Best Plein Air Accessories

Plein Air – sketching, painting, drawing whatever your medium, done in the open air.

It was something I wanted to do a lot more of when I finished University. The absolute freedom of being able to go somewhere new, sit on a bench, and paint.

But it’s something I found very difficult, not the painting, the going outside. It is something I struggle with, the going out, the fear of going to a new place, the fear of being approached by people wanting to see what I’m painting. I’ve suffered with mild agoraphobia in the past, and looking at my inability to go anywhere without a taxi or car going door to door makes me think it’s more of a problem than I admit to even myself.

Lockdown has been wonderful in some ways, actually it’s shown me just how much I prefer a life of not going out. Pre-lockdown I had a comfortable life of going to the same cafe to work, ordering the same drink, and having a life that was free in it’s confinement! Now after weeks of not going out I’ve had to admit it is a problem. I think it was Sunday, when it took me 8 hours to talk myself into going out for a loaf of bread and pint of milk.

So, Plein Air, going out and painting was my post-uni challenge. I was going to finally face the fear of the outdoors. I started watching the plethora of YouTube videos on the subject, you’d be surprised how many videos there are. Most surprisingly the majority of videos aren’t on how to paint or sketch, but on what people carry in their pencil case.

There’s a whole community of artists out there who spend a vast amount of time dwelling on their art supplies and it’s on the levels of paranoid US preppers.

There’s even a video of a lecture on what to carry in your pencil case… Don’t believe me?

A lecture on what to carry.

You may laugh, but I caught the bug!

The more I watched these videos the more I thought the right kit might get me out of my rutt, so I looked and looked and found the Etchr bag, the reviews were amazing.

Etchr Bag

The bag looked a dream and I had some money, so I figured I’d treat myself. I’d been using the same backpack throughout uni and it had a lot of wear and needed replacing, so I bought one. They’re expensive, bloody expensive! and they come from Australia, so postage was also expensive, then you have the customs fees which again… expensive. I have to admit, not only is it the most expensive bag I’ve bought, but I think it costs more than all the bags I’ve bought put together.

But all the reviews were wonderful, so it’ll change my life right?

I’ve spent hours watching peoples reviews of the bag, pinterest images of people’s set-up of the bag and setting up the bag for my own use… I graduated 2 years ago and still find the bag a bleeding pain in the arse. If all you want to do is carry a heavy bag and paint stuff then ok, but if you want to add some of the other items we women carry with us, tough! (I’m open to offers for the bag!)

One other item I’ve been looking at is the plein air easel, Yep, the bag connects to a camera tripod, but the bag is useless for my everyday needs, so… useless.

Another endless search for the perfect easel led me to this…

It looks brilliant. How much? well let’s just say that to buy 2 of the rubber bands that go around the box costs $6.50. Yep more than a fiver for 2 rubber bands.

I’ve been saying this for year… Craft businesses selling to crafters and artists is huge business.

The thing is, no fancy shmancy bag, easel, wooden box is going to make it easier for me to leave the house. My £3 blackwing pencil works the same way my ‘free’ argos pencil does.

There are people out there who make amazing art from a Bic biro, there are others who have paintings in museums that our children could paint better.

Art isn’t about the tools, but about the person. It’s not so much the how, but the why.

So, with that in mind, I’m ending here, grabbing my pencil and sketchbook, putting a chair in front of my house and sketching. Maybe not as adventurous as going to a great location, but it’s a start.

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

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