Plein Air – What to take

Chesterfield Skyline on a moody evening.  Watercolour on Khadi Paper.
Chesterfield Skyline on a moody evening. Watercolour on Khadi Paper.

I really enjoy sketching and painting outside. It’s one of my recent discoveries and there’s a real delight for me in wandering around a new place, finding a view that appeals to me and settling myself down to draw and paint. My next post will deal with choosing what to paint, but this one is about the first step,  getting your kit together.

I mainly work in pen and wash, I’ve experimented with other media but for ease of use, what works well outside and being carried in a rucksack this works best for me.  Plus I like it.  I keep the kit pretty simple and have definitely whittled it down over the last couple of years.  Firstly the sketch book………

The Collection.......
The Collection…….

Have you an ever burgeoning collection of sketch books of various sizes, paper weights, styles??? I have.  Sketchbooks are a weakness of mine. I have an A4 book I use when I’m going to be in the car, or in one place for a while with good painting close by.   However, I’ve decided it’s too heavy for a rucksack.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great book, one of Stillman and Birn’s hardback lovelies but it weighs a tonne.  Far too heavy for carrying all day along with all my other bits and pieces.  I also find I have “current favourites” out of my sketchbook collection. My two most recent are a comfortably basic A5 cartidge paper book I picked up for a song at Art in the Gardens in Sheffield and a much more expensive purchase from the lovely L. Cornelissen on Great Russell Street London by Khadi Papers, so a rag paper with a fabulous tooth for watercolours and lovely absorbency.  Others that are waiting in the wings are a really special cloth covered delight from Global Art Materials in their Hand book series, and a very cute 6″x 8″ spiral bound number from Daler Rowney.  This latter I think will be great for quick sketches, notes and rough ideas.

Next brushes and paint.

I have a great brush case acquired from Patchings Art Festival a few years ago.  Patchings is definitely worth a visit, both for all the artists displaying their work, the demonstrations and workshops and the art supplies at bargain prices.  My brushes are Prolene Pro Arte and I usually take a 1″ flat,  a couple from the 101 Series a size 12 and 18 and one rigger size 3.  I have a couple of soft pencils,  a 3b and 6b, eraser, sharpener, couple of waterproof drawing pens in black and sepia.  I tend to use a fine pen now, but have experimented with different thicknesses and a brush pen. I think this is something for trial and error as you discover the type of marks you like to make.

Ready to go.
Ready to go.

My watercolour palette is one which has a good seal on it.  I keep to a fairly limited palette with colours I am drawn to, including lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium red, windsor red, perylene maroon, indigo, paynes grey, dioxylene violet, perylene green, sap green and cerulean.  SO whilst I have quite a few colours with me I probably only use up to 3 or 4 in each sketch. Finally, a bottle of tap water, some drinking water (kept separate!) an old cloth for wiping any excess paint off my brush, small plastic pot for water and a wad of tissue for lifting out.  And that’s it.

Some sketches in the gallery below from over the last three of four years from close at home in the Peaks to as far afield as Cuba.


Published by Lin Cheung

I am an artist and teacher and I love working with people to help them be more creative.

One thought on “Plein Air – What to take

Leave a Reply