Easels, easels, and more easels! I am obsessed with easels! I live in a constant state ofperfecting my plein air setup (for painting outdoors). Why this is so important to me, I don’t know! My husband is a runner and has multiple water setups (camel backs). We all have our “thing”!
In this post, I'm just going to focus on easels I use outside, while painting en plein air. Part 2 will cover my studio easel journey.
the beginning, there was the basic field easel. It’s made of wood and has wing nuts to tighten everything. Can I just tell you how much I hate wingnuts?! It’s light, flexible, and folds up nicely (if you can work the wingnuts! Oh wait, I already mentioned that!)
Pros: You can find them anywhere and they’re inexpensive. They’re lightweight (great for us plein air painters). They fold up quite small, so good on space.
Cons: where do you put your palette if you don’t want to hold it? Where do you put your brushes, paints, etc? Wingnuts…keep a tool handy for tightening.
The classic Julian easel. There’s a full box and half box. This refers to the size of the “box” that holds brushes, paints, etc.
These are awesome easels, no doubt. Here’s why I moved on… The box makes it heavy. There are wingnuts (again). Most of the box is BEHIND the painting, so it’s awkward to get your supplies. However, if you like having everything all together, this is definitely a good option. I used the half box for quite a while. It is worth it to purchase a higher quality version – they hold up better. My teacher is still using her Julian half box easel that she’s had for over 30 years!
I looked at pochade boxes and other setups. I didn’t like pochade boxes since the palette area is too small for me. I’m sloppy and like a big palette area. Also, the minimum canvas size I will use is 9x12. If you like to work smaller than that, there are some definite advantages to a pochade box. Just not for me. Pochade boxes are mostly made of wood – again a weight issue when tromping through the outdoors.
After a lot of review, I settled on the En Plein Air easel setup (www.enpleinair.com) I used this heavily for a few years and it worked well.
The downside was the palette itself, which is a type of plastic. I could’ve added a wood palette layer, but that would’ve added to the weight.
The entire plastic box area was also getting painted on and gummy.
The other downside is that
the tabs for holding the canvas work fine for panels but aren’t really large enough to accommodate standard canvas depths. And, forget about putting a thick gallery wrapped canvas on it!
I am currently testing out a combination setup. I’m using a standard tripod (I use Slik brand). For the canvas holder mast and palette holder, I purchased a setup from LederEasel (www.ledereasel.com ).
I still have a bit of an issue with canvas depth, but I’m working on that…I think I can switch out the little tabs that hold the canvas for something longer/deeper. My husband made me a wooden palette and put some clips on the bottom to slide over the palette holder poles. It comes in a nice small kit that is lightweight. My wooden palette is the only heavy-ish item. I’ve been using this set up all summer and I’m fairly happy with it. I may switch out the palette holder for a custom palette that will slide directly onto my tripod's legs. If I manage to make something I’m happy with, I’ll post it here.
The final customization I’m doing is sewing a canvas tote bag for all my gear. There aren’t any backpacks I am happy with. The tote bag will have a compartment for each item and I plan on having it slung over my shoulder like a messenger bag. I will write a future post with that as well as the rest of my plein air gear. Stay tuned!
What kind of easel do you use? What do you like and dislike? I'd love to hear from you!