Long ago I worked in the multi-image industry, as part of a small, seven-person company that won many of the top awards in world-wide international competition. The image above was one of the animation stills that we crafted for a 1984 presentation we created for Newport News Shipbuilding (now a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries), one of the last remaining US Navy shipbuilders in the nation. The presentation was intended to illustrate to visitors of all levels just what the shipyard did and what it was capable of creating; it ran for the better part of a decade there at the shipyard. This particular still is an example of hand-drawn 3-point perspective – and as I recall – had some 35 different overlays that translated into 70 positive and negative pieces of film, which were then shot on 35mm film and combined entirely in camera to produce the finished image. This was all done before computer graphics burst on the scene a few years later.
Photo info: Still from a presentation created for Newport News Shipbuilding Slidemaker Productions Richmond, Virginia 1984 Kodak Ektachrome 100 film Nikon 50/2.0 lens FOROX rostrum camera and animation stand
I feel compelled by Judith, over at Artistcoveries, to post these “works”… my earliest saved plein art pieces – which my mom proudly pasted into the family photo memory album at the time. There were other artworks – both plein air and studio – I remember doing prior to these, but those weren’t kept… for unknown reasons. Beyond these three, I don’t actually have any other art from my youth, high school, or college years left remaining; much of it was lost, thrown away, given away, or stolen during my many moves over the years. I now wish that I’d retained my earlier work, but life happens.
The top image was painted in July 1969, during a summer vacation we had at the La Grulla Gun Club, a favorite hangout of the wealthy down near Ensenada – in Baja, Mexico. A well-heeled great cousin (great-great-cousin?) paid for my parents and me to join her on her annual retreat there, and art supplies were one of the things available to keep youngsters like me occupied. I was 8-years-old at the time, and I only vaguely remember painting this plein air landscape. Instead, I remember more clearly that some kid a little older than me got his hand badly injured by fireworks while we were there, and later eating an abalone steak in a local restaurant that was real thick and the size of a dinner plate – something which is unheard of these days.
The middle image, below, I drew outside with pastels that my mom bought for me, just before my 10th birthday. From a young age I was focused on making art that looked reasonably close to what I could see with my own eyes, and that included perspective. Luckily for me, my mom – an artist herself – decided to push me in the direction of art at a pretty early age.
This last image, below, was one I made while taking a dedicated summer art class in an old two-room school house – the class being a gift for my 10th birthday. If you compare this drawing against the pastel drawing above, there’s a definite improvement to be seen, even with just a few short weeks of focused instruction. I remember my art instructor being impressed, because the other kids in our small class were still doing 2D drawings. We lived in Idaho Falls at the time, and the classes were in Shelley, a small town to the south of us; I’ve tried to find that old school house since then, but I guess that it’s long gone now.
My art continued to improve over time… initially progress was slow, then by late middle-school I began to improve by leaps and bounds. Once I reached high school and was able to take mechanical and architectural drafting, then my drawing skills – especially with perspective – really took off.
Painting info: Landscape – La Grulla Gun Club, Ensenada , Baja, Mexico –July 1969 White House – Idaho Falls, Idaho – June 1971 Two-room schoolhouse – Shelley, Idaho –August 1971 Poster paints and oil pastels Art paper 11”x14”
This post is in response to Judith, over at Artistcoveries – specifically to address some of her questions in “Not Plein Air”. The photo above is my current plein air field kit, and it’s filled with everything that I need for watercolor painting, pencil drawing, and ink sketching in the great outdoors. It’s the result of over 40-years of evolution on my part, as I began trying my hand at plein air watercolor painting during my high school days in the late-1970s. Please note: this entire kit changes over time… the kit of today is not what I used in my youth, nor is it the same kit I used as recently as five years ago – it’s constantly being updated.
My plein air carryall first started out as an enormous backpack that I took with me everywhere, but that quickly got old, so I began to seek out smaller and more portable solutions. For a long while, it was a large waist pack – but that became too constraining, and I’ve switched between small lumbar packs and small sling packs with more capacity for many years now… changing the bags as my needs arise.
My own plein air aspirations began with a Pelikan watercolor pan set in early high school, which – surprisingly – is still in production today. However, I quickly exceeded the capabilities of the inexpensive painting media that came with that set and needed something more robust that would allow me to grow as an artist and not hinder me in the process. After much looking, I eventually stumbled across the Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Field Kit, which is actually cheaper now ($107) than when I bought my first one back in 1980 ($120) – which represented a lot of coin in those days. According to the inflation calculator, that same W&N Watercolor Field Kit should be selling at $395.67 today!
The W&N Field Kit is not bad as far as an all-in-one watercolor solution goes. It comes with a decent selection of twelve W&N professional-grade watercolor half-pans, a small water cup, a small sponge, a very small water reservoir, a small but high quality paint brush, and three small mixing surfaces – all in a robust plastic box not much bigger than a package of cigarettes. I’ve read a lot of negative comments about that little field kit over the years – specifically that the plastic box is junk – but I can vouch that my original box has lasted over four decades of being dragged through thick and thin, and is still perfectly functional.
Even better, the W&N Field Box lends itself beautifully to hacking, so one can easily modify it to whatever configuration one can imagine. The unaltered kit comes from W&N with room for only 12 half-pans (below, left), but by removing the rigid internal plastic spacers one can increase the capacity to 15 half-pans, and even 16 half-pans (below, right) if the sides of the middle row of half-pans are sanded to make them just a little bit narrower. Of course, if one is fed up with the very small water reservoir that comes with the W&N field kit (like I was), that can be ditched as well, and the capacity can then be DOUBLED to 30 half-pans (below, center) of glorious color!
I don’t know of any other watercolor field kit on the market today that can carry 30 half-pans in such a compact package, though the Art Toolkit Pocket Palette with mini-pans is close at 28 colors; however, the mini-pans are definitely tiny in size (below, right).
Now that we have the paint box out of the way, here is the rest of my plein air kit. I’ve opened the main sling bag so you can see how it’s packed.
When everything is packed together, the main bag weighs 6.2 lbs (2.81 kg). If I find that weight to be too heavy – which happens on occasion when my lower back flares up – I simply use the much smaller Pocket Palette, with a smaller bottle of water, one travel brush, and a couple of other items to bring the weight down to less than 1 lb (0.45 kg).
Photo info: Plein air watercoloring field kit Poolesville, Maryland August 2021 Apple iPhone 12 Pro