As far as actual painting supplies go, there are many lists of what to take when plein air painting. Just Google them. Over the past 10 years of delivering plein air workshops and after 1000s of paintings outdoors, we have discovered there are other things that can save the day which might not be obvious and are not on everyone’s list.

In addition to painting gear, what else qualifies as handy, timesaving and essential to your painting enjoyment? Some may consider these superfluous, especially if weight and distance are real factors—but bear in mind we do bring our guests as close as possible to painting locations to avoid such burdens.

Some of our recommendations are:

1. Multi-tool

Very handy when you cannot unscrew that lid off a tube of paint. Or you wish you had a pair of scissors. Or your French easel’s wing nuts need an extra torque.

2. Spring Clips

Clip canvas to a board, provide extra security for your umbrella, or clamp on a holder to support the handle of your solvent wash tank.

3. Collapsible Cups

This is for, um, drinking. Just watch what you drink when you paint (just sayin’). If your paint is water-based, such an item is an obvious space saver to hold water.

4. Water

Okay, this is probably on every list—as it should be every time you go and paint anywhere. Dehydration can completely ruin your efforts. We do provide bottles of water for guests in our workshops, but just to be ecological we encourage them to refill bottles from the tap. The water at the various chateaux is fine (you can even find the same water bottled, labeled and sold in the village).

5. Bear Spray

Yep, you read that right. The contributor of this tip says “I always carry it if I’m painting alone (I’ve had a few creepy incidents and feel safer with it). I’d recommend it for anyone painting alone, especially in a remote location. Sometimes we can get so immersed in our work that we aren’t alert to potential dangers. It’s similar to pepper spray but not designed to debilitate bears, so it’s not as strong as pepper spray. It is designed to deter and stop a charging bear.”

6. Your Smartphone

Maybe this is a redundant point—do we ever go anywhere without it? But nowadays it’s become the go-to tool. Its camera is the most ubiquitous tool—you can take reference photos, convert them to black and white to see the values in the scene. iPhones have a compass, so you can track the movement of the sun and decide where to set up in relation to this important piece of information. You can set a timer, tell the time, text a friend, send for back-up, play music, make or dictate notes. Geo-tag your photos so in the future you can return to that exact same spot.

7. Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are great to have on you for so many reasons. Spills, drips and splashes – wipes to the rescue. Let’s face it, art is messy. But we have also used baby wipes to clean brushes, they clean them so much better than paper towels. Once you try them, you will probably never go back to paper towels.

8. Bug Spray

If you’re me, you cannot leave without it. I am irresistible to mosquitoes and the like. If you stand next to me, you’ll probably not need any, as the mosquitoes will be seeking me. I spray my exposed limbs, my shoes and my hat. I often use natural repellents that are heavy on citronella. It has a strong smell—sorry, but it works.

9. Nitrile Disposable Gloves

Even if you don’t wear gloves to paint, these are great to have anyway. If you have to tackle anything you’d rather not handle because it’s dirty, use the gloves. Emptying garbage, pumping gas, cleaning you palette, wiping down your equipment is always easier if you don’t get your hands dirty. And they take up next to no room.

10. Carabiner

A carabiner can serve to suspend a solvent wash tank. It can be used to suspend a weight to hold your easel steady in the wind—just fill your backpack or your garbage bag with a few rocks and hang it from the center of your easel. Then, after you’re done you can use it to clip your solvent tank or trash bag to the outside of your backpack.

Region Specific

You may need to bring very specific supplies depending on where you paint. For example, in certain zones you may need to worry about snakes. If you’re painting in Northwest Europe, you have to think about rain gear. If you are very far north you may need additives to prevent your paint from freezing. Good luck and happy painting!


Thanks so much to Jane Hunt, Celeste De Coudres and Fallon Peper for their input.

 Blogger: Julie Snyder

Julie Snyder is a professional artist and also the programs director of Workshops In France.  A native of Scotland, she is a seasoned traveler who splits her time between California and France.  You can learn more about her role with Workshops in France here.

Your Artist Getaway Awaits

Check out more blogs about art workshops, tips and hacks for artists traveling in France, Scotland and Italy.

Vermeer to Van Gogh, Dutch Masters at Carrieres des Lumieres

Vermeer to Van Gogh, Dutch Masters at Carrieres des Lumieres

This year we returned to the show titled; Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters and we were not disappointed. Included in the list of stellar painters from Holland are Vermeer, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Imagine being transported inside these paintings when the projected masterpieces are monumental in size and you are able to observe the art pieces in ways you never imagined…

read more
Glasgow Boys – A Scottish Art  Rebellion

Glasgow Boys – A Scottish Art Rebellion

Their work, like other contemporaries around Europe, rejected traditional art styles and subjects and thrust the art scene into modernism. Like their counterparts on the Continent, these artists were ready to try something fresh and new when it came to painting.

read more

Get the latest!

Get early access to exclusive workshop annoucements, art exhibitions, news and more!

Painting Provence

You have Successfully Subscribed!