Painting outside has become essential to my process of learning how to see color and light and painting scenes that evoke emotion and truth.
The process of painting outside can be daunting, so it’s important to make it as easy as possible for yourself. Here I’ll share my favorite setups for watercolor, gouache, oil and more.
After years of experimentation I’ve finally found a setup that makes painting outside enjoyable, even if I have no idea what I want to paint. Let me know if you have any questions, in the comments below.
a Vango Vector 25 Rucksack (discontinued)
c Protein bar
f Paper towel or rag
g 5 tubes of gouache in a Portable Painter Micro bag
h Guerrilla Painter Backpacker 6×8 inch Covered Palette Trayi Portable Painter full of watercolor
j Portable Painter Micro full of watercolor
l Bamboo brush roll with brushes
m Metal clip to hold sketchbook pages in strong wind
n Various pens, pencils, brush penso 7×10 inch Strathmore Watercolor Sketchbook
p Homemade Drawing board (3mm mdf board)
I am frequently asked what my favorite items are, and most of those are listed on my supplies page. But it’s so personal, and if you’re brand new to painting outside, it may take you some trial and error until you find your perfect setup.
When I first started, I used a Winsor & Newton Cotman travel set, the brush that came with it, and a pack of watercolor postcards. It was super portable and easy to setup. I spent most of my days painting flowers and foliage at Denver Botanic Gardens. That was my “safe place” and inspired me so much which helped me get over the initial nerves of painting outside.
Eventually, I upgraded to a Moleskin watercolor sketchbook (shown below). In retrospect, I should have bought a sketchbook with 100% cotton paper. I now realize how challenging it is to do simple watercolor techniques in the Moleskin sketchbooks and that made my life harder (without realizing it). Nowadays there are better options on the market, so if you can, buy 100% cotton paper!
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