My Plein Air Painting Setup

Plein air set up with umbrella, tripod, and palette.
My set up for painting outdoors.

Painting outdoors comes with a whole host of unique challenges. Wind, sun, bugs, hot, cold, rain, snow. Seems like insanity but I’m hooked. What could be better than combining my incurable wanderlust with art?! Not many things give me so much satisfaction. Everyone who attempts this madness seems to come up with what works for them. Pictured above is my current setup for oils. I like to hike in quite a ways to paint away from people looking over my shoulder. So I was really trying to go compact and lightweight. I have a Kelty backpack that fits everything and a lunch, and not much more. So much for compact. If I really need compact and ultralight I use watercolors. Problem solved!

Anyway, let’s run through this setup for painting outdoors with oils that I’ve put together! I have a sturdy tripod to begin with. I could go lighter but I sacrificed carrying a little extra weight in my backpack for something that doesn’t blow over every time I step away. I tried a couple of umbrella options that were cheap in an attempt to keep my costs down. Just save yourself the headache and get an actual plein air umbrella that works for your setup. This one is a Best Brella and I’m super happy with it. For the actual easel, I opted for the LederEasel because I like to stretch my own canvases rather than pay a small fortune in artist panels. It’s adjustable to accommodate different sizes and depths if I splurge on Raymar panels. It also has bars below that attach to the legs of the tripod that I hang paper towels and a bag for garbage. I started out bringing my handheld palette and used those bars as a place to set it down. That did not last long. I needed more flat space to hold brushes, palette cups, lids, tubes of paint, and other random things. Sprawling my art supplies all over the ground is not conducive to my creativity. So I just got this Sienna Palette Box. Super handy but again I’ve added more weight to my pack in order to save my sanity.

But here’s the thing:

If you don’t eliminate some of the frustrating aspects of painting outdoors, you are less and less inclined to do it. Make it easy on yourself by investing in equipment that makes it do-able for you.

What I like about this set up is that it’s super adjustable for whatever the situation calls for. This will probably evolve over time but it is working for me for now. It’s not all that quick to set up compared to a French easel that has everything all in one box. But I think the time I spend setting up gives me time to observe the scene, slow my pace down, and get into a painting frame of mind.

I hope this is helpful to see another option for plein air painting equipment. #findmeoutside

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