, a bottle of drinking water, and sheets of paper precut to about 9x12 (a quarter sheet of Art Spectrum or Le Carte) in the pack portion of the art cart.

Hope some of these ideas will help you.


05-29-2007, 04:50 AM
Hi all - just a thought on the storage and seating issue; I don't know if you have them in the States but in Britain you can very easily buy a small rucksack that has a metal frame encompassing a small fold-out stool. The side pockets are easily accessible when sat down. Seems to cover the problem of transport, storage and seating in one go!!!!!

Piper Ballou
05-29-2007, 11:15 AM
This is a great thread, I will be going camping next month and was thinking I need to take a plein air set up...

great information

05-30-2007, 03:33 AM

I got an Anderson Swivel Easel and yanked out the inside dividers with pliers (that was fun!) and then sanded the sort of roughened spots where the dividers were. I measured and made 4 little boxes out of foam core and matte gel medium to make them water resistant so I could wash them out if I needed. For lining those little boxes, I used the Cushion Grip Shelf Liner and cut into pieces to fit in the foamcore boxes, and also a sheet for the bottom of the easel area. I also got some 1/2 inch high density foam and cut in one piece to cushion all the boxes. I then broke a lot of my pastels into smaller bits, so I could get more colors in, and that worked great for my last excursion, and it didnít look like the pastels shifted at all during transport. I got an ArtComber bag/chair combination to haul it around in, but I also got a big art backpack that was about $6 on closeout at a local Hobby Lobby - it wasn't quite big enough to put the easel in, but I cut open the top, and added several inches of denim in to expand the space and so far, just used safety pins to secure it. It was pretty easy to haul around - at least no worse than my normal work backpack, and I can foresee this will come in very handy. For a backer board, I just used a smaller masonite drawing board that I could attach to the backpack or ArtComber and that worked really well. It was one of the quickest setups I've ever had - about 2 minutes max. I've have a regular Julian easel, and it is way faster, lighter and easier than that.

Iíve also been thinking about getting a screen shelter setup that I noticed at Costco for what looked like about $50. It probably wouldnít work for most plein air excursions, but might help on some. I have easel umbrella somewhere, too, but I have to find it again.

Hope this helps and might give you some additional ideas. :)

06-05-2007, 02:08 PM
Boy, was I glad to find this thread. I had logged on with the intention as asking these very questions. I want to take a weekend workshop where I will need these items and had NO idea where to begin. I'd also like to go outside and try plein air (after the workshop) since my new home is in a very scenic area out in the county. Thanks so much for all the helpful information.


06-05-2007, 09:00 PM
thin masonite that has single cell foam glued to it (think camping ground covers for under sleeping bags - my "boy scouts" have long since stopped needing them, and I have several sizes for my use. It cleans up easily, is a nice soft surface to work upon, and tape doesn't tear the surface as it does foam corePeggy

hi peggy, I had always wanted to pad my drawing board with something other than newsprint, as it tears and gets dings which show up on my painting. tell me more of this foam, is it like craft foam? would that work? I may just get some to try, I just can't seem to get happy using a hard board under my sanded, or any type, of papers. pix would be nice *hint hint!*

here is my drawer from my mabef f/e. it IS heavy and cumbersome, but I don't go trekking with it, if i want to do that, I grab a sketchbook, and either an ink pen or 10 w/c pencils in my pockets. otherwise, I want to bring all my goodies, as I hate not having something that would help me. can use all the helps i can get! I use the art-cart as well, but do not put the easel into the big bag, i use that for my papers and drawing board, which is around 13x 17, so i can strap plenty of 12x16 papers on and not have them beat up. i use bankers' clips for that usually, tape too if the wind is a problem (and in sd, its ALWAYS a problem!) i just use bungie straps and make the easel ride on the front of the bag, resting on a bar that is on the bottom of the cart. then i have those cords handy if i want to weigh down the easel--bungies are very handy in the field for many things! and cheap too! then i also have a small backpack for the extras--wipes, sketchbooks, hat, water, bug spray and sunscreen. it sounds like alot, and if you were scaling mountains, it would be--but in general, i'm fairly sturdy myself and can schlep this gear quite a ways over bumpy ground, and enjoy when i reach for something, i can find it.

06-07-2007, 05:28 PM
Chewie I think she's talking about those blue things that roll up; dense foam that goes under your sleeping bag and are supposedly better than sleeping on the bare ground.

