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Mar 29, 2014

In and Out...

I've been home from New York City not even a week and here I am again packing for another trip. 

This time I'll be out for two weeks. The first week will be spent down in Palms Springs painting for a new gallery. The second week will be spent at the 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo, where I'll be demo'ing and lecturing on How to Paint with Traditional Oils Solvent-Free. (My time slot will be 9:45 am on Thursday, if any of you readers are going to be there.) I'll also be an official 'field painter' through out the event.

Two weeks is a lot of time to be on the road. Oh, did I mention I'll be traveling with two other painters in just one car – a Prius – and we will all be driving from Portland, Oregon, to Palms Springs, California, and then back up to Monterey? Producing wet paintings every day?

That's a lot of stuff to cram into one car. Space will be precious.

Towards that end, I will do an experiment. Since I'm known as the fast & light guy I thought I'd try to push the idea to an extreme without scaling the size of the work down. 

This is all the stuff I will take on this trip:

Here is all that stuff stuffed… 

You can see I'll bring the easel, tripod, jars of paint, and my brushes – the usual and sundry items I always pack – but look more closely at the boxes. Or better yet, look at what is inside those boxes.

There are sixty-eight surfaces to paint on inside those three boxes. Yes, you read that correctly, sixty-eight.

There are:
    Eleven 12 x 16 homemade or modified panels.
    Nine sheets of 12 x 16 sheets of oil primed linen bound into a single block.
    Forty-eight sheets of Arches Oil Paper bound into four blocks.

   (It only cost me $6.00 to turn the pads into blocks at FedEx/Kinkos!)

The idea is I will paint on the paper and linen pads like you paint on a watercolor block. When one top sheet has dried enough I will slice it off with a knife and slip sheet it into a black drawing portfolio also in this photo, freeing up a fresh surface to paint on. I'll rotate the blocks as needed, and then after I return home, if I decide to consign any of the work, I'll mount it to a rigid support and frame it. Thus I eliminate most of the space required for traveling and leave the weight home. Fast & light 

The homemade panels are along for the ride as backup in case the blocks fail. If they do I'll buy some additional panels on the road after I use up the backups. It's not like I'll be in Timbuktu or Bhutan or anything. I'll be in California.

Why am I doing this? Because next month I am off to Italy for yet another extended trip. (phew!) I will be teaching a week-long workshop in the heart of Tuscany (see upper right) and then touring the Cinque Terre and Venice with my wife and friends afterwards – again, in a crowded car. So if these blocks work in California I'll definitely take them abroad.

Yes, the fun never stops


Last chance to register for my May 2014 Essential Plein Air Techniques workshop in Tuscany! If you would like to work on your outdoor paintings skills with me in Italy check out the upper right corner of this blog! Or, click here to visit my Facebook Page. Spouses and partners welcome too! 

But don't wait, only a few spots left and registration closes soon!

Cost is inclusive, from €1640 to € 2400. 
(Approximately $2,220 to $3,240 US; airfare not included.)

9 reader comments:

Laura said...

I can't wait to hear how the ultralight blocks work. Could be a solution for my backpacking trip this summer. Thanks for sharing great tips, Thomas!

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Hi Thomas - Excellent job at compacting all that stuff! Will you be using alkyds, or will the oils dry fast enough for you to move the sketches on Arches oil paper to your portfolio? Curious, because I am thinking of taking the same paper on an upcoming trip. Thanks! - Michael

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thanks Laura. Arches makes a 9 x 12 pad that can be turned into a block as well. The right size for backpacking.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

HI Michael, thanks for reading the blog. Happy to talk more in detail with you at the PACon next month, but here's the short answer:

I will paint with traditional oils (a limited palette) using Gamblin's FastMatte Titanium White. My hope is the warmer temperatures and drier climate of PS will 'dry' the paintings quickly. I'll also rub the arches paper with a walnut/alkyd oil before starting. I found the paper to be too absorptive otherwise for my tastes. I have 5 pads to rotate during the day and can trim off the top sheets at night if necessary. (The pads with wet paintings attached can travel in the carrier on the days I am traveling.) I imagine if you paint with all alkyds this will work even better but I don't care for that kind of paint as I like a longer open time than they allow. If I want that look I'll paint with gouache.

I will post more on the limited palette I am going to use after I get back. It's a new set of hues to me, nothing like the so-called (mythical) Zorn palette, and it still allows me to hit most of the spectrum I care about. Really excited about the convenience (not to overlook the weight and cost savings) it portends. But I want to work with the palette a little more before I talk about it.

See you in Monterey.

Celeste Bergin said...

very informative, Thomas! I was glad to read you aren't crazy about the Arches paper without putting medium on it. So many people just love it, "thought it was just me"! I'll be watching for more updates from you. Have a great time!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thanks, Celeste. Will do.

Love2paint said...

Hello Thomas! I think this was perfect timing to read, I plan on going to upstate NY in a couple of months. Just curious as to what your colors of choice are, it looks like a limited palette. Are they Gamblin tubs? I loved the palms pic! Best of luck in Tuscany!

Love2paint said...

Thomas, it`s me again, Esther Williams, I just posted the last comment/question. Don`t answer now I went back to your main page and read your post on the contemporary artist palette. I found it very helpful and my palette is almost exactly like yours!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...


The limited palette I have been experimenting with is Titanium White, Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Red, Phthalo Blue (not greenish or reddish). Payne's Gray, and Indian Red were added as short cuts. (I'll use PG with the HYM to make most of my warm greens as PB is too strong for such use.) The last tow colors are not necessary, but helpful. Each wide mouth plastic jar contains 200ml of the paint. I use the jars so I can lay out a lot of paint to work with and put the clean paint back in so as to not waste the color. The only spectral range I can't hit with these colors leans towards the cerulean. Everything else is covered nicely. What makes this work is the extreme chroma of the starting Hues. Mixing neutrals can be challenging at first but easy to do once you readjust.

I will do a detail post on this palette before I head off to Italy.

Have a great time upstate. Haven't been there since I was a kid.