View Full Version : Going for an OP/Plein Air trip - any tips?

06-09-2007, 02:26 AM
Hi everyone,

It looks like we are heading out to the Badlands, Black Hills and Devil's Tower area (that's western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming) in a few weeks to go camping. I have decided not to lug my oils this time and just focus on OPs as my main medium for the trip.

If anyone has been in this area before, please let me know what the "can't miss" sites are. We're planning on setting up camp somewhere in the middle so we can get to everything pretty easily. Now, on to the OP part :lol:.

I have some Senns, CrayPas Specialists (the whole set) and some Carans. Should I leave the Senns at home? I'm concerned about them melting in the car.

I think I read somewhere that the CrayPas ones hold up pretty well. Can anyone tell me how Carans hold up in the heat? Any tips on keeping them from being little puddles of mush? This happened to me once with those cheap Portfolio watersoluble oil crayons. A couple of hours in a hot car and I had empty tubes of paper and a bunch of puddles!

Regarding support, I was going to bring some 9" X 12" Colourfix papers and whatever other pastel papers I can find around the house and cut those down to size before I go. If anyone thinks these might be too large or small of a size, please let me know. What would be a good interleaving when I stack the finished ones up? Will wax paper do? Again, I'm worried about the hot car effect. I says that July temps in that area should be around 80 (and at times 90) during the day and 50s at night.

I'm still deciding on my set-up. I have a nice pochade box I could take with me, but I'm trying to be semi-practical if we go hiking or something. It might just end up being a board, some tape and a stool (if that). But if someone here says that a pochade would be more comfortable, then I'll bring it along :D.

I'm sooo excited about this trip! Any suggestions, tips, etc. would be most welcome!



06-09-2007, 03:32 PM
Out in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota, is a Wall Drugs (oddly, in a city named Wall, of all things!) Originally a drugstore, but it's a fun stop if you happen to be going that way. Say hi to the six-foot bunny for me. Of course, there's the must-see's like Mount Rushmore and that Indian dude on a horse.

I haven't had a successful plein air outing with OP's. No matter what I bring with me, I always end up with pen, pencil, and watercolor washes only in a bound sketchbook. My sets are still in their original boxes & foam but I went with a 9x12 watercolor block. I know my problem is I don't take enough time to plan and make a successful OP painting en plein air.

I've heard blue ice in a small cooler will keep you from getting colorful puddles & empty paper tubes.

Have a fun and safe trip. I look forward to your paintings and maybe some pictures :)

Pat Isaac
06-09-2007, 05:29 PM
Awesome! We were there last June. Definitely CrayPas Specialists and the Carans and not the Senns.
Julie is right about Wall drug and it is at the entrance to the badlands. Fun place and we had lunch there...buffalo burgers. Very good. A trip through the Black Hills affords some great landscapes and animal sightings, and of course Rushmore and Crazy Horse. The plains area around there is wonderful.
Have a great trip.


06-09-2007, 07:31 PM
Rain, I have used my Senneliers and Holbeins outside, but I have a large umbrella which I use to shade my Guerrilla Box and me. I don't think I'd leave them in a hot car, but a camp cooler would help in that regard. I have used canvas boards and Colourfix paper mounted on a drawing board, but I keep the size down - 7" x 9" or 8" X 10" is my usual. I try to finish a painting in about two hours, and much larger would make that impossible. I haven't hiked to plein air paint, just walked a fairly short distance from the car so I can't advise about that. Have a really good time and take lots of photos as well. Jane

06-09-2007, 10:42 PM
When I work on Colorfix, I just stack the paintings without anything in between. The back side of the Colorfix is smooth and doesn't stick to the surface of the paintings. If I work on any other paper, I use glassine sheets between, but wax paper will work.

Take an umbrella that you can sit or stand under.

Sunscreen at all times!!

and....take breaks or only paint in the early morn or late afternoon when it's cooler and the light doesn't reflect into your eyes too much. I've gotten blinded from painting in the hot sun before! and you won't realize it's happening until you think there is a very dark cloud covering the sky. Cool compresses and sitting with the eyes closed helps it to pass in a few minutes but do be careful.

Don't leave your paints in the car. Even if it's parked in the shade, outside the car will be cooler. And always have water with you to drink....a couple of hours painting can make you dehydrated.


06-10-2007, 08:56 AM
The only thing I can add here is that if you use paper on boards, use foam core boards. They are very light and take a fair amount of abuse. I've used several for my studio and back yard work. Light as a feather too!

Tracy Lewis
06-10-2007, 12:38 PM

06-10-2007, 05:23 PM
Thanks for the input on places and especially the OP tips everybody! :)

Okay, the Senns are staying home. I'm going to have to tell the boy that our soda and sandwiches will just have to share some room with the OPs ;).

Julie - everyone seems to tell me about Wall Drugs. I guess I'm just going to have to stop there too. It looks like it's right off the 90 - very convenient! I hope to have a bunch of photos too!

Pat - buffalo burgers, huh? Hmmm...I may just have to try that! And yes, Rushmore and Crazy Horse are already added to the itinerary. It would be great someday when Crazy Horse is done to show photos of our visit "when it was still being carved".

Jane - thanks for telling me what sizes you use. I just may try to keep mine a bit smaller too, or have a two sizes on hand - a smaller and a larger one.

Carly - wow, thanks for all those tips!!! I'm glad to hear that wax paper works. I completely understand what you mean about the eye/glare thing. That happened to me once in Maine. Not fun. And I'm so glad you reminded me about sunscreen and water. I remember everything else and usually forget those two :(.

Lindsay - thanks! I already have my foam boards ready to go :D. Light is always a plus when you're hiking a few miles!

Tracy - I must figure out a way to maybe bring a bit of ice in my pack without dripping water all over the place :).

I'll bring a sketchbook anyway if everything seems overwhelming at first. Sometimes a little tiny sketch gets me going in the right direction. A little watercolor set wouldn't hurt either. I'd better stop there before I bring the whole studio with me! But I do think that between now and then I'm going to be looking over my pastel landscape books just to get me in the right mindset.

You guys are the best!


06-14-2007, 06:03 AM
I was in the dollar store the other day and saw those instant ice packs, that you squeeze and they get cold, but can only use once, two for a buck. That might be handy for travelling and doing plein airs with o.p.s.
I bring an assortment of surfaces, including different colours of Canson which have been primed with clear pumice gel (Golden).I keepit in my car in my plein air kit, which is an insulated backpack/seat originally meant for picnicking. I also have a (somewhat silly) hat that is very light with a very wide brim and twists into a small packet- a sunscreen hat I think it's called.

have fun!