Backpacker Painting Essentials // 30 Days, 30 Paintings

Backpacker Painting Essentials // 30 Days, 30 Paintings

I have learned the hard way that size and weight of materials really matter and also quickly add up when hiking in to paint. I gathered some great ideas in the first few weeks of my trip, this first hike at Mt Agamenticus taught me to go back and really decide what I absolutely need and what I can skip.

Friends have asked me why not use watercolor pencils or pastels, but I’m just more interested in oil paint right now, so I’ve decided to go with the flow, regardless of practicality.

Keep it Light:
The lightest way I have found to hike in for plein air painting (so far) is to bring a limited number of brushes or even just one brush or knife, 1-2 panels and only the paint squeezed on my palette, rather than carrying tubes. I should bring a sketch book as well for value studies, but if I’m painting a sunrise or sunset, time is so limited, I usually skip that part, paint by the colors I see, take a bunch of pictures and go back to my studio to see what else I can do with it. I also leave the tripod and just find a place to sit and put my paint box in my lap.

If the hike is short and flat, I will just carry my pocket box by the handle rather than in the backpack, but I'm also on the lookout for an even lighter daypack that will fit my paintbox. If the hike is longer, I'll use my backpack with minimal materials.

I’m thinking of trying some kind of strip of paint pots with lids, kind of like these to see how those do. (Maybe they will also help preserve the unused paint better?)

Otherwise, the materials I have found to be essential are:
-Small jar with gamsol turp
-1-2 panels
-rags or paper towels
-guerilla paint box with palette & paint
-selected brushes
-bug spray and bug net (more on pest control while traveling here)
-sun hat 
-drinking water
-wet panel carrier (unless you can use the pocket box for your panel)

Optional materials (when weight is less of an issue):
-paint tubes
-additional brushes/knives
-sketch pad
-pencil and eraser 
-wet panel carrier

Also, I don't have one yet, but the next purchase for me will be a painters umbrella for more sun protection...because the sun is no joke these days! 

In the van I have a small airtight box for “chemicals” where I store my gamsol turp after each use in a ziploc bag. When I bring on a hike, I keep the jar it in the ziploc bag and place it in a top pocket of the backpack standing up. it seems to work well so far. 

I'm sure I will find so many more efficiencies as I continue on this journey, and if you have more ideas please message me! 

To see more recent notes from this journey, check out my art notes blog here.

To check out my sunrise session viewing Penobscot Bay from Rockport, Maine, check out this post.

To read more about my 2022 Painting Challenge, see this post, or go here to message me your favorite place and I'll paint it!

You can also follow along more regularly on instagram here.


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