06-08-2007, 01:25 PM
I bought a 9 x 12 guerilla painters box this Spring to move into outdoor painting and hopefully take some workshops. After getting the basic box, I tried to figure how I might put my pastels inside.

The box did not easily accomodate the pastels I wanted to take. My goal was to make the transition from my studio setup to my plein aire setup as economical as possible. Since the bulk of my painting will be in the studio I did not want to waste lots of time and energy packing things. I put my pastels in six clear plastic containers (from Rite Aid), sorted by hue. Each container has green 1/2 inch foam in the bottom (from JoAnn's Fabrics) and are perfect for holding pastels without a lot of movement. I store the containers in a drawer to the right of my desk/easel (lower right in photo). When I want to go out, the six containers fit in a small Fishermen's soft tackle box (shown in photo below in front of my computer monitor). I use the space in the guerilla box for my other stuff. The lid easily accomodates additional paper.

Additionally, after getting the box I was not satisfied with the limitation of a 9x12 painting and how the support rested low to the box. I solved this by buying Slip-in Easel and Telescoping Easel accessories from Judsons Plein Air Outfitters. I was nervous about spending more money without seeing them in person, but they MAKE this pochade! I love them. An added benefit was the replacement knob that holds the back lid of the box in an upright position is much beefier than the original knob. The Slip-in Easel fits inside the lid and the telescoping easel accessory is permanently mounted to the back of the lid.

1 - Better knob for the hinge.
2 - Slip-in easel fits inside the 9 x 12 lid and has a bottom bracket that raises the support away from the box.
3 - The top of the Telescopic easel slides up and over the support.
Note the pastels in my separate soft bag.

This set up serves as a second easel station in my studio as well.

I haven't gotten an umbrella yet. I know it is an accessory, but I am evaluating other possibilities. I'd like to get a small folding camp table to put beside the tripod when painting. Since I use a mobility scooter, I just swivel my chair around and set the tripod in front of me.


07-07-2007, 07:06 PM
My sister and I did a 3 day jaunt into the Sierras, and thought I would share my set up. I take everything to the site in the Artcomber (thank goodness for the large wheels) and a backpack. I decided to take the pics before I started painting, just to give everyone an idea. I am using the Degas box, aluminum collapsable camp table, lightweight easle. Works well for me.

This is the first picture of myself I have posted here :eek:. One shows the set up, one all the tools of the trade, and one of the pastels only.

My sister (petra) will need to show you hers sometime when she gets the chance.


07-08-2007, 12:23 AM
Great thread!!

I haven't done much plein aire painting yet, and I've tried two systems so far.

first, I used my Julian easel, with a folding camp table for my pastel box, and my paper mounted to a big board. The combination of the wooden easel and my box made for a heavy, bulky set up.

Currently, I don't bother with the easel. I tape my paper to a light-weight Masonite drawing board; the cutout makes it pretty easy to carry, and the clips are handy at times. Spare sheets, if I want them, go in a backpack along with baby wipes, water, rags, lunch, my camera, chocolate, etc. I sit on the ground or a convenient picnic table if I can, otherwise I use my "TravelChair" folding table for my pastel box --the table even has cup holders, if it's cold enough for coffee!--and a folding 3-legged stool. So, I can make it in and out of my car in one trip, since table and stool have shoulder straps and the drawing board and pastel box can be easily carried in one hand.

My biggest problem is my pastel box. It is a Richeson folding box, and it holds a lot--far more than I need to lug around, but it's my whole collection of pastels(about 300-400?) and my only storage container. It is heavy, cumbersome, not easy to fold and unfold, doesn't seal well (I have to use straps to be sure it is closed tight), and the cantilevered sections make it tippy, especially with cats.... Lost a lot of pastels to dust that day! I'm definitely looking to replace it.

This setup can be carried a ways, but not easily, especially if I'm using the larger drawing board. But, I can't walk very far, and tire too quickly to stand while painting , so it generally works. When my paper gets dusty, I just turn the board over and whack it on the ground a bit, and it works for me.


07-12-2007, 09:31 PM
I just made this tripod mounted easel for plein air. I have tested it a little so far but not to any extent. I'll be taking it out this weekend to see how it really works. The picts are of the easel on a mini tripod so I could get everything in the image.

Very light weight at about 3lbs and the tripod weights about 3lbs as well. You can see more picts on the blog (http://michaelrking.blogspot.com)I started.

