Usually very much a studio painter, I’ve been stretching myself of late and have started going out with the London Plein Air Group. This terrific bunch of people meet up in different spots around London one Saturday a month, gathering and then dispersing in the locality to produce a wonderful array of city scenes!
Earlier this month around 40 of us met up in Pimlico to paint Battersea Power Station from across the river.
My kit for plein air
Plein air painting has its challenges. Not only do you have to make sure you have every conceivable thing with you (pochade box, tripod, painting panel, paint, brushes, brush cleaner, wipes, rubbish bag, water, lunch, wet painting carrier etc!) but you have to wrap up very warm. The first time I ventured out with the group a steady rain began to sweep in which eventually started dripping through the railway bridge overhead. I’m generally wearing 5-7 layers, two pairs of socks and have a piece of card to stand on to stop the cold from seeping through the soles of my shoes. As yet, I’ve only painted out in Winter!
Before I attempted plein air painting, I did a bit of research on the best way to go about it. Being a small, not amazingly strong person, getting the kit right was very important. There are some beautiful ‘french’ easels out there – wooden, self supporting, sturdy, but I needed to go smaller and more portable, since I’m generally travelling up by train and bus.
I opted for the U.Go Pochade box with side table, which you can see in the large photo. It’s an adorable little thing – like a wooden laptop that you screw onto a tripod. It all connects magnetically: the panel holders, table and palette ‘stay’, which comes off so you can slide the palette out for cleaning.
Just getting the right tripod is also an art. It needs to pack small, be light, and yet not blow over in the wind – so getting one with a hook that you can weight down with your rucksack or other weight, is really important. After a bit of searching, I went for the K&F F09.097 which is a camera tripod that has all the right tricks I needed for plein air.
If you’re painting in oils, that adds another challenge – what to do with the wet painting to get it home. I’ve so far only tried 8 x 10inch panels, and managed to make myself a wet painting box out of corrugated plastic sheets which has grooves to keep a few boards apart in transport.
Though I think I’ll aways be a studio painter at heart, I’ve really enjoyed getting out, meeting new people and painting out in the extremes. If you’re local to London and want to join in, find the group @Londonpleinairgroup on Instagram, which lists each new paint-out – anyone is welcome to come along.
Here’s the finished panel: Battersea Power Station, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10″
My work from some of the other plein air outings: