Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pochade boxes

To the left You see my antique specimen of the other easel in the last post (Gloucester easel) Mine is from the 19th or early 20th century and has galvanized zinc points on its little feet. You see a lot of old photos of the American impressionist painters with exactly this easel. It is light but not very stable. The other problem with this unit, is the same problem with the light aluminum easels with which you see people arriving at workshops. There is no way for it to hold your palette. In the 19th century, artists generally held a kidney shaped palette on their arm. I was taught to paint with one, but decided long ago I would rather set the palette down than have that weight on my arm all day. That is why the French easel and the Gloucester easel have become so popular. They hold your palette and thinner for you.
There is another solution though, if you don't want to paint very large. That is a pochade box. (pronounced "pochade") Below you see mine. It is an Easy-L brand but the Open Box M is popular as well. The Easy-L has a mast that rises up out of its back and will hold a 16x 20. The box fits onto a camera tripod. There are some pochade boxes out there that will only allow you to
work one size, like 9 x 12 and you must have a series of adaptors to paint in different sizes. These are named after the largest and most revolting of the primate family. The problem with that particular easel besides its imposing a limit on the size you may paint, is that in order to have the part that holds the painting and the part that holds the tubes of paint, be one piece, it puts all of that paint up on your tripod where it makes the whole rig top heavy. Weight is good in an easel but the center of gravity should be low if possible. This "simian" product also limits you to a tiny palette. Both the Open Box M and the Easy- L give you a palette of a more reasonable size. I only use a pochade box when I must travel on a plane or when I am going to a site that is extremely distant from where I park my car. Less than a mile, I take my Gloucester easel. I don't paint many small paintings. However some artists always use pochade boxes outside. I went out on a painting trip with some western artists once, and the bigger the landscape got the smaller they painted. I don't like the miniaturization I have to do to get a broad view onto a small canvas. Great big world, little tiny picture.

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