Journeys of a Landscape Painter in Albania, Part I

Years ago I heard about Edward Lear’s book on traveling through Greece and Albania painting landscapes and managed to track down a copy. At the time I was fascinated by the idea of  a writer discussing the technical aspects of traveling and painting en plein air in the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, Lear’s book has very little discussion of the methods and materials of plein air painting abroad and is more a recount of his travels. His paintings from the area are interesting, but very typical of studio landscapes done from drawings from the period.

I’m off to Albania tomorrow as well, and I thought I’d post a picture of the bare minimum I need to paint for 10 days abroad:

My ultra-portable travel kit for plein air painting.

A cigar-box palette pre-filled with paints, tripod easel with a third hook for the cigar box, lots of  prepared lightweight panels, a sketchbook with eraser and pencil attached, camera, cellphone with gps, and finally, brushes. Not shown are my Cowon mp3 player for painting in traffic and learning Albanian in the car, as well as my (non-flammable) medium in a shampoo bottle. I’ll buy turpentine after the plane lands.

Wish me luck with the weather, it has rained in this part of the world since I can remember.


  1. Really interesting to see what equipment you use. I’ll check out this set up as it looks really light, and practical for hiking around, like the idea of the cigar box! I’ve been using a Mabef full box easel, which is great but can be quite a lot to carry.I notice a lot of Americans(i’m in the UK) are using pochade boxes like the EasyL Versa, Openbox M pochade, and the Alla prima pochade. They look very good & practical, but would be expensive to import to the UK, I’ll give your set up a try.

    From the look of your palette it must need regular cleaning during the painting process. Any tips on how to store/carry your wet paintings? All the best with the painting trip!

    • Hello Joseph, for the wet paintings I take two boards of the same size, slice up a cork and put the wedges in the four corners, then tape the boards tightly together with the paintings facing each other and a small gap between them. Coins or canvas keys work too.

  2. Good luck for sure! I love the feeling of setting out on a painting adventure. Although I’ve never gone out of country for one. Weather is one of those things that, although unpredictable, makes things interesting.

    I like to pre-fill my palette as well, saves time on that first set up.

  3. Marc,
    How does the paint stay fresh? Do you just dig in under the layer of skin or do you put oil over the top to slow down the drying?

    Thanks and have fun!

    • Hi Tasha, I keep the box in a fridge or freezer if I can (or just outside if it’s cold and not too wet). The only colors that dry quickly are the lead white and the blues.

  4. I love the cigar box! I imagine you have to pack and check your cigar box inside a suitcase? I cant see how you get the panels stationary to paint on, but I’ve never used a tripod before. I use a french easle, and boy is that thing heavy when you’re hiking around!

    good luck with your trip!

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