View Full Version : Plein air- Pastels or Oils

06-29-2009, 04:51 AM
I am getting a basic collection of pastels together and it seems it will take up a bit of room just for half sticks!
I have a tiny 6x8 pochade box and an 8x10 cigar box for oils and it seems to me a pastel setup for plein air will be much more involved!
Are there any plein air painters on here who paint in both mediums?
How do they compare in the field? I am tempted to leave the pastels in the studio and do oils outside. I can slip the small pochade in a large pocket, does anyone have a small, compact system for pastels?

06-29-2009, 08:44 AM
. . . does anyone have a small, compact system for pastels?
Define "small, compact". How small, exactly, is small?

Few ideas:
== "What I am about to reveal will change your plein-air life forever" (http://pastelsblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/pastels-go-in.html), from the wonderful Casey Klahn
== Extremely Limited Pastel Palette (http://wheezard.blogspot.com/2008/01/extreme-limited-pastel-palette.html), by Michael Chesley Johnson
== My own riff on these, in a Altoids box, Stubs for the Road (http://jan777.blogspot.com/2009/03/stubs-for-road.html)


Donna T
06-29-2009, 09:20 AM
Hi Brett, Here's a little box (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=505954) I put together for the smallest, quickest plein air opportunities. I have Polychromos pastels in it and even though my color selection is limited, I'm finding that to be an advantage. I am forced to think "warmer, cooler, lighter, darker" instead of looking for the exact color I need. I just had this box out a few days ago at a friend's house. The wheat field across the way caught my eye. I hope you don't mind me sharing an example of what I did with this little box: 4x6 on a scrap piece of toned museum board


I didn't have time to get out my regular pastels and was glad I had the little box with me. I hope you'll consider even a tiny box of pastels for plein air - they really can come in handy!


06-29-2009, 11:25 AM
I had not seen this when you first posted. Maybe I wasn't on here yet. Anyway, this is great! I know I had a box similar to that one, now where did it go? LOL! with all of our moves, I have a feeling it went the way of the trash can! Great idea though and maybe I will go to Michaels and get that wooden cigar box WC was talking about. To me it seems that pastels would be much easier than oils when painting en plein air, but then again I don't paint with oils.


06-29-2009, 12:47 PM
Pastels, definitely! No mess (that can't be washed off), and the actual painting doesn't have to be as protected as a wet oil.

I made do with a smallish box filled with 'nubbins' just the day before yesterday. All I brought was a pad, the box, a towel. Pastel paper pad, but I had a small piece of sandpaper in it (8x12"), and some clips to keep it still. After painting two very small studies (on half of the paper), I just put the piece back inside the pad, folded over the cover, used the bulldog clips to secure it from sideways movement, and it worked perfectly. So I had to sketch using my lap as 'easel' (towel protected my clothes), but as they were just quick colour notes, it was OK. Fingers rinced in a nearby stream, but otherwise bringing a wet tissue would not have added much to the load.

With oils, I would have needed an easel, a palette, and something to carry the wet painting in, etc etc. Where to put wet brushes. Mediums... and on and on.

The replies and links show that one can be very minimalistic, or one can tote around enough stuff to actuall paint a finished painting, too. The most important thing I've learned from this thread is that it is better to learn to use a few sticks well, and keep the 800 or so goodies in the studio.


06-29-2009, 02:35 PM

This is a decision that I am just making, and one reason why I am learning to paint using softies now.

In late August, we go on our annual holiday to the French Alps, and I needed to decide which media I would work in there. Not only do I have to carry everything on trains from the UK to the Alps, but when there we do not use cars but I will have to bike everywhere.

I have chosen to work in oil pastels and soft pastels, but to leave my oils, egg tempera, etc., behind.

You can always cut the equipment down to a minimum - if needs be, sketching with just a handful of pastels on a pad on your knees, which is still lighter and simpler than 5 or 6 colour oil sketching.

However the biggest problem is moving around WIP and finished paintings. Yes, I have a canvas carrier, but the complexity at the end of our holiday of moving back several still-wet canvases (or boards) is just a nightmare, even if we were travelling by car and not train. Working with dry media is just so much simpler in that respect.

And pastels - soft and oil - are just gorgeously simple, direct, and colourful.


06-30-2009, 05:11 AM
WOW! I cant believe what can be done with a handfull of pastels!
Michael Chesley Johnson is one of my favorite artists, I read his blog but missed this (thanks Jan), 14 sticks of Nupastel !!!

Donna, thanks for sharing the little painting. I love it! I have a good selection of Polychromos already, now if I could get results like yours I would be very happy.

Charlie, thanks for the ideas. A little wet wipe packet would be nice for clean up for pastel or oils. I usually dont notice the dab of oil paint on the back of my arm until it has found its way onto something I didnt intend to have painted!

Howard, When you say bike I guess you mean the kind you have to pedal judging from your photo. I often carry my 6x8 oil box on my bike, or in my daypack, thats one of the reasons I wanted a compact setup for pastels. I see now it is not only practical, but maybe less of a fuss than oils.

After thinking about this and reading all your comments I have an idea for a little box that will use 5x7 Pastelbord panels and could be even smaller than my tiny oil pochade. Glad my Dad has a woodshop!