How to be ready to go out and paint plein air at a moments notice.

Having the right gear and equipment can make or break a day at the beach painting.

Having the right gear and equipment can make or break a day at the beach painting.

Ever been out painting and forgotten to bring your brushes or paints? Leaving home without the critical gear to paint can be challenging or even disastrous. With the right preparations, being ready to paint at any given moment can be a snap.

Recently, I left the house in a rush to go out painting. Because I didn't plan ahead, I found myself with only one brush with about an hour to paint before an impending storm reached my location.  Not even a palette knife to mix with! That painting session was full of frustration and was a lesson for me to be better prepared!

Most of the time when I go to paint plein air, I don't have much time. Usually, it is in the span of 3 to 4 hours. Like many folks, having a spouse, two kids and a full time job, opportunities to paint are scarce. When the time does somehow magically appear, it helps to be ready to go so no time is wasted getting gear together. In this article, I'll cover everything you need to be ready to paint on a moments notice. 

First, always have several possible places in mind. That way, depending on the weather conditions or time of day preparations for the kind of environment won't be surprising. Whenever I see a place that would look cool to paint, I add it to my list on my smart phone. I review this list often so that I keep things up to date.

Secondly, have your gear always ready!  Keep just the necessary paints, medium, brushes, rags and easel ready to go. Keeping a second easel ready to go whenever you need can make a spur of the moment chance actually work! Do not forget water, sunblock, bug spray, hat and coat to protect against the ever quickly changing elements. It wouldn't hurt to have a pack of baby wipes in the car just in case you need to clean up paint. 

Third, have a variety of canvases from which to choose. Using a large canvas can be tricky to complete in a short time and can be difficult to carry on and off site. I like to have several sizes with me in case time constraints or bad weather approaching. It sounds silly, but did I mention check to make sure the gas tank is full? Nobody wants to be stuck in a remote location with no fuel and no gas stations nearby. Check your gas levels before you leave the driveway.

The thing that no one mentions when it comes to plein air, is bathrooms. It's not glamorous, and more to the point, it takes the romanticism out of plein air. Even Van Gogh had to take breaks, plan your resources when it comes to choosing locations. When Mother Nature calls, you don't want to have to stop, break down your easel, get your car and leave.

Other things to consider are the possible hazards of your painting locations. When painting in urban areas, is it safe to park there? Look for parking restrictions. Is the neighborhood safe or is it sketchy? Being stranded in a strange neighborhood alone without your car is not going to be a great experience. If you are going out into the wilderness, be prepared to spot possible hazards. It's a good idea to know the difference between a harmless plant and poison ivy or poison oak. Take all possible precautions in the wilderness. If you are in an area that is heavily populated with wildlife, bring a small radio with you to play, so as not to startle any animals that you may encounter. The sound will announce to them you are in the area. 

Let's go over a check list of the gear to have at the ready.

Art Supplies
Have primed panels or canvas ready
Brush Washer
Paper Towels
Palette Knife
Latex-free Gloves (If using a petroleum distillate such as Gamsol or Turpentine)
Easel with all necessary attachments
Umbrella for rain or shade from sun
Baby wipes (Helps cleans paint off hands, etc)

It's also best to have a bag or bucket to carry your gear. Recently, I discovered a bucket and bucket lid set up to carry supplies! It keeps them dry and even becomes a seat for me to sit down to accommodate my chronic foot pain. A great all in one solution for carrying supplies and a seat!

Gear To Wear
Good Winter Coat
Scarf or face mask to ward off frigid wind
Light Jacket that repels wind and rain
Rain Jacket
Wide brim hat - Please consider this very important.
Sunblock - Because skin cancer sucks.
Bug Repellent
Water Thermos - I can't stress how much you will need this.

Having your gear in a backpack, tool box, or bucket ready to pick up is key to making the most of your spare time. If you follow my tips that I've provided here in this article, you'll be ready to go out and paint at a moments notice. Now go out and have an awesome day painting!





Doug Clarke is an award winning Plein Air and Studio painter based out of Virginia Beach. He works in oils creating plein air and studio paintings.

Graduating with Honors and Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University, Doug's work has evolved from commercial to fine art.  As an active member of the Norfolk Drawing Group, the painter strives for excellence in his figure drawings and paintings.  His commitment to life drawing and painting led him outdoors to paint "en plein air".  There he realized his passion for capturing light and nature in his own personal way.

Doug has been commissioned to paint both Harborfest and Neptune Festival posters for 2014.  Awards include 1st place awards for Plein Air 757,  Williamsburg Plein Air and the Plein Air Mount Lebanon quick draw competitions, as well as a three time winner of the Historic Fort Monroe Plein Air Exhibition.  His paintings are collected far and abroad internationally.  Doug’s work is currently represented by Harbor Gallery and the Ellen Moore Gallery.

In pursuit of mastering his craft, he has participates in local and national plein air events

When painting outdoors, Doug is very passionate about capturing the vanishing landscapes of Southeastern Virginia.