Traveling Outdoors with Pastels — Tips and Tricks

Unfortunately, there is no perfect set-up. Even if there were one, it would not make you a better painter. The good news is finding the right set-up for you is an ongoing project full of small and large improvements. As you improve your set-up it will take you less time and less hassle to paint outdoors or to take your pastels with you on a trip. The more you streamline your set-up the more likely you are to paint outdoors — and that is what will make you a better painter. Paint outdoors as often as you can!

Here is a presentation I made to the Pastel Society of Southern California in Nov. 2019. I only had 30 minutes, so this is not comprehensive, but I hope you will find a useful idea or two in this presentation.  To see the slides in this PowerPoint presentation, click on the link below.

– Patricia Kellner © 2019

Click link below:

Pastel Tips and Tools Presentation


Glove Recommendation

From Clare B:

‘I am a full time oil painter and up until I used Great Art Gloves I was using disposable latex gloves which make your hands sweat in the heat and stick to you. They are also not good for the environment.

I now only use Great Art Gloves they are so good, in fact I have just ordered a pack of 10 pairs! They fit really well you can hardly tell you are waring them, no sweating, protection from the oil paint and solvents. I use them everyday when I’m cleaning my brushes and palette. I didn’t think I would need these sort of gloves but now I wouldn’t do with them out them. Highly recommend.’


30 Paintings in 30 Days

Easel Butler Tripod Shelf

 The Easel Butler Tripod Shelf

Easel Butler 1Max, The Easel Butler is an indispensable tool for anyone who wants a lightweight pastel set up that uses a tripod. It was designed by Canadian artist Dianna Ponting, whose award-winning pastels are renowned for the their realism and detail.  Made of lightweight aluminum, and weighing only 12 ounces, this easy to use tripod shelf system is designed to hold heavy pastel boxes at a height convenient for the user. It packs into it’s own compact carrying case to a mere 14” by 1.5” in diameter.

The top photo shows the Easel Butler attached to a tripod. The bottom right photo shows three Butlers attached to the same tripod — not something you would want to do, but it demonstrates the various positions you can choose from dependnign on which holes you put the arms through. The bottom left photo show all the parts — very compact and lightweight.

If your pastel box locks into an open position (like the Heilman), you simply place the box on the cross arms. If your pastel box doesn’t lock at the hinge, then you’ll have to place a support board beneath the box. I’ve used the thin board that covers the pastels in each side of the box as my support board, or you could carry a lightweight piece of coroplast (corrugated plastic), gator board, or other rigid board to span the arms and support the box. I’ve also wrapped a bungee cord around the center of my box and attached to the tripod to prevent the box from getting knocked off the arms. The manufacturer also recommends a counterweight be placed on the leg not used by the Easel Butler to keep it from tipping over. They suggest a large bottle of water or a bag filled with rocks or sand be used as the counterweight. Mounting your pastel box on the Easel Butler, instead of on a tripod connection at the tip of your tripod, adds great stability and reduces the chance of the catastrophic pastel box crash.

If you use the Butler, you’ll need something that attaches to the top of the tripod to hold your pastel panel. For this I suggest the Heilman Easel with the easel adapter that allows it to be attached to your tripod instead of inserted into the pastel box. Presumably, you could sit in front of your tripod, with the box mounted on the easel butler at counter top level and using the Heilman easel inserted into a Hielman box, but the tripod might interfere with your pastel board if you’re painting large.

The Easel Butler has its own Facebook page, with lots of photos showing how artists are using it. It’s manufactured and sold in Canada, but you can buy it in the U.S. and avoid the costly shipping from Canada. You can purchase Max from The Artists Road Store for $39.95 plus shipping.

HePastel set up with magnet boardre’s my pastel box sitting on an Easel Butler that has been covered with a piece of corrugated plastic. I’m using a magnet board of my own design to hold my pastel support. Works pretty well.  — Patty

Keter Tool Box

Lugging Plein Air Supplies

Keter box 1Keter Masterloader Plastic Portable Tool Box

I’ve tried all sorts of rolling containers to transport my pastel supplies for plein air painting: backpacks;  rolling luggage; rolling file carts; fold up dollies; and the art comber combo chair and rolling bag. What I’ve learned is that the secret to a successful art supply transporter is BIG WHEELS. The Art Comber had big wheels, but only one floppy bag (like a vertical duffle bag)  to store your items in – hard to access and it eventually blew out the seams at the bottom. The attached chair was uncomfortable, so it wasn’t worth repairing. The other transporter with big wheels was the folding dolly (aka utility cart). I liked this and it held up well – I still use it for transporting heavy items. The large wheels were a dream in gravel and going up and down stairs. My only complaint was that I still needed to strap on a container for all my equipment – like a heavy milk crate. The dolly had to be folded up to go in the car and it was heavy.

Keter box 2

For the past year I have been happily using the Keter rolling toolbox. The large, plastic wheels are quite durable. I lugged this thing up and down a hilly two-mile gravel road  (I was lost) and it performed like a champ. When I got tired of pulling it, I could sit down on it and rest for a while. If you try to roll something with smaller wheels on a dirt or gravel surface, all the loose material piles up in front of the wheels and you end up dragging the transporter with no assistance from the wheels.

The other thing I like about it is the quick and easy access to the top trays, where I put all the little stuff that normally gets lost at the bottom of a bag, and when you pull the top trays apart, you expose the entire bottom level for easy viewing and access. No more digging around for stuff. I bungee my umbrella and tripod to the base of the extendable handle. When the day is done, I lift the cart wheels first and roll it into the back of my car. My only complaint is that there’s no place to attach an umbrella.

This is available on Amazon Prime for $52.27. In the Amazon reviews, someone said it was also available at Sam’s Club. There are several more expensive listings for this on Amazon, be sure to keep looking until you find the $52 one.

  • Extendable handle for ease when rolling
  • Central Auto Locking Mechanism
  • Integrated Organizer with 2 Removable Bins on Lid
  • Ball Bearing Slides Allow Full Spread Accessibility
  • Large Hand Tools Compartment with Removable Divider
  • 18” tall by 24” long, this weighs 10 lbs empty.
  • Top bins are 8” by 12” and 7.5” by 12” and 3 inches deep.
  • The interior space varies in width (to make room for wheels) from 12” to 9.5” by 21” long.

Keep on rolling.  — Patty

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