Lines and Colors art blog

Pochade boxes (update 2012)

Pochade boxes: Open Box M, Alla Prima Pochade, Judson's French Resistance, DIY models from Scott Ruthven and Antti Rautiola
Some plein air painters are hardy and dedicated enough to paint outdoors all year round. Others, like your humble author, are more inclined to wait until spring to emerge from the cocoon of a heated studio, brushes in hand, blinking in the glare of an unfamiliar sun.

In either case, for most of us, the warmer days are high season for painting outdoors — time to get out the pochade box and venture into the open air.

I’ve just updated my extensive article from 2008 on pochade boxes, in which I discuss the use and basic configurations of these portable outdoor artists studios, and attempt to list every commercial manufacturer as well as a variety of DIY solutions for those inclined to build their own.

I’ve added new information about Open Box M, new products from Judson’s Art Outfittters, as well as several additional DIY videos and resources, some of which lower the bar by utilizing found materials and $10 or $15 in parts.

So unleash your inner Van Gogh and take to the fields, brushes, pochade box and tripod in hand.

(Above: Open Box M, Alla Prima Pochade, Judson’s French Resistance, DIY models from Scott Ruthven and Antti Rautiola)


11 responses to “Pochade boxes (update 2012)”

  1. Charlie,
    Your’e not kidding you did update it, and thanks.
    Time for a new one, I enjoy building things, maybe I’ll do my own, have an old tripod lying around.
    Lately I have been doing some found object re-purposing in the studio and around home so this is really helpful to have all this info in one place.

  2. Hi Charlie,

    I tried using an antique pochade box (late 19th Century) I had a few difficulties using it outside. First of all it was pretty heavy, and when I was painting every time I used a brush it would make the contents of the box rattle which was pretty annoying.

    The best solution I found for me was using Marc Dalessio’s simple set up of just using a cigar box and italian steel tripod. It’s light, cheap and its good for having your canvas at eye level and your paints lower down. I’d really recommend it for artists just starting out as there is a minimal amount of materials you need to start with.

    Here’s my version of the set up:

    and Marc’s painting in action:

    1. Thanks, Will. Interesting approach, almost like a homemade version of the Soltek. Does the Italian tripod you mention come with hardware to hold the panel and box, or did you improvise?

  3. No, I just use a clamp to fix it to the easel, because there is no weight to the box, its pretty sturdy.

    I did add string to the lid of the cigar box so it only opens to 90 degrees.

  4. Sorry, saying it is a tripod could be a bit misleading as its more a regular steel field easel. (although literally a tripod too)

    1. Thanks, Wil. Looks like a good deal. Also looks like it might work well with one of these tripod shelf units from SunEden (for larger diameter legs here).

  5. Like the simplicity of the steel easel Will is using. And nice work BTW on your site.
    Looking further as per your, Charlie, comment link to SunEden I like their watercolor tripod for its simple versatility. I could use it for oils or watercolor, pivoting the work surface horizontal for no-run watercolor.

  6. Nice! I remember reading your very thorough article back then, a great help! I got myself the Soltek, and its worth ever penny. I call it the Macbook Pro of easels (and Im a PC man!) It really is amazingly versatile, good for large scale and small,watercolors, anything you can throw at it. Needs to be reviewed here! I had it imported to Sweden, and that cost me more, I also had to wait about 6 weeks for it, but I’m glad I did. I’ve even made some modifications to it, so that I can attach daylight lamps with neodyme magnets and paint whenever, in a motel-room in case need should arise. I love it!

  7. Ahh,I see now why you didn’t include the larger Solteks and so on, smaller boxes only! For that I made my own box, that only holds 8×10-14´s but I still prefer the soltek, even though I can feel a bit heavy at times. I actually bought a bunch of smaller empty tubes to lighten the load when going out.

    1. David & Tim,

      Thanks, I may well expand the article a bit in the future to include more detail about the Soltek, SunEden and other portable easels.

  8. Lorette Avatar

    Easel (EZEL) in Dutch means donkey. Says it all, doesn’t it?
    This year I plan to do some serious outdoor art work. Thanks to you, Charley, and all the readers’ inspiration.