I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Acrylic Plein Air - my set up

I have been doing plein air using acrylic paints for about 6 years. I have  worked with a number of different plein air systems and have taken workshops from some excellent acrylic plein air painters. The system I use today is a mix of the combined wisdom of those artists with what has worked best for the type of work I like to do - and after years of trial and error with those systems. The system I like best  mimics my acrylic studio  as much as is practical for working in the field. 

If you have been following my blog you will know that when painting with acrylics I like to work in the three different viscosities of paint: Golden liquid ( very thin), Liquatex Soft Body (medium viscosity) and any tube paint ( heavy viscosity) depending on the stage of the painting. I use two palettes: the StayWet palette to hold the heavy viscosity paint and a glass mixing palette onto which I put the heavy for mixing and to which I add as needed the mid and thin liquid paints. The glass is also where I mix glazing medium with transparent paint for glazing. 

So this is my set up: a system that includes a small Sta Wet and a glass mixing palette. I need  my liquid paints at hand so I can squirt out small amounts as needed. Hanging from the front are two containers of water - one clean and one to hold dirty brushes. I can work on panels up to 16x20 -  but generally work 11x14, 12x16 and 18x24.  So those are the ingredients of a working acrylic system FOR ME. 

Following those " essentials" I have made acrylic systems using a Judson Gorilla 12x16, the Soltek ( using glass set into the Sta Wet box) and an 11x14 Easy L.  But below is my favorite so far. It is the Alla Prima Pochade Yellowstone 11x14.  Below is what it looks like new and after a few  years. 

The top has storage for wet panels (when using oils) but I use it to store brushes a straight edge and my window scraper (cleaning my glass palette).  My brushes I store in a Judson Brush Holder ( is flat so fits into the top) and hangs on the drawer.  I can carry extra brushes, a rubber shaper and other thin objects on the glass panel when not in use.

The Sta Wet Handy Palette rests on the drawer and is held by a clamp ( in case of winds etc). I cut a small area of the top to allow the top to be on the palette with the clamp in place when I want the Sta Wet covered. 

When working plein air in acrylics I take along a lot of "junk" : medium, extra water, paper towels, sprayers, large panels, etc etc. As a result, with acrylics I generally work fairly close to my vehicle and use a portable carrier system that doubles as a work table. I have attached two recycle containers to a folding transporter. Inside is a large piece of heavy plastic that can rest on the top to make a "table" surface.

Then there is the umbrella - essential for a variety of reasons - particularly important for acrylics to keep the sun off and prevent drying. I have three different umbrellas : an Easy L, a Best Brella and a Shade  Buddy. The Shade Buddy is great. It it large, folds at the mid point and has a spike end you can drive in the ground. It covers me at over 6 ft tall. But best for me,  I have put a receiver for it in the transport system so I can use it as a part of my system and move it as required by the changing sun and can use it on pavement, sand or soil. 

With my 12x16 Gorilla Box 

Every body has an opinion

The smaller folding umbrellas can attach to the carrier and be free of the Alla Prima Pochade and can move to follow the sun. 

Finally, an "essential"  piece of equipment for plein air on Vancouver Island .

with my oil system

Next post I will describe my approach to an acrylic start using this system.



  1. Thank you so much for the explanation of your set up! Plein air has always intimidated me - I quite like the control I have when working in my studio. And I've always found acrylics tricky to use outside. I am excited to see your set up - now I'm thinking I should be painting outside more. Thanks for the tips, they will help me get started...
    ...And of course, I LOVE your work! Gorgeous colours and love the impressionistic style.

  2. I am about to go on the road in my rv full time. I love your set up and may imitate it. I would love to hear back from you. I will be in Ingis, Florida for three months and want to plein air. I am moving out of a nice size studio and am using acrylics, my favorite medium. Maybe I will see you on the road some day.


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