WHEN warm weather arrives, artists by the hundreds, including me, venture outside with paint boxes and portable easels. This passion for plein air painting is a phenomenon of recent years that has come to include competitions, workshops and shows in towns, villages and scenic spots like the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which hosts more than 200 artists each July at Plein Air Easton. I now have seven paint boxes and folding easels, ranging from watercolor sets the size of a cigarette pack to a full-scale French easel made just the way it was for the Impressionists.

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