I take a my box of pastels with me and just put them on whatever I can find. Not the most convenient so I have to figure something out for the box now. :)


09-13-2014, 04:11 PM
3. Umbrella and clamp: from the photo industry or else for the baby carriage (a clamp unbrella from WalMart or something like that.) This is the most overlooked thing in plein air equipment. It is never intregrated into the system.

I lost the C clamp that attaches my unbrella to my easel. Does anyone know where I can buy the clamp only? I called the place where I bought it, but they don't sell it singly. :eek:

09-13-2014, 06:56 PM
Oh that is so frustrating. Maybe a hardware store has one that can be adapted?

09-14-2014, 11:09 AM
Just this last week I finished getting my plein air set up ready. I am anxious to try it all out while the weather is still nice.

I have the Heilman backpack with raised easel, a Best Brella, a MeFoto tripod and a new art bag (purple) to hold the Heilman and all the misc. stuff. I can carry this all pretty easily as it weighs only 10 lbs. I also bought the Art Comber chair with wheels in case it becomes too heavy and of course to sit.

After I set this up I decided the MeFoto tripod was not sturdy enough even though there is a hook on the bottom of the center shaft to attach something heavy. This is the back packer model and the center column does not retract. So I replaced it with the next size up MeFoto (Roadtrip) and I am much happier. I love how this tripod closes down to 15 inches and weighs just over three pounds! The separate tripod photo is the heavier replacement.

I bought some pastel panels and I think I am ready to go!

09-14-2014, 11:40 AM
Lots of wonderful ideas here! I'll contribute my humble solution to two problems, the paper towels that blow away and the need for a value finder. Instead of paper towels, I wear a fingerless glove made from an old sock. Cut off the toe, cut a hole for your thumb, and you have plenty of surface to clean off pastel sticks. For a value finder, I bought a cheap red plastic visor from Amazon. It's so handy to just duck your head and check values without having to stop and hunt for the other value finder.

09-14-2014, 11:19 PM
Julie, your setup is awesome. I had an Art Comber chair/cart and really liked it but didn't get a chance to use it before I had to move. So it is in storage in Arkansas where it may cost more to ship it than order a new one. Arrgh! My only problem with that was it didn't have a model with arms on the chair. Lawn chairs with arms are better for me.

Did you exchange the light weight tripod or still have it? I had a tripod in Arkansas too and am hoping it'll be in the stuff my daughter sends when she has time to start sending stuff. Love the Heilman with easel attachment and even the purple art bag!

What I have here is something like a Feather easel and a similar umbrella with a rather long pole, both in carry bags. Out in the park they should be fine with my back pack and using my walker or power chair as a seat. I've got a 16" drawing board with clip and big rubber band but found it more convenient just putting an inch of art tape on the bottom of the paper than rubber banding. It doesn't weigh much but it's awkward.

Blayne, that is a cool idea with the old socks! I have a different solution. I bring towels - current favorites are a pack of 28" square white cotton towels, not terry cloth but that crinkly cotton and they might have started out 30" before washing repeatedly. I get one end wet at a water fountain or with a water bottle and use the wet end to wash hands, dry end for cleaning pastels and drying hands. I usually bring a couple of them on clinic visits and toss the dirty ones into the walker carry basket, then into the laundry once home.

I love the idea of the red plastic visor. That is so practical, just tilt your head down and both the art and scene are reduced to values! Perfect! I was thinking of making red cellophane glasses out of used 3D glasses - just remove the green lens and replace with a red one combining two pairs. But the visor needs no changes and is permanent, not as flimsy! Was trying to think of ways to do Red Sunglasses to do value checks! Too bad they don't have red clip-ons that flip up like they do for sunglasses to go over regular ones. Those would be a great plein air tool.

09-15-2014, 01:08 AM
I exchanged the backpacker MeFoto for the Roadtrip. It was the first time I had done an exchange on Amazon. I just logged on, printed the shipping label and dropped the package off at my local UPS store. It was just $4 for return shipping and my account was credited only an hour after dropping off the package! That's amazing customer service!

I seriously am crazy about the MeFoto tripods. I made my living as a professional photographer and with that I guess I became a gadget collector. I have a fabulous carbon fiber Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff Ball head. It cost me well over $1,000 but I am liking my MeFoto even more. It's lighter, half the length when folded and under $200 with the all head and carry case! I am using it with just the Heilman easel attachment for a spare easel in the house. I can move it around so easily, fits as a table top too. I use it for my camera and projector and it's so compact it fits in my purse or the purple art bad I showed earlier! Ok...enough about the tripod.

I hope you get your tripod back soon Robert. I like how creative you are about making so many different light weight kits. That really is the key. If it's too much work I won't do it!

