Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to Make a Plein Air Pochade Box

Many say that there is nothing like the immediacy of painting en plein air ( outside, in the open). So, I'm gonna try it! I have painted outdoors a few times, but this year as I work to get my painting skills back I'm going to spice it up by packing up and heading out into the great outdoors on a regular basis.

Okay, okay...... so maybe at first I am just going to walk down the road a bit, but still, it IS outside.

First I need the proper equipment and that means a pochade box. A pochade box is a paintbox that is an easel, palette, and canvas carrier all rolled into one. Traditional pochades boxes are much smaller than a french easel.

OMG!! I went online and those suckers average $150 -$350 !!!  Take a look at these pochades.
Beautiful, but I can't afford them.

So, I've decided to gather up supplies and make my own. Won't be nearly as nice, but if it's functional that's  what I need.

Step 1: I'm off to Michaels with a 40% Off Coupon to buy a simple, light wooden box. 

Here's what I wound up with. It measures 9" x 12" x 3 1/2"(outside dimensions) and is unfinished.

Not very rugged....yet!

I rubbed in three coats of boiled linseed oil to help protect the wood.

Step 2: Add wood slats to make a "shelf".

I glued two slats, shorter than the depth, to each side so that I could later sit a tray on top of them. The slats will keep the tray from touching the bottom, which will be serving as my palette. I don't have to scrape my palette when done. I just close everything up and walk away.

Step 3: Replace the hinges.

The hinges were flimsy things, so the next thing I did was buy three sturdy hinges and add them to what was there. The old hinges weren't even screwed in, they were just punched in like big staples.

Step 4: Create the palette area.

I cut a piece of plexiglas and piece of white watercolor paper the size to fit exactly into the bottom (hard to see the plexi in the photo).

Then I cut plexiglas for each side, the height of the shelf.

The white paper goes into the bottom, then the plexiglas goes on top. Then I set each of the side pieces in it's spot.

Now the secret: I ran silicon aquarium sealant around all the seams to make it waterproof and hold it in place. Now I can squeeze out my oil paints directly into the bottom of the box, use it as a palette, and clean the center with the wipe of a cloth! But you can leave the paint that you squeezed out around the edges.

Step 5: Now, off to the hardware store for latches (one for each side) and a hinge to hold the lid in position so that I can lean a canvas against it. Also nuts bolts and washers to attach the handle.

The screws that came with the latches poked through the wood on the inside, so I will use my trusty Dremel with a cutting tool to cut the points off.

Step 6: Create a handle of some sort. Hmmmmmn.....what do I have lying around?

I took a flat, nylon dog leash, cut it to size (melt the cut edges so they won't unravel) and fold the ends under about an inch.

With my Dad's old soldering iron I melted a hole through the nylon at both ends and after drilling a couple of holes through the box, I used nuts, bolts, and washers to attach the strap to the box (the washers distribute the pressure and make it less likely to pull through).

Step 7: Make a tray.
Using foam core (carefully cut), glue (I used E-600), and some white duct tape for waterproofing I make a tray to hold supplies and cover the palette area beneath. We used to make things out of foam core all the time in my college art classes.

The only thing I am missing is the hinge (store didn't have the right size), so that the back lid can be used to lean my canvas against. I'll get that next time I'm out.


And I'm so happy with the way it turned out I may make another for my watercolors!

Box (main expense), hardware, sealant, plexiglas, etc. all wound up costing about $35.

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