Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Plein Air painting with watercolours

Portrait of a Rock. January 2012. Moleskine watercolour notebook, small size.
I want to do more plein air painting this year. I had a lovely half day out yesterday painting a portrait of a rock. It was windy and a little cold but so nice to hear the birds as we painted.

Setting up a plein air kit takes a bit of planning and thinking. You need a water supply of course, such as a drinking bottle and a container to wash out brushes, paper, paints, brushes, pencils and so on. I have put together a very workable kit (that will be functional for even quite large size paintings) that I have shown here. The kit contains
  1. palette of 20 watercolours (though you could obviously use a smaller one)
  2. pencil case
  3. collapsable water container
  4. water bottle
  5. sketchbook
  6. Pens, pencils and brushes
  7. Plein air watercolour painting kit

Here is the pencil case contents in detail

  1. kneadable eraser
  2. Arches large travel brush
  3. #2 and #6 sable travel brushes
  4. Squirrel travel brush
  5. pencil
  6. fine eraser
  7. black pigmented ink pen (or fountain pen with waterproof ink)
  8. white pen
  9. reed stick
  10. porcupine quill (for scratching details) 
  11. White gouache 
  12. A neutral grey watersoluble pencil that matches my pre-made 'Jane's Grey' (ultramarine and burnt sienna) watercolour - lovely for drawing that can then be incorporated into the painted wash.

You may also like to add a folding chair,  some sort of board or support to paint on and perhaps some blu- tac to stick items to a board. Happy Sketching!

The kit ready to go


  1. Jane, would you please provide a little more detail on the Arches travel quill brush? I've never seen a travel quill of that width. Thanks!


    1. Hi Greg. It is an Arches #3 squirrel quill travel brush series A6, labelled petit gris pur. It is huge by travel brush standards with brush head 3cm long and 1cm wide, and quite stiff by squirrel standards. I generally only use it if i am painting at A4 or larger size.

      For smaller works and sketchbooks I use the travel brushes I keep with me all the time, along with a tiny watercolour palette you can see in my website.

      I'll add a specific brush post comparing the many travel brushes I have tried.

  2. Thanks Jane for your kind reply. If the 2012 catalog is any indication, it looks as though the A6 line is no longer. (I did find one Aussie dealer who has the brush listed for more than $100, but I think I'll continue to use a full size version!) Thanks again!