Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Stop a Windbag

No, not that kind of windbag. This kind:

An obstreperous trash bag.
Plastic grocery bags are perfect places to put those oily paint-smeared paper towels used for wiping brushes, cleaning off the palette and wiping the occasional unsatisfactory painting passages. On very windy days that same grocery bag can get a little out of hand, to say the least. When that happens painting life can become difficult. It can be hard to catch a trash bag that's whipping around to try and put trash in it. Sometimes the plastic bag will parachute open allowing the wind to spin paint rags out of the bag and strew them across the landscape. Then you're chasing down speeding paint rags instead of painting. On the most windy days the plastic grocery bag can whip around so violently that it repeatedly flips up into the paint on the palette and then all over every thing else, including your hands and the painting panel. It's as if it's trying to paint before you do. If you allow that to happen you might as well sign the painting "Trash Bag" and contact the MOMA if you're so inclined. It's enough to make you want to toss your painting gear off the mountainside in frustration! (It's not a matter of loosing your sanity. If you're a painter you lost that a long time ago!)

But there's a way to prevent all of these unpleasantries. Get yourself a rock.

No, we're not going to chuck it at the painting gear. Try and find a rock that doesn't have sharp edges. Carefully drop it INSIDE the unruly plastic grocery bag.

If no suitable rocks are available, use several small stones, a heaping handful of sand, a snowball or what ever will weight the bag and make it behave.

A compliant trash bag.
This will make the plastic bag hang straight down (for the most part) and keep it out of your paint, out of your solvent and out of your way. Now you can relax and focus on painting - and keeping the wind from blowing your entire setup over! Be sure the rock you use isn't too heavy and doesn't have sharp edges so it doesn't tear the bag. Also be sure the rock is heavy enough. Otherwise a strong wind can still whip it around like a mini wrecking ball banging into your painting gear and your knuckles! Not that that sort of thing has ever happened to me. 

When you are finished painting, the rock can be worked out of the bag and returned to the ground no worse for the wear. Make sure the rock's not brightly painted. If you are painting in a State or National Park be absolutely sure you leave the rock behind when you go. Park rangers might not be too happy if they find you leaving with part of their park.

A few years ago I was with a group of painters who were having a difficult time with the wind. I showed them this trick. It seems none of them had heard of it before. There was a brief pause as they realized how simply the problem was solved. One of them said, 

"That's worth the price of admission right there!"

As for the other kind of windbag, I can't help you. You're on your own there.


Scott Ruthven said...

Looks like my setup! For my trash sack, I bought a reusable bag from Whole Foods that's made of lightweight nylon and it stuffs into it's own pocket and has a caribiner clip so I can clip it to my backpack. Packed in it's own pocket it is only 2"x3" and can be stuffed anywhere. It's tough yet light.
Happy painting!
Artist in Disguise

James Gunter said...

Scott - That sounds like it would be less likely to tear.