Protecting Plein Aire Paintings

Not many artists have a blank checkbook that will allow them to purchase all of the things they would like to have in their plein aire kit.  Having a light weight easel and a nice box to carry one's pastels or oil paints are two necessities that all artists must have to move their studio onsite into the great outdoors. Another item  of course is a decent umbrella to give one shade from hot sun while one works on that new masterpiece. The umbrella also allows one to shade one's painting and be able to see the correct values of your colors on the painting without glare. The one other dilemma most of us face, is a suitable and safe method of transporting our wet paintings or dry pastels safely back home to our studio.

No matter the place, you may choose, the elements can provide a tremendous challenge to your day or hours of painting. Whether it is bright sun, wind, unexpected rain or sudden chill temperatures, it can make one hurriedly pack up and head back to the warmth of your studio. Hopefully this particular day's outing you are not miles from your car, but if you are a considerable distance, will your old method safeguard your painting back to the car in a cloudburst?

Putting away the easel and the pastels is not usually the issue that gives one problems, the main concern on every artist's mind at that juncture is being able to safely transport the painting or paintings one has started back to the car and then get them safely home. Some artists carry an art bag with folders with glassine pages in them to put over the pastel so it will be protected. But even in that situation, if one is walking any distance and the bag that your folder is in is jostling about, your painting could get smudged, or damp from the rain. Therein lies the dilemma we all face,  bringing back our painting or in some cases paintings from the field safely and without any damage.

After considerable research I have found a product called PanelPak that I liked and subsequently purchased two PanelPak units, one that holds a 9" X 12" and one that holds 12" X 16" paintings. When I ordered the product, which comes in a number of standard sizes, I was pleasantly surprised by the workmanship, its light weight and the simplicity of the product. It is a frame that is routed like the back of a picture frame on both sides. It has two pieces of masonite board that act as covers that fit into the routed channel to back your paintings and keep them protected. Each PanelPak will hold two paintings. The panels are secured by two very sturdy rubber bands in a sandwich in which the paintings face each other but are separated by a half- inch of air space.  The units cost less than 25.00 each, which to me is a very good investment.  I have used the PanelPak several times since I bought them in plein air excursions, and have found that I can transport my pre-cut paper in them and of course transport the rough or finish pastels back home safely. 


I have supplied a photo of the PanelPak wet panel carrier for you to see how they work. They are not waterproof, but will fit easily in your waterproof bag. You may of course look them up online yourself at, and order them online in whatever sizes you wish. The company is quick to respond to your order and ships them out UPS within a matter of days. I hope you find this product a valuable addition to your plein aire kit.