I had a professor once who took students on study trips all over the world. He was very wise. He suggested packing for a trip, then taking your suitcase for a walk around the block. Don’t use the wheels, walk in the grass, and then carry it up and down a couple flights of stairs. If it is too heavy to manage, go home and take some stuff out of your bag!

Too much stuff is a terrible burden when traveling. Not having what you need is also a problem.

I also set up before plein air trips. Painting outside can be tricky. The seeing and painting part is hard enough, you don’t want to be fussing with your easel.

My solution: set everything up in the comfort of your home. Then imagine painting. Don’t set things on your counter, you won’t have your counter in the woods or on the beach with you. Then repack and do this process again in your yard. Paint a painting. Make a note of what you wished you had. Do you need a clip to hold your value study, a bungee to hold your paper towels? This is a frustrating feeling when you are out painting and you need something at home in your garage or junk drawer.

I once got a brand new easel for a painting trip. It was a slightly shorter version of this easel I had used for 200 hundred paintings. Did I follow my advise and set it up before I left? NO, it was the SAME easel right? I set up on a very busy beach, within 10 seconds a crowd of people were asking if they could watch me paint. Did I say “sure, come back in 30 min?” No I said “sure!” Then I proceeded to scramble and fumble. I failed to get the easel set up. I was dropping nuts and bolts everywhere in the sand. Later I rode my bike into town and looked up the number and called the company. “Did you watch the video on assembly” they asked? Some key pieces had been reversed for shipping! I could have avoided this headache by following my own advice.

Plein air painting might not be your thing, but the advice holds in other situations. I pack and then set up outside my studio before doing a demo. Do I have everything I need? Have I thought this through?

If you need a plein air trip to look forward to, I have an oil and pastel workshop coming up! Sign up here

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