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Plein Air Weekends

  • OrcaSong Farm 280 Dolphin Bay Road Eastsound, WA, 98245 United States (map)

Plein Air Pastel Landscape Painting

Recommended Supply List

This is for anyone starting from scratch. You may already have some of these items – just be sure you’re not bringing Grandmas old pastels to the workshop, as they are probably less-than-student grade. Check with me if in doubt about what you already have. One sturdy, portable, stand-alone easel, like a French Easel or equivalent. I use a Mabef easel (pictured here) that will hold my pastel palette, backing board and pastel paper on a foam core board. It’s very portable and strong enough to stand in a stiff breeze. Be sure it’s an easel you have tested and allows you to be able to stand-up while using. You will be working vertically with pastels. This pastel box is a Dakota Back-Pack size that holds @ 300 sticks of both hard and soft pastels. I still use this box, but now prefer the Blue Earth brand (see description below)

*Pastel Sticks: You will need one set of Hard Pastel Sticks and one set of Soft Pastel Sticks for this workshop.

Hard Pastel Sticks: I recommend buying the Prismacolor Nu Pastel 96 color set. It provides the full range of colors, lasts a very long time and is the most economical.

Soft Pastel Sticks: Here are my first (and best priced choices)

I recommend any of the following “half-stick” sets. Half-stick sets are the most economical thing going in the pastel world, as manufacturers want you to try their brands. You will get twice as many colors for half the price of “full size” sticks and they are already the perfect painting size. Any of the sets listed below will work.

Sennelier 80 color half-stick plein air set

Great American 60 half-stick “outside” set

Rembrandts 60 half-stick set

* Note: OPTIONAL! There’s a new brand “Blue Earth” Pastel sticks (pictures here) that I have been using for nearly 3 years and only wish they had been around when I got serious about pastels, as it would have saved me thousands of dollars over the past 17 years, by not buying “mix and match” sticks from various manufacturers to create a decent working palette. Made in Blue Earth, MN, these are ingenious sets that offer the complete range of colors, with 7 value steps in each and  every color  very similar to a traditional oil painters palette. No more guess work when you reach for a color in its correct value (light and dark).

 I LOVE these sticks and use thefull 336 color set ( $1500 retail), that can be purchased as a sale item at Dakota Pastel products in Mt. Vernon, WA for @$939. 


There are also smaller sets of “Blue Earth” sets like the 126 color set //­earth­126­sketch­set­wood­?cat=200 126 sticks (retail $640) $ 439 on sale at Dakota now. It would work beautifully for plein air pastel  painting!

Check them out and call me before you buy either. These are a big financial commitment and not something you need for this workshop, but if you’re going to get serious about pastels, definitely worth every penny spent!

Optional Pan Pastels: These act like a watercolor under painting, but are applied with soft sponges and come in small, flat plastic jars that can be put into larger “palettes” (10 or 20). they look a little like “makeup” (think Cover Girl) but are wonderful for getting a lot of color onto the pastel paper, without creating “hard” edges and also come in starter sets for landscape. I will use them during the workshop to introduce, but they are totally optional for you to consider. Take a look here:

Pastel Papers: I recommend any of the sanded pastel papers and prefer, *Sennelier La Carte, Richeson, Art Spectrum Colourfix, UArt, Canson Mi Tientes “Touch”, Pastelmat, Pastel premier. You can’t go wrong with any of these. Buy at least one 9x12 pad of mixed colors in any of these for this workshop. I prefer colored papers over stark white when  working with pastels.

*Note: Sennelier La Carte cannot have any water (like a wash, rain, etc.) applied to the  surface or the surface dissolves, creating a bright, white spot that cannot be repaired! All of the others mentioned above can have water applied without consequence. I will bring a few pads of assorted pastel papers to the workshop, which can also be purchased for $2.00 -$3.00 per sheet, depending upon brand and size. I will just run a “tab” for anyone who wants to try different papers and collect at the end of the workshop.

Backing Boards: Sturdy Foam Core or gator Board @ 16x20 size to fit your easel jaws and accommodate at least a 12x16 pastel paper size. 1/4” Gator Board or 3/16” foam core works best. I prefer black,as it cuts down on reflection from the sun. (see my easel set­up  photo).

 Sketch Book: one 5x7 size sketch book for doing little value studies and drawings as you work. Nothing larger. 

Soft Pencils: I use a Dixon “beginners” pencil (like you had in the first grade) as they are fatter (more graphite) and fit the drawing hand better than those skinny winney things we've all become accustomed to using. 

Vine charcoal: I recommend Nitram Academie B­soft “Fusain” sticks (6” long, packs of 5). These also serve as pastel sticks when you want to darken or “grey down” a color passage that might be too bright! don’t buy cheap vine charcoal it will drive you mad! The top Ateliers in the world (like Gage Academy in Seattle) use these exclusively for their drawing classes and there’s one good solid reason why. Quality!

A small 3­in­1 Viewfinder  with the little red or amber colored film over the viewing  window is a wonderful tool to have when you are trying to simplify “values” especially in plein air painting. It also helps tremendously with finding the best composition, when you are staring out at  “too much detail”.

Optional (but recommended)  “Tombow” sets of Nylon Dual Brush pens. 10 greys.  Excellent for doing quick value studies prior to painting in color. They are graduated from black to almost white, in value steps.I highly recommend Dakota Art Pastels in Mt. Vernon, WA for buying all of this stuff. I’ve been dealing with them exclusively for 20 years. Not only are they the world’s largest pastel product supplier, they truly know their stuff, are competitively priced, and  local . . . 



9-­5 Daily with a one hour lunch break (12-1)