Painting outdoors – the importance of weight training

image showing pochade box closed

my pochade box lurking in the studio

After my serial outdoor painting project last year I became accustomed to using my “big” pochade box which carries 9″x12″ canvases. Although the box isn’t really all that huge the fact that I am small and don’t weigh much makes it seem relatively heavy. When I first obtained it it seemed ridiculously ponderous and I wasn’t very happy about lugging it up the hill but, as I’ve been getting fitter recently (due to excessive cycling) and training with weights (a must for the diminutive plein air painter!) I’ve finally become strong enough to heave it, loaded up with paints and canvas, for the half-hour trek required to reach my favourite painting area.

oil painting of fells view, north

looking north across the fells, oil on canvas, 9″x12″

I’m hoping eventually to be able to carry a full-size easel and a couple of large canvases so that I can complete big paintings out in the wilds. A trial run revealed that the light changes so much in the time it takes to finish a large painting that the result can be a bit muddled and disappointing. So, the answer must be to either speed up, using bigger brushes and a more urgent approach, or to return at the same time (and hopefully in similar weather – although that could be a bit tricky round here) over the course of several days in order to finish the picture.

Then there is the alternative I’m currently trying out, which is to rely on feelings and memory and small oil sketches to complete large paintings in the studio rather than outside. Each approach I try seems to lead to a slightly different kind of painting in the end and I’m not sure which I prefer. I intend to keep experimenting and see what happens!

In the meantime, here is another one of the paintings done outside using the 9″x12″ pochade box.

colourful valley oil painting

sun colours in the velvet-grassed valley, oil on canvas, 9″x12″

The box is a lovely wooden thing with a leather carrying strap. It folds out to form a support for the canvas while you’re painting and closes in an instant, hiding your work (very useful at times!) but keeping it separated from your dirty palette and preventing anything from touching the wet surface of your picture. It has a compartment underneath the palette that can hold brushes, if the handles aren’t too long, as well as tubes of paint, bottles of solvent, pieces of kitchen roll and other stuff.

photo of open pochade box

a view of the open pochade box showing canvas and palette – you can see its tiny 6×8 sibling on the left

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