You’ve got your french easel, your paints and your hiking boots. You’re all ready to go paint plein air in the great outdoors… are you?
Here is a list of some things you may not have considered. Along with my art gear I always pack a first aid kit and my cell phone. Even when painting near Atlanta there are parks where I am several miles from the nearest ranger station. You never know when you or a member of your group may suffer an injury. In addition I pack a snake bite kit, Swiss army knife, bug repellent, safety matches and fire starter only for dire emergencies. A whistle to call for help as well as plenty of water and some food, generally trail mix or cereal.
I am sure this sounds like quite a bit to add to your kit but consider this. What would you do if you suffer an injury or get lost and are more than an hour away from help? Thats not hard even in densely populated areas, in sparser areas help could be 2 or more hours away. You need to be able to survive until help arrives or you can get to safety. Its doesn’t take much for a minor emergency to become a major one. I generally pack enough that I could make it through a night and a day on my own if necessary.
In my bag is a disposable rain coat and a regular rain coat; these can be used for shelter as well as keeping dry and warm. I always carry a head lamp, it serves 2 purposes, its great for painting nocturnes but can also act an emergency flashlight. My camping mirror is also dual purpose, I use it to look at my painting in reverse but it can double as an emergency beacon. The compass can help me plan the direction of the sun for paintings but can also help me find my direction should I get lost.
Perhaps you think I am merely paranoid. It is important to remember artist have died from injuries and exposure while painting outdoors. It’s better to be prepared. It is also important to use good judgement and when in questionable areas bring a partner or two. These romantic images of artists venturing into the wilds alone a century ago are a myth. What you didn’t see in the photos were the porters, drivers, cooks and others that accompanied an artist on these trips. They were never alone. I will note that I have been fortunate enough to never have needed anything more than the raincoat I pack. However, I do feel strongly that artists venturing outdoors should be prepared.
Here are a few additional items I pack along with my paints, a sketchbook, pens, book light for nocturnes, a trash bag, business cards and a pair of binoculars. You should always carry business cards. I have actually sold a painting to a passerby while painting near a road in Ellijay. I gave him the painting along with my business card so he could view more of my work. The binoculars I find are great for scouting out painting locations down the trail or getting a better look at the local wild life. I hope you find this useful as you are planning your next great adventure painting plein air. Keep painting.