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My Favorite Plein Air Tools


Just as a fashion blogger shares her favorite rompers at the swankiest boutique in town, I'd like to share some of my favorite plein air tools. (But I promise not to make you gag by stating something like, "So here I'm wearing an XXS apron and it fits true to size." *cue twirl in mirror wearing my perfect makeup with my perfect tan. Bluhhhhh.)


Painting on the beach Pawleys Island, SC was so much fun! I was supposed to be on vacation, but this was just too tempting!

Where to start with my fave tools run down? Well that's easy... plein air just wouldn't be the same without my STRADA Easel. It is made of aluminum and very durable. (It recently fell in a saltwater creek for Pete's Sake and didn't even rust. *See previous post for the DL on that one.)

I love the side trays with plexi glass inside which allow a place for my brushes and other tools to rest as well as offering an additional color mixing area. The trays can be stored inside of the fold down easel for convenient travel. I bought the package deal (linked by clicking the image below) on STRADA's site.


It was a pleasure meeting the brains behind STRADA, Bryan Mark Taylor, at this year's Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE). He's a brilliant entrepreneur AND painter!

Next up... Ampersand Gessobords are a favorite panel (I use sizes 6" x 6" to 12" x 16" outdoors). There's just something about the "tooth" on the surface of these panels that I adore. But not too rough and definitely not super slick. One of my favorite artists, Carol Marine, mentioned being hooked on these panels in her book, Daily Painting, and I, too, have been hooked since giving them a try. (Click image below for a link to a favorite retailer, Jerry's Artarama, where they're currently on sale.)


I got to meet a very friendly Ampersand sales rep, Dana, at PACE. He even hooked me up with Gessobord's for my plein air workshop attendees. I feel sure my students will also enjoy this fine surface.

Speaking of favorite artists, Anne Blair Brown is also a huge inspiration and she has teamed up with Jack Richeson brushes to create an Anne Blair Brown set for plein air. I am very pleased with this set because of the variety of sizes and quality... oh yea, and they're sold via AMAZON PRIME at an absolutely incredible deal! (Click image below for Amazon link to this brush set.)

PLUS, I have to admit that I'm not the best at cleaning my brushes after each session, but these bad boys are proving to be quite resilient and have lasted me several months (and still going strong)!


The Jack Richeson crew was also at PACE. They gave every attendee a free brush of choice. Wow! So generous. So genius.

I've taken several workshops by artists that I admire and most of them use and recommend Gamblin oils. I've been very pleased with their colors and quality. They can always be found at the best price you'll find on Jerry's Artarama site. (Click the image below to shop the paint deals!)


Here I am with on of the big dogs at Gamblin at PACE. Their booth in the Expo Center stood out with these large, brightly lit signs as the "King of oil paints". Yep! Pretty much!

You can have the best easel, panel, brushes and paint, but it's playing with the painting process and exercising your knowledge of the academics of painting that help create a successful painting. Value is a very important foundation to every solid painting and I've found a tool that helps identify values (range of light to dark) best. Looking through the red film eliminates the color and helps better identify the darks and lights. (Click the image below for the link to this Easy L Value Comp.)


The palm is the darkest value (I call that a 4 in a 1-4 value range).... the sky is the lightest (I call that a 1). Super obvious, huh? What about the grass and the water? Can you spot the #2 and #3 values?


Painting on Queen Street in downtown Charleston is always charming. See how the side trays hold my brushes and value finder in addition to being an extra color mixing space?


That ONE time it snowed in Charleston (January 2018). Painting out in the snow with all of my fave tools.


Painting on Shem Creek with my Strada, Gessobord, Value Finder, Gamblin oils, and Anne Blair Brown Brush set all in tow. (And even when only half of the painting is successful, I count it as a successful day out in the plein air "classroom". Knowing what doesn't work and wiping it off is just as important as knowing what does and keeping it.)


Shoes are optional when painting on the lovely property of Betty Anglin Smith in Meggett, SC during an Anne Blair Brown plein air workshop. My fave plein air tools, on the other hand, are NOT optional.


These fave tools have even traveled across the world to France for a Carol Marine

plein air workshop.

If you're a plein air painter, I'd love to hear about your favorite tools in the comments below. If you're not a painter and you've read allllllllll the way down here, you ROCK. You clearly live the life of a life-long learner and that makes my former teacher heart smile. Plus, it makes you that much more of an informed collector and/or art admirer which I think is super freakin' awesome. Go you!


This is as close as I get to fashion blogger 'model' status while "painting". (Hint: You know I'm not really painting, though, when I'm wearing makeup and no hat. Ha!)

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