I was in a Mike Rooney plein air workshop this weekend (see a link to his blog over to the right). Plein air is a French expression that means "in the open air" or outside. I call it taking my art supplies for a walk. A whole industry has been built up from creating artwork outside and a person can spend a lot of money on "guerrilla" easels, umbrellas, this and that.
It's good for an artist who is dedicated to plein air to have those things, but if you just want to give the great outdoors a try to see if you like it, here's how to do so on the cheap... make your own cigar box pochade, another French term that generally means "quick color sketch."
Here is a photo of my watercolor cigar box pochade. All of the items shown fit inside the box. The little color sketches are 2.5" x 3.5" and are called ACEOs (Art Card Originals and Editions). Although the same size as ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), ACEOs are sold whereas ATCs are traded freely without charge. From time to time, I sell my watercolor ACEOs on eBay. H-mmm, that reminds me, maybe I should look into setting up an eBay shop. After all, I love online art auctions myself.
A cigar store gave me this cardboard box. Sometimes they charge $2 or so per box. The red grosgrain ribbon is glued into each interior side and onto the top to keep the hinge of the box from falling apart. I mainly use watercolor pencils and a water filled brush. The water filled brushes are the trick. I wouldn't say I'm clumsy, but I've been known to topple more than one glass of water by catching my arm on a brush handle. Just unscrew the brush end, fill the ample handle with water, re-attach the brush end and you've got an instant water supply.
Here is my cigar box pochade for oils and it is a fancy wooden one with gold-color metal hinges. I glued a strip of balsa wood onto the lid so I could rest a canvas panel on it like a "real" easel. Got the cute white thumb palette at a craft store. See the 7-day prescription pill holder? Squeeze out a different color of oil paint into each day (don't forget white) and off you go. I added small metal leak proof cups for odorless mineral spirits. Short handed brushes are available or just shorten the handles of some old brushes.