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Wednesday
Nov172010

Plein Air Setup

 

 

 

Painting outdoors is inspiring, beautiful, centering, and so adrenaline-rushing as to be addictive!
However, it is also uncomfortable, frustrating, full of distractions, and when your umbrella topples your easel over in a breeze, exceptionally maddening.
I have finally assembled a setup I find to be ideal - a good balance of lightweight, sturdy, and flexible:

 

This is how I pack it:
Instead of carrying around tubes of oil paint, I load up my Open M pallete with fresh nuggets of paint before I leave for the day. Sometimes I pack a small tube of white, if it’s going to be a long day out.

 

I can fit my Open M pochade box, brushes, and solvent can in a backpack or shoulder bag, along with paper towels, lunch, etc.

The tripod, cane, Manfrotto arm, and umbrella I lash together with 2 short bungee cords. All those things combined are not very heavy, and I can carry it by the cane handle, or under my arm easily. For a long hike I might get a strap for it so I can carry it on my back.
Travelling with oil paints
I have traveled now many times with oil paint, and despite the horror stories we have all heard about having oil paints confiscated, I have never had a problem with this procedure:

 

Here is what I do:

 

  • Download and print a couple “material safety data sheets” (MSDS) which describe the contents of the paint - there’s a different sheet for every color, but I just choose 2 or 3 and print those. Each manfacturer writes up and makes data sheets available online as PDF for all their colors, just google search one your paint brands and a color name with the phrase “material safety data sheets” and you’ll find it.
    Here is a list of links to of many of the of MSDS paint brands
  • Print out a sign with big font that says:
    These are vegetable oil based artists materials.
    They are not flammable.
    Data sheets enclosed.
    DO NOT USE THE WORD “PAINT”. The word paint is a big problem.
  • Fold the MSDS sheets and the sign together so the big message shows up on top.
  • Put all the tubes of oil paint in a gallon-sized heavy duty ziplock, and put in the folded packet of sheets so the sign is visible through the plastic bag. Make sure every tube is tightly-capped and there are not any holes in any of the tubes, the pressure changes during the flight will make a mess of any leaky tubes.
  • Place the bag near the top of your suitcase with the sign-side up so it’s immediately accessible if security searches my bag. (I always get that little note saying they searched my bag, but my paint has never been confiscated.)
  • Check the bag. I wouldn’t try to bring paints on board.
  • I also packed a tiny tin of the “natural turpenoid” (in the GREEN can) along with my painting supplies in my checked bag, to use as my medium. It says non-flammable very clearly right on the tin. I wouldn’t use it as a medium in major paintings, but for sketches and all prima work while travelling it’s probably fine.
  • I wouldn’t bring any solvents, oils, mediums, or any kind of mysterious liquids in bottles. I usually buy those or borrow them when I arrive
  • Finally: Don’t forget your palette knife! :)


Hope that helps! It would be terrible if the paints got confiscated and that’s always a risk, so I can’t guarantee it will be fine, but it’s worked for me.

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Thank you for tips on traveling with oil paints. MSDS print outs are a great idea. I've flown with my paints only once, and didn't have a problem, fortunately, but what a heartbreak it would be to have ones paint confiscated!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarahfburns

thanks for sharing what you do for plein air painting. It is always helpful to get an other artist perspective.

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian David MacNeil
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