Expeditionary Art: Late Night Adventures in Montreal
Winter is coming in Montreal. That (normally) means the end of painting outdoors for awhile. But – it so happens Maria Coryell-Martin at ExpeditionaryArt.com has sent me one of her Pocket Palettes to review.
Maria is known for using her ultra-light gear on expeditions to the south pole, where the size and weight of gear in your pack are a matter of life and death. (Just ask the Franklin Expedition).
So I figured, if the pocket palette works for her, it should work on an arctic expedition of my own. I’m heading to downtown Montreal on a November night. Forecast says -3 Celsius! I want to try this thing out in the worst conditions possible. Dark, cold and tired – sketching doesn’t get more fun than that :)
About the Palette:
It’s a cute little gadget. Essentially a repurposed business card holder and three sizes of ultra-slim tin pans that you can re-arrange on the sheet magnet inside the case.
My take on the various sized trays is this: teeny small rectangles for pigments, squares and big rectangles for mixing areas. I suppose you could use the squares for pigment if there’s one you know you’ll use frequently. My initial worry with these slim pans is they might not hold enough paint for me. But we will see what we see.
I already use a pretty small paint box. It’s not as if my W&N kit could be called chunky. Is this a mid life crisis where we abandon old partners for a younger slimmer version?
I’m always shy about messing with my paint box. It’s time consuming to take apart, messy, and if I don’t like the new pigment, then I have to wash out the half pan and refill the color I *already* wasted! Petty I know. So I suppose there’s an advantage to the small pans. Not a big deal to wash one out.
So I’m heading out on a first trial run.
I’m taking along the tiny atomizer Maria sent, as well as some 30ml/1 ounce water bottles and my trusty old DaVinci travel sables – which I haven’t used in a while – not since I started carrying brushes in a brush case. That little black wallet is not included in the Pocket Palette kit – she has a much nicer case that I haven’t picked up yet.
This is a test of a micro kit! Which means I’m also trying out a little 3.5 x 5.5 Stillman and Birn Beta, (which, by way of disclosure, was also sent to me gratis. More on the sketchbook later when I get part way through it).
I’ve got a six color setup of fall colors, which I think will work for this night shoot: Neutral Tint, Raw Umber Violet, Turquoise, Quin Gold Deep, Buff Titanium and Grey of Grey. (Yes, this is just a subset of my everyday carry. I’ll try some weirder color choices next time :)
Wish me luck :) That is awfully tiny. I’m not totally sure it’s going to work.
So the kit works great! And the mixing area on the lid works fine. No leaking at the hinge at all.
I’ve got the 30ml Nalgene bottle stuck to a binder clip, with the assistance of a magnet taped to the bottom of the bottle.
Setup feels good. It’s ultra light, easy enough to hold in one hand. And I’m not finding painting with bulky gloves a big deal. Probably because I’m not switching brushes. I can do this whole thing with the #6 Pointed Round, DaVinci Travel Sable. With everything clamped down, I haven’t had to adjust anything, or even go into my bag once.
Round Two! Painting the monuments in Place Du Canada. It’s about zero Celsius right now, so no worries with freezing paint water. But it’s cold enough that I’m keeping this to a 15 min sketch. Walking to a coffee shop to dry paint takes longer than the painting itself.
I’m getting some weird looks from people – street painting is strange enough, never mind late at night. I overhear someone saying “…only in Montreal”. If only they knew! This is happening all over the world even as we speak :)
So, next time people say, “I wish I could paint loose like you” – here’s the answer. Go out at midnight in the winter and you’ll find it quite easy actually :)
Those were three very small sketches, and even though I was painting wet and juicy, you can see I’ve used between ‘almost none’ to 1/2 of a tray.
I would say – if you’re painting at a size this kit is intended for (under 9×12″?) – these paint trays are plenty large enough. I was worried for no reason.
Ultimately, mixing on the lid worked better than expected, so I removed two of the square trays, giving me four more colors. If it were spring, I could see cutting one more mixing tray to put some greens back on the menu – which would basically make it my full palette again.
Here (swatches above) is what I have in it right now. I’ll see how that goes at Urban Sketchers Montreal this fourth Sunday. And then – really – I do want to try some weirder color combinations. (Though, I keep saying that, then sticking to what I’m used to. I hope this gadget will unlock more experimentation).
In the mean time – the Expeditionary Art Pocket Palette gets five stars from me! Right now, for the holiday season, Maria is offering Citizen Sketcher readers a discount code. Head over to her store and use EXPLORE2016 sometime before the end of December.