Disclaimer:

This is a repost of a rather old post, but much of the information is still valid. I have since tried out other easels and will post an update soon about the ones I actually kept & use;)…

Every year, roughly around the same time of the year, I start getting somewhat nervous, feeling an old itch again: the dream of – finally – becoming a full time travelling artist.

And every year, my long mental journey in „procrastination land“ starts with figuring out what kind of fabulous, super practical and lightweight gear I would pack, once I would finally get going.

For some weird reason, wholesalers and art stuff suppliers seem to have a wonderful 6th sense, since they send me tons of catalogs and newsletters featuring the newest field easels precisely at this very moment.

And well, a woman needs to be prepared – I mean, you never know when dreams come true…

Since mine seem to take their time, I have ended up accumulating quite a lot of equipment over the past 15 years. Every item has its pros and cons, so you might like to check out what’s out there before buying one yourself.  Maybe my craziness can at least help you a bit with making choices…

 

The wooden field easel:

Pros

This particular model is super lightweight (around 1,5 kilo/ 3,3 lbs.) (There is quite a range in weight within similar models).

Beautiful, classic design

The most versatile of them all: fits panels, canvas and watercolor pads snuggly

Can be used horizontally

If you work small, it can hold 2 panels at the same time – maybe not for working on both, but at least for one to dry a bit while you work on the next

Fits tall people

The „nice price“ – you find models like this one for roughly € 25 – 35

Cons

You need a bit of practice to mount it

The lightweight makes it less suitable in windy places

Easy to break if you are not careful

All the wooden easels have a tendency to loose their screws as well, so watch them closely…

 

The aluminum field easel:

 

Pros

Super lightweight (around 1,2 kilo/ 2,6 lbs.)

Modern design; comes with a small bag for easy carriage

Fits canvas snuggly but not panels – they tend to move

Easy to mount, especially for those used to camera tripods

The „nice price“ – you find models like this one for roughly € 30,-

Cons

The lightweight makes it less suitable in windy places

Doesn’t hold panels well enough for my taste

The overall impression is good, but it is probably not super heavy duty

If you are very tall, the wooden one might suit you better

 

The aluminum French easel

 

Pros

Lightweight for this kind of model (empty around 5 kilos/ 11 lbs.)

Cool design; very modern and elegant

Overall much smaller and slimmer than any wooden counterpart I have seen so far; unfortunately, it does not stand still on the small side, so you have to lay it down or lean it against a wall.

Fits canvas and panels snuggly

In theory, easy to mount, especially for those used to camera tripods

The „nice price“ for a French easel. This model is at roughly € 75,-

Cons

The silver „interior life“ looks very cool, but it might reflect a bit too much in bright sunlight.

Week point: Maybe I was not so lucky with my particular model, but one leg of it refused to stick in place, making the whole thing feel a bit like the Titanic…

If you want to buy one like this, make sure you check the legs right away – I had already stained mine with paint, so I didn’t want to send it back.

 

The Russian „French“ easel with aluminum legs

 

Pros

Reasonable weight for this kind of model (but still too heavy for long walks as far as I am concerned)

Cool design combining the beauty of a classic with really smart legs

Fits canvas and panels snuggly

Easy to mount, especially for those used to camera tripods

Sturdy and suited for heavy duty, daily use

Fits a lot of supplies inside

Cons

This was a fabulous gift from my wonderful friend Rimma, so there are no cons…

That said, you might want to know that the canvas/panel has to be fixed on the inside of the box so that you have to paint „at arm’s length“ and that if you are very tall, you might have to work seated, since the height is a bit limited. (On the picture with me you can see the maximum length of the legs – I measure 1,74cm, which must be something between 5 feet 8“ or 9“.)

 

The Easyl Versa Pochade Box

 

Pros

Smart design with an extended range of great accessories

Fits (even rather large) panels or canvasses snuggly. If used with canvas, you need to change the fixtures (Easyl sells them)

Easy to mount on a camera tripod, especially if you use a quick release plate fixed under the box

Sturdy and suited for heavy duty

Fits some supplies inside

Holds wet panels on the outside (but not standard European sizes)

You can prepare your palette in advance and paint right away. I have fixed a slim piece of acrylic glass in the box for easy cleansing, but you could prepare the inside with either several layers of linseed oil or varnish instead.

Cons

Expensive

Rather heavy – not so much the box in itself, but if you add a decent tripod and some of the accessories, you end up rather loaded.

Talking about the tripod: if you do not purchase the tripod with the box, pay attention to the maximum weight your tripod head can bear. If it is less than 5 kilos (around 11 lbs.), it will not hold this box correctly. (By the way, mine is a Slik Pro 500 DX. I had hoped to be able to use a lighter tripod, but this did not work out…)

The whole package is fabulous, but maybe less suited for the pedestrian painter.

Week point: The thumbscrews under the panel holder – if you loosen them too much, the back piece falls inside the lid and you have to turn the box upside down to retrieve it. However, there is a warning sign on the spot – you just have to read it….ahem…

 

The Open Box M pochade box

 

Pros

Super lightweight

Beautiful slim design with a range of great accessories

Fits panels snuggly.

Easy to mount on a camera tripod, especially if you use a quick release plate fixed under the box.

The whole package is fabulous and well suited for the pedestrian painter.

Cons

Expensive and very sought after, so there may be a waiting list.

Compared to the previous model, I would personally take some paint tubes with me instead of preparing the palette in advance, since nothing holds the colors back when you turn the box on its side for transportation.

Not suited for large paintings.

Week point: The box is very well made, but the lightweight asks for some special care.

Please read the set-up instructions carefully – they have it all very well explained on the company’s website. If you want to use the palette extensions, put them on before fastening the screws.

Regarding the tripod: I use a Cullmann Nanomax with this box, because this couple is very light and small (about 1/3 smaller than my Easyl Versa/ Slik Pro team) – however, if you plan to work in very windy places, this might not be a good idea.

You may wonder why I don’t have a classic French easel – well, I never tried the famous, original Julian box, but I had a spin-off from another company and it did not suit my needs. I found it too heavy and it lost its screws all the time.

Of course, there are many more models available out there. If you want to buy one in Germany, check for the keywords “Feldstaffelei” (field easel) and “Kofferstaffelei”(French easel). If you’d like to find the Russian model, try to google “Etudnik”.

Pochade Boxes are – despite their French name – more of an American specialty.

Here are some links for your information (please note that I am not responsible for the content of these websites):

 

www.boesner.com

www.gerstaecker.com

In the UK:

www.pochade.co.uk

www.artsupplies.co.uk

In the USA:

www.artworkessentials.com

www.openboxm.com

www.judsonart.com

 

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