Painting in a Kayak: 1st Attempt


So there is “on location” painting, and then there is kayak painting, in the kayak, with water, waves, 20 mph winds and splashing. And then there’s the same thing when a bass fisherman screams by at full throttle loving all his horses packed in the engine and not noticing the kayak that looks like a large man-bobber with arm and legs out trying to keep a painting and pallet from getting wet. Welcome to kayak plein air painting!

For all its “less than ideal” aspects when trying to paint, it makes up for it with great views and a lot of fun getting there! I just throw the kayak in the truck bed, with my pochade box (portable paint-kit box), a paddle an anchor and I’m off to a picturesque river or lake! Not a such a bad idea, eh?

This first experience had a few teaching points. I’ve kayaked at Stillhouse Lake before and had a rough idea for some good painting spots. “Good” has a new meaning in a kayak for painting. Wind is a really big factor. I paddled about a quarter of a mile and found a good spot. I carefully adjusted the view just right. It’s like when hanging a picture on the wall where it takes consideration to get “just right”. Excited I could envision what potential the view had while pulling out the pochade box, then looked up and I’ve just drifted half a football field. It’s no longer “just right”. I needed the anchor and this spots too deep. Relenting, I paddled another half mile ohhing and ahhing at all the sites. I found another view in really shallow water and tossed out the anchor. There it went. All of it. Luckily I saw the end of the string floating so I could paddle to get it real quick before it disappeared. So I tied it in to the seat adjusting belt and tried again. It’s one of those anchors that looks like the grappling hook superheroes shoot out over the edge of a building and four spikes fling out to hook anything solid. Well, in real life on the bottom of a lake it grapples mud. With the force of the wind on the kayak, I dredged quite a bit of shoreline hoping for a branch or rock to grab. If there was a dead body, I would have known. Finally, I practically launched it on the shore, it held and as luck would have it, it turned my kayak with the wind in just the right position to paint the view!


I got out the pochade box and dabbed a bit of paint onto the pallet. By the time I dabbed the second paint color to mix, the first dab was dry! Hmm. Maybe quick drying acrylics in dry wind is a bad idea. Then, a little wave splashed some drops of water on my pallet. I lowered the box down tucked out of the wind in my sit-in kayak, mixed in a bit of lake water drops and that helped to slow down the drying (some). It became a speed painting challenge and I was having fun. Then the bass boat ripped by creating a rouge wave (from kayak view). Splash. Wet pallet, wet me and a wet painting. Hmm, maybe water-based acrylics is a bad idea in a watery lake with rouge waves. Eventually, I adjusted to the rocking boat, the wind and even the sun glaring at me from above and below. There’s a point at which it doesn’t matter what’s not ideal. There is an incredible view right in front of me, paint on the pallet and I’m just painting. Nothing else matters. While its not the best painting result, the experience was awesome.


With some oil paints and a larger anchor, attempt #2 should be much better all around.

Update: Day 2 with oils… 20-30 mph gusts, but using two grappling hook anchors worked great. As for using oils, it was officially a mess. The boat rocked and my spare bushes rolled across the pallet. I tried to clean off the bushes and my hands were then oily. Oily kayak, anchor ropes, … Time to figure out how to use acrylics and slow down the drying time. On the positive side, two anchors really helps with rouge waves!


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