New Watercolor and Oil Painting Plein Air Setup

Since the end of the academic year at the FAA, I’ve been travelling around the US and, for the most part, landscape painting. Thus far, I’ve been very lucky to be able to work outdoors pretty much every day, surrounded by beautiful sceneries, good weather and amazing people.

Partly what makes my landscape painting experiences on this trip so nice is my new setup – custom built by my dear husband, Marc Dalessio. He has been experimenting with carbon fiber, trying to design an ultralight oil painting setup for himself. So he kindly offered to build something similar for me too. In my case though, the challenge was to design a setup that works both for watercolors and oil paints, since I work with both media.

Together, we’ve come up with a solution that, thus far made my painting while travelling really satisfactory. Since I’ve received many questions from fellow painters as to the setup I am using, I wanted to share the current one with you here.

So, let’s start with a visual. This is what the setup looks like when used with watercolors:

And this is what it looks like when used for oil painting:

All the crucial parts, when unpacked are reduced to this:

They consists of: 1) a custom made carbon fiber board that attaches on to the easel and to which I tape my paper or panel; 2) the carbon fiber tripod easel (Sirui t-025x, bought on Amazon), with a custom made bar holding my palettes in place; and 3) and 4) depending on the paints I’m using, a custom made carbon fiber pochade box, or a metal watercolor palette.

Now, the part of this setup that I find most practical is the bar, which you can see attached by a hinge to a small tube warping around the easel. This bar folds out and contains heavy-duty magnets holding in place either of my palettes (which both have metal parts). It also has a small hook at the end that can hold a water container, for when I’m using watercolors.

This little but very practical addition to my equipment makes my setting up process super fast and efficient, allowing me to start working fast on sight. I literally unfold it, place either of my palettes on top of it, and I’m ready to go.

Here are a couple of close up images of this mechanism:

And for scale, here is a photo of me using the whole setup on sight:

I’m very happy with it. It weighs little, packs down to almost nothing and makes for a very sturdy little setup for painting outdoors. For extra stability, especially when there is a bit of wind, I hang my backpack on the easel and that does the job of holding it in place.

All in all, I’m very grateful for this new piece of equipment. And I hope this helps those of you looking for a new setup to come up with some new ideas.

Our journey continues, as we make our way from Carmel Valley to Lake Tahoe. I’ll make sure to update you soon on the output of our recent adventures 😉

Meanwhile, be well and have a great rest of the summer!