Sunday, May 20, 2018

Packing for Scotland

Ready to Plant 5x8 Gouache
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Practice painting for the Scotland trip

The kit, as listed below.  I've also included a few extra clips--you never know
when you'll need them--and a cream cheese container for water with a strong button magnet
to keep it in place.

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes—this traditional Scottish song is sweeping through my head as a I write.  In just a few days, Trina and I will be returning to yon bonnie banks and braes for a painting retreat.  As you may recall, two years ago I enjoyed a fabulous visit and came home aching to return.  (Click here for a series of posts on that trip.) This time, our adventure will involve the retreat on the Isle of Skye as well as travel to the Orkney Islands, far to the north.

In 2016, I took both oil and pastel.  But for our upcoming trip, I want to trim down my gear, since we'll be carting luggage between planes, trains and automobiles.  With that in mind, I am replacing all that gear with simply gouache.  Over the last few weeks, I've assembled a kit based on advice from fellow artists James Gurney and Douglas Runyan, and I have taken it out for a spin.  A relative newcomer to gouache, I found Gurney's video, Gouache in the Wild, very helpful with the painting process.

Why not oil?  I didn't want to take tubes of paint, which I find all too easy to squish when carting luggage here and there.  I'll be using pans of gouache.  Plus, with oil I like to use mineral spirits, and mineral spirits are hard to come by and to manage when traveling.  I also wanted my paintings to dry quickly for travel.  (Yes, I know one can find workarounds to these issues, but I want to simplify things as much as possible.)

And why not pastel?  Last time, I took a very limited selection, and I found myself bemoaning the fact that I hadn't brought enough of a variety of greens.  I'll be able to mix that variety in gouache.  Pastel sticks are also rather fragile.  Finally, I didn't fancy myself working in my lap with pastel and getting pastel everywhere; as part of my load-lightening, I'm also not taking a tripod.

If you haven't used gouache before, I recommend it.  Unlike watercolor, it's opaque, so you don't have to go through the mental gymnastics of “saving your lights.”  It also dries quickly to a matte finish, which makes it easy to photograph.  You can also re-wet it easily, so brushes are a snap to clean up with water.

So here's what I have in my kit:


plus a French easel palette to use as something to clip these items to with bulldog clips.  Although I can stand with the basic set-up, I can also sit.  To cushion myself on a rock and to protect the seat of my pants from the damp, I have a garden knee pad that I can stuff in my pack--and discard when the trip is over.

The kit as it looks when held standing.  Brush kit, etc. will be handy but not attached.
I plan to sit, mostly, but when I will be able to paint when I need to stand with
the kit asssembled this way.

By the way, if you'd like to help me extend my trip and get a small framed oil painting in return for your sponsorship, check out this post.

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