Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting ready for a Plein air painting workshop

While I am really pleased with my watercolor journaling kit, and my home painting alcove, I still needed a plein air watercolor kit.  Something besides my giant burlap bag!  The problem is that I am not really sure what to get.  There are a wide variety of wooden boxes (including the pochade) with and without legs, as well as a wide variety of chairs and stools.

So I started with what I believe I want in a Plein air kit:
  1. be light weight (maybe less then 5 lbs)
  2. be portable (fold up - fit in a bag with carrying straps)
  3. be expandable (who knows what I will want)
  4. be able to support a 10 x 12 pad or canvas
  5. be able to transport and support an essential set of watercolor items:
    • travel pallet
    • 10 to 12 tubes of paint
    • 3 to 6 brushes
    • water cup
    • pencil, eraser, ruler
    • other miscellaneous items:  razor blade, sponge, paper towels 
I was leaning toward a Guerrilla 6 x 8 Thumb Box, but I will have to wait for the new model to be available!  Maybe the 9" x 12' isn't too big?  But wait, I have a camera tripod, and a wooden box that is just being used to store my acrylic paint tubes.  With a lot of inspiration from what others have done and posted to the net, and help from my husband I now have my very own unique prochade box.  Below are some photos of the modifications we made.

Since my box is 9" x 12", I was able to purchase 9 x 12 palette extensions that are made to fit this size box.  When closed, they fit nicely into the box above all the other items in the lower half.  They do not interfere with storing my 9" x 12" watercolor block in the top of the box, but they do make the box close snuggly.  I thought about adding something to keep the block in place, but as it turned out the wood screws used to add the hinges and hooks (see below photos) stick out just enough to secure the block in the lid.

I wanted to use the travel pallet, which I also use at home.  It was a bit larger then the divided space in the box, so we shaved down the dividers to allow it to easily fit.  I added velcro squares to one of the pallet extensions and the top of the pallet so that it will stay put!  I also added a bamboo roll to store the brushes I carry in the box.

We added two larger brass hinges to the back, since the original ones were small and well worn.  This will provide better support when the box is open and I am painting.

Judsons Art Outfitters sells supplies for building and repairing Plein Air boxes.  Which is where I purchased a Tripod Mounting kits.  We attached the Universal tripod mount and four rubber feet to the bottom of the box.  The feet keep the box flat when it is set on a table.

The box hinge only opens to 90%.  I needed a hinge that would keep the lid open at an obtuse angle.  Unfortunately the sliding angle brackets Judsons sells did not fit this box.  After looking at several descriptions of how other people had made hinges we went to the hardware store and purchased some 3" and 4" mending plates, bolts, split washers and wing nuts.  I also picked up a very small wrench that can be carried in the box that can be used to hold the bolts while I tighten the wing nuts.

We added two D-rings using bolts so that a shoulder strap could be added for carrying the box.  We used lock nuts to secure the bolts.  I'm not sure I will be using the shoulder strap as often as I originally thought, since I have an unused laptop shoulder bag that the box fit into, which would allow me to carry additional items like water bottles, extra pads of paper, roll of paper towels, etc.

We added additional brass hooks to ensure the box stays closed while being carried.  This is not as important now, since the extension pallets keep the lid snuggly closed.

I purchased some small plastic containers to hold small items in, a paper towel holder and a hook.  You can just see the small wrench next to the tubes of paint.  I may sew up a roll for the paint tubes, just to keep the box neat.  I now have a wonderful box ready for Plein Air painting!

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