Pochade box

Clouds and rain have been rolling in, so no plein air these last couple of mornings. I have plenty to do in my studio as I'm getting some new work together for a show, so it works out fine. In the meantime I thought I'd focus this morning's post on my one of my plein air setups. There are TON of options out there for plein air painters--everything from pochade boxes to classic French easels and beyond. Early on I had a full size French easel, but I found it to be too heavy for me, and I hated all of the wingnuts. Inevitably one would end up falling off during transport and without that wingnut to secure the easel leg, you're pretty much out of luck. If I ever did get another French easel, I would probably go for something like the Julian half box which is much lighter weight and not so cumbersome, in my opinion.

I currently work with two plein air setups for oils. One of them, my pochade box, I use quite often. Here is a picture of my pochade box:

I hang a roll of paper towels from a bungee cord on the front handle, and a grocery bag also to hold my spent paper towels. My paints, thinner, and medium store below the sliding palette, and my canvas stores in the lid.

A pochade is a French term meaning "quick sketch" and refers to the color studies that artists would create in the open air often for later reference in the studio. Original pochades were popular with 18th and 19th century landscape painters. They were small "cigar boxes" with hinged lids. Like my pochade box pictured above, the lid served as an area to hold the canvas or panel, and the bottom part of the box was used to store paints and a palette. It was a very simple affair and small enough to hold in your hand, sometimes with the use of a little thumb hole cut into the bottom of the box.

Currently pochade boxes range in sizes from 6x8" to 12x16". Prices for pochade boxes range widely, but if you are handy it is possible to make your own, as the design is really very simple. As for me, I am NOT handy like that!

I bought this little 9x12" pochade box online and I like it quite a lot. It weighs about 5 1/2 pounds, and with optional accessories can hold canvas panels from 6x8" on up to about 16x20". It has a tripod mounting plate on the bottom side to mount onto a camera tripod. My brand is a Bogen Jr. Manfrotto tripod, which is lightweight but sturdy.

I am constantly trying to find ways to compact and lighten my setup, but right now I carry all of my supplies in a large tote bag that I purchased from LL Bean (shown just behind my tripod). It works okay for short distances and for flat areas where you can just strap it onto a rolling luggage cart, but if I'm hiking in the mountains, probably not. In that case, I'd probably benefit from paring things down a bit.

Tags: art painting landscape painting artist plein air