Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff Art Blog

Tips, Tricks, Thoughts, and inspiration from across the art spectrum.

A Simple Plein Air Oil Painting Set Up

A Simple Plein Air Oil Painting Set Up
Landscape Painting of a Mountain PastureLandscape Painting of a Mountain Pasture
Painting pastures off Watauga River Road

In graduate school in the late 90s, I used to practice my observational painting skills on tiny, wonky off-cuts of masonite panels leftover from building my larger painting panels. I drove around the North Georgia countryside looking for good landscapes to paint from the back of my station wagon. Painting for hours on the sides of country roads was way more fun than being cooped up in my studio, and the resulting paintings sold far better than my studio work. Primarily, though, it was so peaceful and centering to be outside in rural nature, closely observing the interplay of light, color, and space while feeling the weather and hearing the birds. Later, I gave up painting for good in favor of drawing only, until last summer when I got the itch to paint landscapes again. This time, Appalachian mountain landscapes.

Since I hadn't touched oils in a couple of decades, I had to outfit myself with a plein air painting kit. I wanted a minimal oil painting setup that I could grab and go, and that wouldn't take forever to set up or take down - something that could sit on my lap. Researching and thinking about the options was half the fun!

Here's my simple plein air oil painting equipment list:

Plein Air Painting Kit on GrassPlein Air Painting Kit on Grass

Pochade Box

I settled on the Guerrilla Painter Paint Boxes because I could customize the base unit with add-ons, and they're beautifully crafted. I chose the Pocket Box because I wanted to paint small, and it doesn't get much smaller (or cuter) than a 5" x 7" pochade box.

Brushes

I got a few Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes in smaller-sized filberts, rounds, and flats. I learned it's best to use synthetic bristle brushes with water-soluble oils so the bristles won't absorb water. Princeton Catalyst Brushes keep their shape well and have stiff action with smooth marks, plus I love the design. I also have a few Miller's Workhorse Interlocked Bristle Brushes when I want more texture. I keep my brushes in the classic Master's Brush Tube, which I can position upright to hold brushes while I paint.

Painting Panels

I prefer to paint on painting panels, and Ampersand Gessobords are great because they come in small sizes and are ready to paint right out of the package. I like 4" x 4" up to 6" x 6". This summer, I'm also going to try out the Guerrilla Painter Cartón Plein Air Panels because I love working on that Kraft paper color, plus the inexpensive sheets will encourage me to be less precious about experimenting.

Oil Paints in a BoxOil Paints in a Box

Water-Soluble Oil Paint

I decided to use water-soluble oils this time around for easier cleanup. I've always loved Holbein watercolor, so I chose Holbein Duo Aqua Oils. My basic paint palette includes a warm and a cool of each primary, plus white and earth tones. All of which fit in the pochade's storage compartment.

  • Cadmium Red
  • Quinacridone Red
  • Cadmium Yellow Light Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Lemon Hue
  • Ultramarine Deep
  • Cobalt Blue Hue
  • Burnt Umber
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Titanium White

Oil Painting Mediums

I use Holbein Duo Aqua Oil Linseed Oil for oil painting medium.

Camp Chair and Painting Pochade Box in a ForestCamp Chair and Painting Pochade Box in a Forest
Painting in the Mossy Shade
Hand holding a black tote bag of painting suppliesHand holding a black tote bag of painting supplies
Everything I need fits in this small tote bag!

Other Supplies

I use a lightweight camp chair, the GCI Quick-E-Seat. Unlike other camp chairs requiring assembly, it's a no-fuss setup with a shoulder strap that leaves my hands free to carry my wet paintings back to the car.

After a couple of painting sessions, I leveled up from a glass jar to the Guerrilla Painting Mighty Might Brush Washer, which more easily fit into the pochade while I painted and had less chance of tipping. I also graduated from a canvas shopping bag to the Guerrilla Pocket Box Tote, which has a place for everything to stay organized and protected. I added my trusty palette knife with a small head to mix colors on my palette in order to protect my brushes and keep the colors cleaner.


I'm still super rusty with my painting skills, but it's great to be back in the saddle. I'll be going out most weekends this summer to paint on some mountain road, chasing that ultimate tiny landscape painting. I hope this inspires you to get outside and paint too.

Oil Painting of a MountainOil Painting of a Mountain
Painting the back of Grandfather Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway
Landscape Painting in a Pochade BoxLandscape Painting in a Pochade Box
Painting in the shade at Moses Cone State Park

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From Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff Art Blog

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