Plein Air Setups for Pastels

In the June 2015 issue of Pastel Journal, five award-winning landscape artists—Lorenzo Chavez, Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Barbara Jaenicke, Kim Lordier 
and Richard McKinley—describe the power of painting en plein air and share tips and insights gathered from years of painting experience.

Because one of the most daunting aspects of painting on location is knowing what to pack, we asked the artists to describe their basic plein air toolkit:

  • Kim Lordier: I use a 16×20 All-in-One easel, a Manfrotto tripod, a small amount of Turpenoid, a hog bristle brush, baby wipes, towel, tape, bug spray, sunblock, hat, umbrella, and small roll of toilet paper.
  • Liz Haywood-Sullivan: I’m tall and having a stable, solid setup is important to me. I use a photographer’s tripod, which has an additional segment to bring it up to my height. I have attached the quick release plate from the tripod to Sun-Eden’s easel adapter, to hold my painting surface. To support my pastels I use Easel Butler, which collapses to a minimal size and is lightweight but very strong. It all goes into a rolling backpack by High Sierra that never leaves my side. It is regulation carry-on size so it comes with me on airplanes. Perhaps the most important tool is my palette. I have used the handmade Heilman boxes for my entire pastel career. I started with the full size box, reduced to the backpack size, and just recently reduced down even further to the sketchbook size. (See the article in the June 2015 issue of Pastel Journal for more on the idea of downsizing your pastel palette for plein air work.)
  • Barbara Jaenicke: I use the backpack-size Heilman box (with the easel attachment) on a sturdy Manfrotto tripod. The little tray attachment is pretty handy for my working palette. I hinge my painting panel (UARTmounted to archival foam board) to a slightly larger backing board so I have plenty of room to work freely around all edges of the painting.
  • Lorenzo Chavez: My setup is has developed over time. I started with a full, wooden boxed set of 300 Rembrandt pastels, which I took on one of my my first plein air outings—a two week painting trip with two artist friends that started in Monterey, Calif., and went north along the coast to Canon Beach, Ore. By the end of the trip, I knew my set had to be streamlined and the number of pastels and the weight of the kit had to be addressed. At that time, there were no commercially produced pastel kits available, so I had to design my own plein air wooden box. I’ve also found that using small sized, medium to hard pastels helps because of their durability during travel.
  • Richard McKinley: See the full article in the June 2015 issue of Pastel Journal to see McKinley’s plein air setup.

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Kim Lordier painting along the American River.


Barbara Jaenicke painting en plein air on Cape Cod.


Lorenzo Chavez painting in the Catalina Mountains of Arizona


Richard McKinley painting on location in Scottsdale, Ariz.


Liz Haywood-Sullivan painting at a festival in her hometown of Marshfield Hills, Mass.

Check out the gallery of plein air pastels by these five artists here.


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