GAMMing is not a real word. It was made up by my friend John Fort so long ago it’s better not to think about the time-evaporation-logarithm on that. When I first met John, I was immediately spellbound by his bigger than life stories, cliff hanging (literally) experiences, astute observations, and childlike appreciation of life. John is southern born, free range raised who has never forgotten how to be completely engrossed in the delights of the moment.
John and his younger brother Tony always found themselves among a variety of adventurous souls drawn to live on the edge of physical, visceral, mostly dangerous experiences. Rock climbing before it was a thing, they rode skis, surf boards, and wind surfed at a time when the “extreme” label was still decades away.
A number of common denominators come to mind when I think of these guys (and women btw). First, they rarely sit still. Next, everything they launch into is intended to happen outside. Also, the lean into adrenaline induced thrills fueled by peak-like testosterone levels equal to an above average adolescent male of say nineteen while simultaneously qualifying for Social Security benefits. And last is their obsession with equipment.
They do love their equipment. Watching John ascend a Rocky Mountain granite spire draped in carabineer dreadlocks, beautiful gathered loops of finely woven rope laid across his torso with a glorious cobalt Colorado sky as backdrop is something to behold. Each activity is meticulously outfitted with high quality gear to insure the best outcomes to that sport.
So John being John, he did not miss that fact as he and his friends expanded their buffet of outdoor fun. At least half the pleasure of being out there, came from mastering the equipment itself. Finding the next fun thing was followed by researching said activity, calculating the risks, determining who else would be recruited, then sourcing the best possible equipment package. Once the equipment cache was assembled, preparation followed packing, tuning it up, loading onto/off of transportation, cleaning up and finally storage. Gear AccuMulation & Manipulation (GAMM) was christened. Note: Gaming-not any relation here, is quite opposite.
So GAMMing, became the activity around the equipment. Let’s be clear. GAMMing is an important part of any serious activity. But John noted that some folks, (mostly with too much money and talk, but very little “do” in them) made it only to the GAMMing level. These imposters would maybe do the same research, buy the high end, high prestige equipment, unwrap, clean, polish and display what the participants of substance were acquiring, but in a talk-with-no-walk posture. They were exposed when faltering at the actual commitment to plunge into to the work, thus finding themselves sidelined dubbed GAMMer-the watching/chatting spectator sport division. See also: def. voyeuer.
I do not want to be a GAMMer. Neither do you. We should GAMM, but no “er”.
I relate to John and his buddies drive for excellence. Minus the testosterone jolts and Social Security benefits still in my future, I bow to their age defying grit. Heading outdoors with high quality equipment and a commitment to be a participant is where our spirits meet. When I commit to something, I want to see it, touch it, smell it, feel it, not watch it or only read about it. Recreation is to re-create. It is active mind/body/soul expanding. Entertainment is passive. being entertained is fun in small quantiles. Give me do and try any day. Oh, and just so you know, I’m okay being bad at recreation when I first try. But pushing through, that is the real prize.
So, that was a long bit to get you excited about getting the right equipment. Are you all in now? If so, here we go. If you want to be outside and get really good fast, then painting the landscape on location is where you want to be. Like any equipment dependent activity, great equipment will give you an edge. It will make the experience more fun and fruitful. What follows should get you started.
I just tried to type pochade twice and my spell check doesn’t believe it is a real word. Very annoying. John did not make up this word. It is real. I promise. It is French so my American iPad is a tad confused. But you might want to log “pochade” in your long-term memory.
In the Beginning….there was only the French easel. It is poetically remembered in countless works of art dating from the late 1800’s. While this heavy folding monster’s usefulness then was undeniable, it has been replaced by much better alternatives today. The contemporary pochade set-ups include numerous choices of small boxes that multi-task better than a working mother with infant triplets. They are smaller, lighter and are much more reliable than the leg collapsing wooden contraptions that were hauled around by everyone from Claude Monet at Giverny to Charles Russell in the American West.
The following list and pictures cover my current favorite pochade/easel set-ups. Just so you know, there is no ideal set up. Therefore, if you have access to an antiquated French easel, use it while you decide which set up is best for you. As with all my recommendations, I receive no free stuff or money from the folks making these boxes or any of the other supplies or equipment I recommend. I cannot be bought.
Size matters when you are beginning the process of painting outdoors. Your box size will be directly related to how much mixing space you want. The boxes I recommend all have the following features:
- Support holder (a way to hold a board or canvas onto the set up)
- Palette surface (to mix paint)
- Wet support/canvas holder (for transporting wet paintings out of the field)
- Brush/water/turp hooks or surface space for them.
Most contemporary pochade set-ups (with the exception of SolTek and Coulter Box) mount on a standard camera tripod. The tripod must have a metal head if the box itself is attached directly to the head. I have broken a number of plastic heads off inexpensive tripods. Try to learn faster than I did and save some time and money. Sitting on the ground with your box propped up on a stump to paint is fairly challenging and gives your painting buddies opportunities to record your less than finer moments.
Generally, the more comfortable you are with mixing color, the smaller the box you will need. As you increase your confidence, you will want to shrink your box. Why?
Smaller box = less to carry & lighter = more fun = more time in the field = better paintings
This is what I am using right now:
Charles Waldeman Pochade (he is also a solid painter, himself). I have both an 8 x 10 and 9 x 12. The brilliance of his box is that you can carry 4 wet panel paintings off the field. 8 x 10 box has 2-8 x 10 & 2-6 x 8 slots. 9 x 12 box has 2-9 x 12 & 2-8 x 10 slots. I hang my brushes off the metal brace. Chuck does not advertise that he makes these. I hope you can snag one.
Alla Prima Pochade alla-prima-pochade.myshopify.com
This is my tiny box that I throw in my suitcase when I am traveling. It also carries four wet panels. It has a sun shade and a clip-on the side panel. Very clever box using magnets. Easy to set up. The larger boxes look solid, though I do not currently own one. No that is not me painting. That is my fellow painter Lisa Staggs with her Alla-Prima box. She’s smart and I copied her.
Open Box M www.openboxm.com
I started with an 11 x 14 palette that fit into a beautiful walnut box that also had an adjustable panel carrier. It was a terrific starter set up with a good size painting surface. I continue to highly recommend the palette, but skip the wooden box as it is heavy. I now use a small Palm box that has a trip pod attachment. It is 6 x 8, beautiful and easy to carry in a small pack. I keep that one for hiking with in the Rockies.
Coulter Easel www.artboxandpanel.com
This is my newest easel set up. It is large and spacious for use when I am doing large outdoor pieces and plan on using a lot of paint on a large canvas or board. It is not designed to carry any wet canvases/boards off the field so this is not a set up I pack in. Instead I pull it out of my car and transport nearby to whatever I am attempting to paint. I use it in my garden outside of my studio most frequently. Be sure to get the stretched canvas extenders if you like to use that type of surface.
All of the above equipment can be stored in a standard backpack. Find the simplest pack, that will hold only what you need. This will prevent you from stuffing in unnecessary items.
My packs are always ready to grab. Includes are the following items:
- Bamboo paint brush holder
- Plastic lined pouch for paints (prevents messy paint moments)
- Palette knife Note: Do not put palette knife with paints. I trust you can figure out why.
- Medium cups
- Rock skirt for tripod
- Bug spray
- Paper towels-plastic bag for trash
Now you are ready to step into the wilds and create. Feeling very prepared? Good. Have a little fun GAMMing, then go paint!