wet-boxSo! Tonight I accomplished the single best thing I’ll do all week (maybe all year) by making myself this nifty wet painting carrier from a cardboard file box. Granted, I’m doing the car-camping equivalent of plein air painting, so it doesn’t have to be that sturdy or portable. I hot glued 1/2″ strips of foam core in regularly spaced intervals along the sides of the box and added a wire across the center of the box to make sure my 9″x12″ canvas boards fit snugly. Note how I deftly fastened a long bead as a decorative turn buckle to tighten the wire.


Something came over me and I signed up for a week-long plein air oil painting workshop in Paradise Valley, Montana with Aaron Schuerr.

Did I own any oil paints? Did I have one of those plein air easel-y thingies? Did I know my arse from a palette cup? Did I even know how to spell palette? Had I ever painted a landscape? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope!

I guess I figured trying something new might be good for me.

New? I know, it sounds ironic. Me with a degree in painting from prestigious Montana State University. And I’ve never painted a landscape in oil?

Bear in mind that when I went to school (in the 80s) painting anything so provincial as a landscape was mercilessly mocked. Undergrads who could actually draw were routinely made to weep and MFA candidates who were so audacious as to present anything representational and/or lacking in: 1) automobile salvage; 2) bashed in and/or spray-painted baby doll heads; 3) roadkill were tortured by their thesis committees. I was never really picked on: just informed in a disgusted tone, “You should be a graphic designer.”

For better or worse, things like painting technique were not given a lot of air play. (Okay, in fairness, my painting teacher did teach us how to stretch and gesso canvases, clean brushes with Irish Spring, add glycerin and retarder to acrylic paint, and paint a clean edged line. So, I know how to do those things. I also learned how to bullshit with the best of them come critique time, and slide through an easy grade by gluing dry cat food to a television set and adding a perverse title.)

Anyway, that’s all in the past (I hope).

Meanwhile, in addition to fulfilling the dreaded graphic design prophesies of my professors, I became curious about how to use oil paints.

Aaron seemed to be pretty good at painting with oils, and thus began my week of struggling miserably at painting alla prima (meaning “like a muddy mess”) in oil.

Because Aaron is nice, he arranged for me to borrow an outdoor easel set up. I dropped a cool $100 to purchase a few oil paints and a bottle of Turpenoid (one of many mysterious paint thinning liquids) and here I am, proud survivor of day three of the workshop.

But the one thing I still needed was a box to carry my wet oil painting efforts around in. (Calling them paintings at this point seems like a bit of a stretch, but on the bright side, I still have two whole days to improve.)

As near as I can tell, you can’t buy a box for carrying around wet oil panels in Bozeman, Montana. Hence, my super awesome homemade 9×12″ wet canvas board storage box! Honestly, if this is the best thing I do all week, I’m totally fine with it.

PS: 9×12″ seems plenty big when you’re standing in the hot sun being devoured by mosquitoes and squeezing out blob after blob of expensive paint!