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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Nomad: Extremely Portable Pastel Painting Kit from Blue Earth

Snow Melting 6x8 Pastel - Available
Painted with the Nomad from Blue Earth Pastels

If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Blue Earth Pastels. Recently, I acquired a prototype of a plein air kit they've developed called the Nomad. Opening the little box was like a breath of fresh air: 56 chunky sticks of pristine, pure pigments, all neatly packed in a box just a little bigger than a 6"x8" sheet of pastel paper. I couldn't wait to take the Nomad on a short journey—but alas, one of New Mexico's bigger snow storms hit about the same time I received it, so I had to wait several days.

The Nomad

The pastel sticks, which are packed in Blue Earth's signature fashion of each standing upright in a comfortable cushion of foam, make a good selection for outdoor painting. On the left side are 28 sticks that cover the primary and secondary colors in four steps of value. On the right side are another 28 sticks, all greyed versions of the sticks on the left, and again, in four steps of value. Together, these two sets give the painter a wide range of possibilities for color and value.

The box itself is made of 200-lb cardboard, which means that the lid is sturdy enough to serve as a backboard for painting on. With a set of four micro-clips, you can clip a sheet of 6"x8" paper to the inside of it and paint directly on it. (Blue Earth recommends using another piece of paper for cushioning to keep the corrugation from "telegraphing" through to the painting surface, but I didn't have that problem.) And even better, you can fit that same sheet of paper between the lid and the foam inserts that protect the top of the pastels when you pack everything up.

In the field with the Nomad

Once I got plowed out, I took the kit to paint some snow scenes. I tucked a few sheets of 6"x8" paper (Art Spectrum, UArt and Wallis Belgian Mist) into the box, and stuck the micro-clips, a few sheets of paper towel and set of fingercots into my pocket. I also took a folding stool, since I figured my favorite rocks for sitting on were covered in a foot of snow. I didn't pack any glassine to protect the painting surfaces; I decided the fit of the 6"x8" sheets was tight enough that if I just stacked them, front to back, they wouldn't shift enough to smear the pastel.

For storing paper or paintings, I keep the foam inserts on top...
...then I put in my painting(s)...

...and top them off with a clean sheet.

If you've used Blue Earth pastels, you'll know that they are soft. Although you can certainly draw a delicate line with them, that's a little difficult in a small format such as 6"x8". So I took a painterly approach, thinking more in shapes and color, saving any lines for just a touch here and there, which I can do with a pointed end or a long edge of a stick. This, by the way, is how I go about doing color studies in the field, and I think this kit is excellent for that. Another thought is, if you want to do a more "finished" painting—and what that is, exactly, is a topic for another post—take out a larger sheet of paper on a bigger backboard. Or, take a few sticks of hard pastels or a pastel pencil. But in my mind, that defeats the idea behind this extremely portable pastel kit. The less you take, the better—and you'll have a more enjoyable time of it.

The Nomad is expected to be released March 1st and will be available exclusively through Dakota Pastel.

Here are two more sketches from the field with the Nomad:

Snowy Cliff 6x8 Pastel - Available

Sunlight & Snow 6x8 Pastel - Available