Category Archives: 2017 Painting Blog

Packing Tips for Plein Air Painting

Ready to find the ultimate landscape to paint? Going on a trip and need to pack your art supplies? Taking a plein air class this summer? Preparing your watercolor painting materials ahead of time will give you a jump start on your day the next time that perfect day promises ideal weather for plein air painting. This is how I pack for a day trip so that I have all my essentials in one convenient place and can just grab my backpack and go.

Keep in mind you will have to trek on foot from your car to your destination, so packing efficiently and as light as possible is going to be your goal. Minimally you will need a backpack and I will explain how everything you need can fit inside a standard size school type backpack.

I purchased an inexpensive school back pack for under $15. at a Target and was able to fit everything I needed into it. My backpack measured 20″ high x 13″ wide and when packed fully, approximately 12″ deep. When I went to the store I brought along my Arches 12″ x 16″ watercolor block to see how it would fit inside the backpack. The backpack had a ruck sak style opening at the top which is a feature I like because it allows for a wider opening to fit my palette, container of paints, brushes and my water bottle.

Here is my essential list of materials that I carry when I paint outdoors. (Below is a photo illustration of my materials with captions.)

  • 12″ x 16″ Arches Watercolor Block
  • A container that holds the following: Approximately 12 tubes of watercolor paint, 8 brushes, eraser, 2 pencils and a pencil sharper. I also fold several sheets of paper towels and line the container with it.
  • A 14″ x 10″rectangular plastic palette with lid.
  • A 48 oz. Nalgene water bottle. (This may seem bigger, because the water is not just for drinking).
  • A small 8 0z. plastic cup for brush washing.
Tubes of Paint, Brushes and Pencil Supplies

This plastic container on the left is a 5″ x 13″ pencil container which I like because of its rectangular shape. You can find these in all sorts of shapes and sizes at arts and crafts or office supply stores. Notice that I have applied Velcro tabs on my brushes, eraser and pencil sharpener. This keeps everything tidy and allows me to find them quickly. Also, when painting outdoors you sometimes have to deal with wind and things topple about easily, so having my essential tools stable helps my painting go smoothly. My paints still topple around inside the container, and I am working on a solution for that in the future. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Watercolor Palette

On the right is my watercolor palette and tray. It has a cover that you can turn over and use as an additional tray to mix paints. When I pack it, I also put it inside a plastic bag to prevent leakage. The blue sketchpad on top of the tray is an extra pad I use for sketching.

Watercolor Paper

I like to use this particular brand of watercolor paper. It is called a watercolor “block” because the sheets of paper are sealed alongside the four edges with a removable gum arabic adhesive. It also provides stability when painting outdoors. The sheets of paper won’t blow away because it is already secured and the hard cardboard backing is great to balance on my lap or surface that I am painting on. ( I often sit on rocks, ledges and tree stumps when I paint outside).

Loose Sheets of Artwork

I also have piles of paintings that I can store inside the cover of the watercolor block when I pack my bag. The watercolor block protects my loose sheets of paper from bends and tears.


Wala! Here is your fully stocked backpack. Once you have created this pack, I suggest you don’t unpack it. Keep it handy so the next outing you take, you know you will have everything you need to get your trip started at a moment’s notice. Each time you use your pack, you will refine it by adding and subtracting your most essential supplies.

Here are a few extra items I like to pack:

  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Small spray bottle
  • Exacto knife or blade
  • A few extra sheets of paper towel
  • Cell phone and battery charger for backup
  • And oh, yeah, don’t forget your afternoon snack of choice:



Happy painting!





Cold Thoughts

Last year, I taught four six-week watercolor classes at Shelburne Craft School, worked full-time at Gardener’s Supply Company and did three art events. Two were weekend shows in Vermont. The Chaffe Art Centers Annual Art in the Park in Rutland and a Fall art and crafts show in Woodstock. My last art endeavor in 2016 was my installation of paintings and hand painted fiber scarves with the Vermont Holiday Shop which is run as an arts and crafts cooperative. We work and sell each other’s goods to offset costs. It’s a great way to work as we all strive to all commit to do our part with staffing the shop. The result is a store that is filled with the most creative mix of hard and soft goods from pottery to herbal salves, to gourmet sauces and wearable fine art fashions! Our shop was bursting with entrepreneurial gusto.

To infuse my painting with new skills,  I took a great class with Instructor Joel Popadics in August which rejuvenated my plein air landscape painting. For one intensive week, we spent full days painting outdoors at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vt., Mount Philo, in Charlotte, Vt., Shelburne Museum and The Shelburne Boathouse. Joel is a master watercolorist and it was a rewarding week of very specific painting instruction that he demonstrated right before our eyes! I knew I was going to learn a lot from him and I cherished every minute of my time painting with a great group of painters who came from Vermont and out of state to participate. I took away some new color mixing formulas that I learned from him and have begun incorporating them in my paintings. Learning time-honored painting from artists who dedicate their lives to painting is invaluable and serves to inspire me as I strengthen my own teaching. My next goal is to take a class with Vermont artist, Susan Abbott. I met her many years ago at a women’s business workshop for artists in Montpelier, VT and received excellent advise on how to conduct my own art career.

Looking back at 2016, I laugh at my impulsivity. It’s both my downfall and at times my artistic strength. What does that mean? Well, a lot. Perhaps a longer blog entry is on the horizon: ” Impulsivity and the Artist, Does It Make a Good Combination?” One instructor I had explained that the balance of the logical mind and the creative mind is like walking a tightrope:you need both. I know that when I use my impulsive mind, my interest is elevated, however, at some point, it’s not always the complete recipe to get the desired intention. A few strategic logical assumptions may be resurrected for that balance. Perhaps a ratio of intention and impulsive reaction may be a good way to explain the creative painting process to students?

Lastly, I want to end this entry with four paintings I submitted to what I call my annual National Parks Project. Three years ago I began applying to specific parks for a coveted one month artist residency inside a national park. It’s like playing the lottery because they receive hundreds of applications (you apply directly to the park of choice) and they have, at best, 4 slots in a given year and each slot is typically reserved for a different artistic discipline, such as writer, musician, painter and photographer. This year I am applying to Glacier National Park (GNP) and Zion National Park (ZNP). I am researching a few more, some of the parks are not compatible with what I do and some are so one needs to read each parks criteria before applying.

Here are three images I used for my GNP application. They were painted last year from a trip I took to Utah:

My goal moving forward is to continue in 2017 with a determined effort to understand the world through art and as actress Meryl Streep recently stated at her recent controversial Golden Globes speech, “As my friend, the dearly departed Princess Leia said to me, take your broken heart and make it into art.”