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This is a photo of what I packed for a week of painting on Monhegan in 2008, and my gear and what I take has not changed much since.

Materials List


This list generally applies to all the workshops that I teach, which are usually outdoor, plein air workshops. It's not important to get the exact brands or sizes of things listed here, I'm just sharing my personal preferences.

Small sketch book

I love the 5x8 1/4" Moleskine sketchbooks - widely available at Blick and other art and book stores. There are 2 versions with blank pages. I recommend the one with heavier paper -- it has a light purple label, with 104 pages. 

Soft pencil

I like the Cretacolor, Monolith 4B. It's basically a pencil-shaped graphite stick with an outer coating that keeps your fingers from getting covered in graphite.

View finder

Black card with cut out window approximately  3 1/4 x 4”. A 35mm slide mount or those little grey adjustable viewfinders are too small! 

1 black Sharpie "fine point" (tip looks kind of like a crayon point) for making notans

Palette knife 

I have several. I use a medium large one for mixing paint, a medium  for scraping off paint, and a small one for occasionally applying paint. One medium sized one would be fine.

Painting panels

Plan on using 2 panels per day. I suggest sizes ranging from 8x10” to 11x14". Also bring 1 small 6x8" Gessoboard panel. Use whatever panels you're comfortable with. I most often use Ampersand "Gessoboard". Lately I've been making my own panels with muslin and an oil ground. I also like the panels from SourceTek. I get the "Academic Line" on 1/8" Baltic Birch, which has an acrylic primed polyflax, smooth weave surface. RayMar and New Traditions also make very nice panels. Several substrates and surfaces are available, and prices are fairly comparable between the 3 companies. The gatorcore is lighter weight than the birch, which can make a difference when you're traveling. Whatever you're comfortable with is fine. I would just suggest you avoid the very inexpensive wrapped canvas panels.

Odorless Mineral Spirits

Gamsol or Turpenoid, for thinning your paint and cleaning brushes. 

Painting Medium

I like to use medium when I paint, but not everybody does.  I usually use Gamblin Solvent Free Gel. 

Brush washer

1 small jar with water tight lid or one of the metal, brush washer cans. This is to put your mineral spirits in.

Rags or paper towels

I prefer rags.

Bristle brushes

Flats, 2 each of sizes 4, and 5. I use Utrecht No.201

Bright, 2 each size 6, Utrecht No. 202

Any decent quality hog's hair bristle brush will do. But please, leave your small brushes at home! And if your brushes are old and worn, get a few new ones.

Outdoor easel with palette

I recommend wood palette for it's neutral color. If you use the disposable paper palettes, get the grey, not white. 

There are many types of outdoor easels, and any of them should be fine. I use a 9x12" Open Box M easel most of the time when I paint outdoors. Made in Montana, (takes weeks to get one) and around $250, plus a tripod for about $150. EasyL is another good, similar easel.

I also like the wooden "French" easels which I often use nearer to home. I used this for about 10 years before I got my OpenBoxM.


I prefer clear vinyl and buy boxes of 100 from Home Depot or Amazon. This protects your skin from absorbing cadmium, cobalt, etc.

Umbrella with clamp

If you're going to paint outdoors regularly, you will need an umbrella. If not, you can probably get through the workshop without one. I have several different umbrellas, each for different occasions. The one I use most often, and travel with is the "Best Brella". I just learned that it is no longer being sold. EasyL makes a similar umbrella, though I prefer the white Best Brella, because it lets more light in. The idea is to keep direct sun off your painting and off your palette if at all possible. 

Wet panel carrier

You'll need some way to carry your wet painting panels, especially if you're traveling.  If you're just painting out of the back of your car, a pizza box works fine.  Raymar makes an affordable corrugated plastic carrier in several sizes. is another option which i like a lot. By the end of the week, the paintings you did in the first 2-3  days should be dry enough to transport stacked, with just wax paper between them.

Oil Paints

I use mostly Rembrandt, Utrecht, and Gamblin oil paints.
• alizarin crimson permanent 
• cadmium red light
• cad. orange
• cad. yellow medium (should be warm)
• cad. yellow light (should be cool)
• sap green 
• cobalt blue
• ultramarine blue
• titanium white 


Extra colors I have with me, but only use occasionally:

• Cold grey

• Ivory black

• Pthalo blue

• Cerulean blue hue

If you have your own palette of colors or use a “limited palette”, that’s fine.  Though I do feel it is important that you have a WARM yellow and a COOL yellow! Your cad. yellow medium should be a WARM yellow (like school bus color). If it looks too orangey, or too cool, try a different brand. Your cad yellow light should be a COOL yellow (color of a lemon). If it looks too similar to the warm yellow, then try a different brand or a cad lemon.


Please try and get out and do some painting in the weeks before the workshop! Your class time will be much more effective! And be sure to set up your easel in advance, making sure everything works.

If you're fairly new to plein air painting, I highly recommend the book "Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color" by Kevin MacPherson. It's about $24 available on Amazon and some book and art stores. Great book, very well written and illustrated, simple, clear and inspirational. Also very good is Mitchell Albala's book "Landscape Painting". Much more information, deeper, and more academic.

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