Studio: “Into Reality” Mt. LeConte, NC

“Into Reality” acrylic 11×14″

My cousin Andy and his wife backpack to a lodge in Mt. Le Conte n the Appalachian Mountains. It has a special meaning to them as their getaway hike and he took a snapshot of his wife walking into view of the mountains. This painting will be a good “happy unbirthday” surprise. He’s been wanting this painting for some time and I finally felt ready to paint it. 

I’ve been learning about Impressionism and manipulating color, value, edge… all the aspect the affect the mood of the scene. When backpacking through the woods its been called the “long green tunnel”. After a few miles, it’s meditative as you listen your rhythmic footsteps, the sounds of the forest, your breathe and you fall into introspection of life. Then, BAM, bright light hits you and an overwhelming view of the mountains appears. It’s a sudden jolt internally to go from introspection to such awareness of life outside of you. Humbling. Everything thought about for miles snaps into proportion, so teeny-tiny in comparison. Appreciation. It’s no question that this life is a gift, and being a part of it, however infinitely small, is incredibly comforting. These are the words and feelings behind the painting that guided my decisions. Hope they like it! 

Making a Plein Air Painting Kit for Backpacking (Video)

This is an “Artists’ Chat” article explaining the backpacking painting kit I use.  If you’re interested in the technical parts of painting, read on; if not, I’ll be posting more plein air or studio works in a bit.  Thanks!

A couple fellow plein air painters have asked what kind of painting kit I put together for my backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s a great question because there’s actually not a lot out there for this!  Even the smallest pochade boxes were bulky compared to the extreme limited space available, not to mention expensive.  Hopefully showing what I’ve rigged up will help get your creative juices started to either make something similar to better than what I’ve done here.  If you have an improvement, please help me and the other plein air artists out and share your thoughts on comments below!

This is the painting kit put together. (see video)
This is the painting kit put together. (see video)

As seen in the photo above, there were four main considerations: lightweight (<3-5 lb), small enough to fit in an outside pouch, waterproof/weatherproof and it needed to be cheap (<$40 for everything).

Kit parts: (this is also explained in the video)

Small craft organizer ($5 Hobby Lobby)

Paint cups (Walmart or Hobby Lobby): look at paint sets for kids, and replace it with your better acrylics

Small “detail” brushes

small alligator clips (Walmart): if you need to clip paper to a backing or easel

9×12″ acrylic paper (Walmart): I’ve found that Walmart brand acrylic paper actually has a better primer than others, so it doesn’t soak up your paints like a sponge. It has a nice smooth texture as well.  If you see the paper is soaking up too much paint, before you head out, put a light acrylic varnish on, let it dry and sand lightly.  It’ll make your plein air experience much better.

1 gallon Hefty zip lock bag (Walmart): Make sure to get the one with an actual zipper on top.  It seals much better than the ones you seal with your fingers.

spray bottle (Walmart):  this is the travel size “atomizer” bottle

easel (Walmart): You’ll have to pry this out of my cold dead fingers to make me get rid of it… I love it. $20

*I just make color sketches/ note on the trail for later paintings, so I use the paper as the pallet.

There’s so much to paint, but painting deep in the woods miles from city life is an experience of it’s own. I hope you dust off the backpacking gear and get out there.  Let me know how I can help!