With summer weather luring people outside, which easel to use has been a prominent topic for at least the last month in my group, Art+Work+Living. At times the debate has waged loudly between some of the more popular brands.
Here’s my two cents.
I don’t have a favorite plein air easel/kit. I have a favorite one for different situations.
Alright. Truth be told I have a plein air kit addiction.
I don’t think I’m alone in that. Most painters who work outside like to test out different kits.
Like I said, there’s no perfect kit for all occasions. So it really depends on what situations you’re going to be painting in.
I have three that I love for different reasons.
The Daytripper from Joshua Been is my latest purchase. It’s very lightweight, one of my top criteria, and has a large mixing palette down at waist level. I found a backpack just the right size for it at my local feed & seed store. (They let me pull out every one they had to see if the box fit.) This has become my “go to” kit since it’s lightweight enough to carry a good distance. And by “go to” I mean the one that goes with me when I’m hiking in to paint. But also the Daytripper also gives me a good deal of mixing space. I like being able to spread out.
Jamie Coulter’s Art Box & Panel easel, usually just called The Coulter, is the one I use almost every day. That’s the Coulter in the top photo. I love the size and stability of the set up. Like the Daytripper, the mixing palette is down at waist level, but the box is more substantial (also heavier). That’s what had me looking at the Daytripper for hauling and painting. Still, the Coulter is hard to beat. And when I wear out the box I have now, I’ll replace it.
The third box I use a good bit is the 10 x 12″ OpenBoxM. It’s super lightweight and easy to pack so it’s the one that goes on airplanes and long trips. It fits in my smaller carryon backpack and slides right in the overhead compartment. It’s best for smaller panels since the clips that hold the panel or canvas are built into the lid of the box. Like the previous two, very easy to set up and stable to work with.
But my all time favorite one may be the one I made myself from a cigar box, the one that I used when I first started doing the small daily paintings about 6 years ago. It’s tiny and can sit in my lap. Don’t let the price of the others keep you from trying painting landscapes from observation.
Grab a cigar box from your local shop, modify it and head out to paint!
If you like to paint outside too, check out a few other articles I’ve written on painting plein air.