How to avoid making a mess painting outside

Having been asked how I do this, here is my answer:

1.Don’t wear a nice white shirt. I have a scruffy jacket that I know it doesn’t matter if I get paint on. Having said that I do not belong to the “I-smear-my-clothes-with-paint-to-look-more-like-an-artist school of thought. On the whole I think paint looks best on the painting, don’t you?

2. Don’t paint in oils. They are messy. Stick to drawing. Here is a quick sketch in gel-ink pen from last weekend:


and this in pencil from the recent France trip:

Windmill near Bordeaux - pencil 3"x4"

Windmill near Bordeaux - pencil 3"x4"

However, if like me you MUST paint in oils:

3. Carry lots of rags. From time to time I have a blitz on rags. I cut up maybe 50 small ones and stuff them into a box. They are small so I don’t have to use each one much without feeling I am wasting them. Then when I go out I stuff a small handful into my pochade box. They also help stop everything rattling around in the box:

My rag-box
My rag-box

4. Protect your hands. When I think of  it I put on latex gloves (not often to be honest) or use this stuff called “gloves in a bottle” There will be other similar products out there. At least it makes it easier to clean your hands. Washing hands in white spirit is not so good. Mind you, massaging your hands in olive oil followed by soap and water gets paint off a treat.

5. Maybe most important of all, give yourself time to clear up at the end when you pack your pochade box away. I make most mess when I am rushing to put caps back on tubes and then it falls in the grass, or I knock over my turps, or worse still clear off leaving a paintbrush on the ground where it rolled off my easel in the rush. And then clean paint off of one hand with a dirty rag only to find I have smeared paint onto the other hand from the dirty rag. You been there? Of course!
6. Finally, I have two small containers on the go – usually both of white spirit/turps. To clean a brush I wipe it on a rag, then swish it in the more dirty turps, wipe again and swish round the cleaner turps container and pull on the rag again to clean and dry. At least I have a nice clean brush if I’m picking up a different hue.
R00122887. And finally, finally, don’t use more than two brushes painting on site. You can only use one at a time, so where do the other ones go? In the studio not a problem, but outside, the brush you put down takes on a life of its own. It will drop on your foot without permission, ruining those lovely suede shoes that  you knew you shouldn’t have been painting in …..

~ by noelgarner on September 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “How to avoid making a mess painting outside”

  1. This of course is one reason I use acrylics but in an oil style, cleans up a lot easier.

  2. Entertaining and practical….thank you Noel!

  3. Noel, I like your suggestions for painting outside (I practically never do that, although, I definitely should.) …and avoiding making a MESS (which I always do INDOORS, anyhow.) I could use some of that discipline which so neatly shows up as honesty in your work.
    What’s INSIDE always shows up OUTSIDE, doesn’t it…shouldn’t it? The principle of that is frightening to me, sometimes; at least YOU don’t have to worry about it anymore!

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