I am enjoying this thread. Carol I like your folding table, it's like you have a full studio with you!

09-15-2014, 08:49 AM
Great thread!
I have signed up for a 2-day plein aire workshop with Frank Federico next month, and because of my newer disabilities have not done plein aire in about 6 years.
I'm trying to figure out how to bring the least amount of stuff...used to carry a folding chair and folding table, with a small easel set on the table. And whatever supplies I needed...pastels, towels, hand cleaner, etc....
Not sure how I'm going to manage this time...I do have a rollator, but not sure I can use it over the hilly terrain. Should be interesting...

09-15-2014, 11:02 AM
Julie, that's awesome! I just wondered because tripods are so expensive. I think mine will be all right with what I do, and when I get it I've also got a pochade kit to assemble that has the pressure plate thing to attach. It'll be great once I get it all together.

Judi, good luck on the rollator - actually that's what my walker is, it's a rollator with rather large wheels. I could probably take it out on hills but it might be tricky on broken ground on hills. I tend to pick it up over obstacles. Hard to balance what you need to have with you and the need to carry it. The Art Comber might be a good choice. Its wheels are pretty large and the chair's built in, all you'd need is the table or tripod and supplies. I still like my cotton gauze - sort of like gauze, a little firmer weave than that but still loose weave - towels. They don't take as much space as paper towels.

I've got a smallish wooden paint box that I got on sale at Blick, basically free as it was the cost of the free shipping and I tossed it in to get free shipping. Need to get it foam lined and see what assorted pastels will fit in there.

09-15-2014, 11:17 AM
Robert, thanks for your wet/dry towel idea. I read it in another thread several months ago and use it at home. About the red glasses, I was looking for those when I ran across the red visor on Amazon. Flip-up red ones would be neat and that was exactly what I wanted and didn't find.

SAS Designs
09-15-2014, 12:03 PM
Getting ready to do plein air, haven't for physical reasons, but feeling better now. SO, Heilman backpacker, and just putting together the new Mabef 27 mini with these arms which seem to be made to hold the backpacker.
Fingers crossed. Back surgery years ago, so weight also has to be minimal.
Been using stone walls around where I live as "seating" so far. Need to look up the things you're describing for when I really venture out.
JudiB - workshop sounds so exciting. Good luck.

HELP, PLEASE. Everytime I try to do something on WC, like add this thread to my favorites, I get a ERROR 404, and then have to sign off, and on again.Using Firefox. Are others having these problems getting error messages after doing anything on WC?

09-15-2014, 02:40 PM
If you haven't already, put your Mabef easel in an extra chair bag, so it will sling over your shoulder. Those chairs don't last long, but their bags work much longer!

I have a three leg stool, with a back attached, that I love, but is so awkward to carry. Need to pull out a chair bag for that.

Here I am painting last year. I tend to work on my lap if it's small and only use the light easel to put it on when I walk away for some distance.


I was painting a sushi set up inside the restaurant.

The little wooden table is from Ikea and was less than $10. (Lately, I bring a bungie to make sure it is hooked in place for staying up, but that works fine.) The pastel set on the left is from an old Rembrandt box and has over 100 pastels/chips. The other is Polychromos.

I also have a similar metal table from WalMart and it was only $10.

This shows how cheap a set up can be and it can take just one trip from the car.

I do aspire to a Heilman on my Mabef with arms or with my camera tripod, but this is cheap and easy until then. I wish I could stand for long periods to paint, but I am unable, well actually unwilling, so this works.

09-15-2014, 03:17 PM
Well, my post above showed up. Nevermind. Can I delete this one?

09-15-2014, 04:21 PM
Bonnie ,that is so cool. That IS the little wooden table I had and missed so much. It folds up flat and is just the right height when seated. I found the metal one at Walmart online but it's $20 ish, not just ten. Frustrating, that. I used to get the $10 canvas chairs with arms too and loved those - a bit big to carry but very comfortable.

My rollator works just fine for it now though so the table's the big thing.

09-15-2014, 05:37 PM
I've seen the metal ones are still available in the store - sorry about the price - I've had it for years. I like that the wooden one is softer, less jagged, even if it has a little less surface area. I've had the wooden one over a dozen years, don't know if it's still available. The nice thing with both is how they fold flat and tuck away, until I find another use for them!

