A few weeks ago I bought myself a toy, a “Guerrilla Painter” thumb-box, which is a small wooden box that opens into a plein air panel holder and palette and brush and paint holder. The box fits into a small carry case and has a hole in the bottom for your thumb so you can hold it like a painter’s palette. It comes with one 6×8 gesso’d hardboard panel, and I also bought 10 resin-impregnated 6×8 cards to paint on. I primed the cards even though you don’t have to, so I would be painting on a familiar white surface.
I thought a camping trip to a local state park might be the perfect opportunity to try out my “thumb-box”. A friend had made reservations at the best primitive campsite Torreya State Park has to offer, and Friday afternoon found us backpacking the short one-mile trail to set up camp. I also had packed my full plein air set just in case i didn’t like the Guerrilla Painter, so I carried it in on the next trip when we went back to the truck to get water. My full set has arm straps and a campstool attached, but no hip belt, so you carry the whole thing on your shoulders. It became very heavy on my shoulders, so getting a hip belt is now a high priority!
I had never camped with painting being the sole purpose to the trip. My friend took off for a hike each day, and I was left to paint to my heart’s delight. I tested the Guerrilla Painter, using a limited palette, only 4 colors and white. At right are the three 6×8 pieces I did. I used less paint than I would have on a textured canvas. I learn something on every painting I do. The first day I was determined not to use green straight out of the tube, even though I was surrounded by green in the forest. So I mixed some greens using of course blue and yellow, but I also put blue next to yellow in many places, to give the illusion of green. On my third painting, I painted the grasses near the edge of the campsite sometimes using red instead of green. That interested me — I may do a series.
There was one challenge I did not resolve, when painting with the Guerrilla Painter. I use my left hand to hold my rag or paper towel, to clean my brush, but holding the Thumb-Box with my left thumb meant that I had to hold my rag between my index and middle fingers, wiping my brush without being able to see it underneath the box.
The second day I opted to paint using my standard plein air easel and full paint set, since I had gone to the trouble of packing it in. I usually end up using a limited palette anyway — it helps to tie the painting together, because the same colors get used in many different places. Below are the two 8×10’s I did with my regular set-up. This time I mixed a lot of different greens, but attempted to keep most of the foliage details a little vague. I felt if I was distinct with the tree trunks and branches, they would explain the foliage.