Bringing Your Charcoal Outside: Drawing Landscapes En Plein Air

En plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air,” and is utilized to describe the act of drawing outdoors. In America, this practice became common in the mid-nineteenth century, at about the same time that national parks were being founded and the nation’s first conservation movements were sprouting across the country. Not just painters, but also charcoal artists often spend time capturing landscapes outdoors. Truthfully, charcoal artists have a much easier time than oil painters, who need to bring quite a lot of equipment with them on their travels. Fortunately, as a charcoal artist, you won’t need to mess about with carting around paint thinner and other tools of the painter’s trade. 

Dean M. Carpenter

Landscape by Dean M. Carpenter

Nevertheless, when drawing in the outdoors it pays to be organized, whether you’re an oil painter or a charcoal artist. There is likely nothing quite as frustrating as hiking all the way out to an isolated space and realizing that you’ve forgotten a vital tool or charcoal accessory. When packing up your charcoal equipment, it is important to have an artist’s box with all the necessary compartments for your charcoal drawing needs. Having a well stocked box of charcoals, blending tools, and pencils can easily prevent disaster. When choosing a charcoal painter’s box, bear in mind the length of your trip. Will you be carrying these items for 5 or 6 miles uphill? Or, will you be taking a stroll around your neighborhood and picking a spot only a few blocks away from your home?

Guerrilla makes a “9x12 Laptop” artist’s box which is incredibly lightweight for its size. It is made of strong basswood laminate, stainless steel reinforcing screws, glued joints and rustproof aluminum hardware. The only downside is that the box is devoid of all the small compartments and organizing accessories required by the charcoal artist. These accessories are sold separately and include brush trays, paper towel holders, and plastic trays.

If you are truly hiking deep into the wilderness, you may consider a smaller Guerrilla artist’s box. They also make a “5x7 Pocket Box” which could easily carry charcoal pencils, larger pieces of charcoal, and blending materials. This “Pocket Box” weighs only a pound, and is the lightest weight option, perfect for artist-hikers.

For those of you who are not interested in designing the interior of your artist box, and would like a “fully equipped” model, Displays2Go carries a wooden art box with several storage and organizational compartments. This two pound, 9x12 beechwood box is a great option for those artists who do not require a custom art box. With your charcoal equipment organized in lightweight art boxes, you are ready to plunge into the great outdoors and capture the sights!

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