I didn't mention that I often use Pastelbord when I paint outdoors and I transport them covered in glassine in a medium-sized fabric bag, which will have a bag inside for my lunch and water. The larger bag would usually have several options to paint on, individual wet wipes, individual bug wipes (when I have them), a pencil bag with a pastel pencil for drawing, plus a white eraser, small notebook, pencil sharpener, etc. I usually have a few kitchen-sized towels and wash clothes or (unused) cotton diapers and an apron if I remember it. If doing underpainting, the list just gets longer. :)

09-15-2014, 05:45 PM
I bought this American Tourister rolling tote (http://www.walmart.com/ip/American-Tourister-Atmosphera-Black-Rolling-Tote/20469675), which is only $40 at Walmart, and have been using it for transport lately. It is large enough to hold a Heilman; it would be more of a squeeze for a Dakota. For me, it holds the cardboard boxes I paint from and Pastelbords, plus the front has two zippered pouches. On top, there is plenty of room to bunjie on the Ikea table, my chair, an easel, etc. I like how well it moves across various grounds and how strong/smooth the pull up handle is.

09-15-2014, 08:07 PM
Oh that is awesome. I'm considering it, because maybe it could go with my power scooter. It's a big problem with the power scooter hauling the drawing board but if that could go up like the table it'd really work.

Eh, the table is the big thing. Next month maybe. This month I blew it all on new pastels and paint. lol

09-16-2014, 08:56 AM
Sounds great, Bonnie...I am considering getting one for my 'outing'....what size did you get?

09-16-2014, 12:25 PM
I got the exact one that the link goes to.
American Tourister Atmosphera Black Rolling Tote
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 14.0 x 8.5 x 15.0

09-16-2014, 02:11 PM
Thanks, Bonnie....there were 3 different sizes listed, so I wasn't sure...

09-16-2014, 02:58 PM
There are a bunch of "other items purchased" that are confusing, but that linked page is just for purchasing the one I got.

One thing I like is that the whole front zips downward to be completely open on the top and the front side, so it's easy to load awkward stuff. I can't wait to use it with a Heilman Backpacker. Sometimes, I don't have the top zipped closed, if I have the umbrella or easel sticking out. It's still fine b/c stuff will bunjie around it.

At present, I have a cheap, wooden box with a lid from Michael's and it has my pastels in boxes and field watercolor supplies. The wooden box is much like this one, which is 8.5" x 12" x 4" (http://www.michaels.com/artminds-wooden-photo-box/10385255.html), but mine is a bit more square. I use an elastic to hold it together for a cheap pochade-ish set up. Mine is also Artminds, but it's 10x12.5x3.25 and it was less than $10. It holds my Rembrandt box of mixed pastels, the Polychromos, my Windsor Newton travel watercolors, brushes, a blow up water bucket, pencils, pens, etc. (I used this box first in carry on luggage on an airplane for plein air in the Caribbean. I just put a pad of paper in the elastic on the outside and it was a great set up.)

The front pouch on the rolling bag is large enough to carry my set of Great American Darks and my "Instructor Samples" box holding 30 Ludwigs, plus there's more room. I use the mesh zipper inside pocket and the outside smaller pocket for business cards and keys.

As you can tell, I have been substituting rather inexpensive items for a pretty successful plein air set that is very portable. I don't remember how much the travel easel or umbrella was, but the bag was $40, the chair $15 max at Dick's, the table $10 max, the box $10 max, plus misc bungies.

SAS Designs
09-16-2014, 04:02 PM
Bonnie - I NEVER (nevah, I used to live in Bawsthan ;-) thought of taking my little IKEA tables outside. Perfect. I have 3, for inside,love them.
Will have to look for a stool with a back. Saw a friend with one, round bottom ( those triangle shapes do NOT work for my pear shape) she got at Target years ago.
Also wonderful idea for the old camping chair carrier. I know just where mine is too. Suzy

09-16-2014, 05:33 PM
Hi Suzy,
Watch the little aluminum clip that keeps the Ikea table open will bend out of shape. I use a bunjie for that, too, looping it from the bottom brace to the top on the other side.

This is my second triangle stool; my old one had a hook handle, so it was like a walking cane when folded up and I liked that. This one compresses in an odd way and the strap becomes too long to be able to carry it over your shoulder, but I don't find the triangle seat uncomfortable. Now to pull out a chair bag to make carrying that easier.

It might be a good time of year for you to scout out sales on camping supplies. I liked the folding chairs we used to have that didn't have arms to impede movement for painting. I like how the tripod one with a back has a water holder and is sturdy enough in the back to hold the umbrella.