Gobelins students’ animations for Annecy 2017

Gobelins students' animations for Annecy 2017
As I’ve been noting every year since 2006, each year at this time, small teams of graduating students from Gobelins, l’école de l’image (Goeblins School of Communications) in Paris create short animations (usually about 1 minute) to be used as introductions to each of the five day’s events at the Annecy International Festival of Animation.

The emphasis is on 2D hand drawn animation though at least one of this year’s shorts uses GCI. This year’s theme is “La Chine a l’honneur” which I think loosely translates as “Honoring China”.

You can see all five shorts on YouTube. Uncharacteristically this year, there are short ads in front of some of the YouTube videos, but they’re of the kind that can be skipped after a few seconds. (I couldn’t find the shorts on the on the Gobelins website.)

(Note: images above are just screen caps from each of the five films, not clickable embeds. Please follow the provided link to view the films.)

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Giacomo Guardi gouache painting of Venice

View of the Rialto Bridge, Giacomo Guardi, gouache on paper
View of the Rialto Bridge, Giacomo Guardi

Gouache on paper, roughly 5 x 9 inches (13 x 24 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum.

On the Morgan’s page, you can use the Download link under the image, or the Zoom tab above it. When using the zoom, it’s helpful to know that in the controls under the image, the last one on the right opens the zoomed image full screen.

When viewed in detail, the wonderful economy of Guardi’s notation becomes evident. Abbreviated brush lines delineate the windows, splashes of opaque gouache form heads and bodies, and brief indications of value change give the buildings dimension. Look at the way the reflections are indicated under the buildings at right.

 
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DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from a cigar box

DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes
As I described in my original post on the subject (which will be updated shortly), pochade boxes are small, usually wooden boxes, meant to serve as a portable artist’s palette and easel for painting on location. Many also contain storage for supplies. Most are equipped to be mounted to camera tripods, but some are simply meant to be held in one’s lap or set on a table when painting.

Pochade boxes have become the defacto standard for plein air painting, largely supplanting the larger French easels and being more common than the field easels and plein air systems meant to handle larger canvases.

Most commercial pochade boxes represent an investment, often a barrier for painters unsure if they want to commit to plein air painting on a regular basis, or for those on a budget.

As of this writing, the least expensive commercial pochade box of which I’m aware is the Guerrilla Painter Pocket Box — a small handheld “thumb box” for 5×7 panels that retails for between $70.00 and $85.00 USD. It has no provision for mounting to a tripod (though holes are drilled for adding a proprietary mounting bracket for an additional $24.00). Most other commercial pochade boxes range in price from $125.00 to $400.00 and up.

So Do It Yourself instructions have gained momentum in recent years. By far, the most common type of these are cigar box to pochade box conversions.

Most cigar stores continually go through cigar boxes as they sell individual cigars, many of them are wood and some are quite nicely finished and well suited in size and shape for making a pochade box. You can usually pick them up either for free or for three or four dollars. Most are made of lightweight wood. When you go looking, you may want to bring a tape measure or typical painting panel to be sure the box you choose will fit your chosen panel size (usually set into the lid).

If you don’t have access to a cigar store, new cigar boxes and similar wooden boxes can be purchased on Amazon (and here), or from craft sources like Michaels or Joann Fabrics for $7.00 or $8.00, though some of these may be too shallow to allow much storage under a palette. You can also check eBay and/or your parent’s attic for any kind of wooden box that seems suitable.

sketch boxYou could also do a similar conversion from an artist’s sketch box (and here), which would be a more expensive start, but would include a correctly sized palette, stronger hinges and latches, and often a handle.

Most cigar boxes have weak, inexpensive hinges, not likely to hold up under the stress of holding a panel while painting, so they usually need to be replaced or supplemented. Also, some accommodation must be made for holding the lid open at a usable angle when using it as an easel. Most DIY versions will also add a stronger latch and often a handle of some kind. Usually, dowels or small wood blocks are cut to length and glued in the corners of the base to provide a palette support, with space underneath for supplies. Wooden, acrylic or glass palettes must usually be cut to size. Existing wooden palettes can be cut down. Palettes can also be made from masonite painting panels coated in gesso and sanded smooth.

T-nutThe more complete versions will include a “T-nut“, a threaded mounting that allows for putting the box on a photographic tripod, like most commercial pochade boxes. The appropriate size to match tripod mounts appears to be 1/4-20 (1/4″ diameter, 20 threads per inch). Usually, additional wood must be added in the area of the T-Nut to provide a more solid mounting than the typical cigar box’s thin, light wood.

The boxes without provision for tripod mounting are meant to be used in your lap or on a table. Some have a thumb hole cut into the bottom of one of the compartments, making a “thumb box” that allows the box to be held in one hand like a traditional artist’s palette.

I’ve tried to provide an overview here of some cigar box to pochade box conversions. This is by no means comprehensive, it’s just meant to be a representative sampling with an emphasis on those that I feel convey enough DIY information to be useful. In the listings below, I’ve linked the author’s name to their post or video describing the project.

Most of these instructions are casually presented rather than laid out in comprehensive detail, so you may have to hunt a bit for the relevant details, but we should be appreciative of the time taken by these artists to share their experience and ideas.

I will follow up this post with another devoted to more elaborate DIY pochade box instructions not based on cigar boxes, most of which are larger and can accommodate larger panels, with more adjustment and room for storage, and sharing more features in common with commercial pochade boxes.

Cigar box pochade box conversions –
no tripod mount

, cigar box pochade box Ellie Clemens
This was the first mention of building a cigar box pochade box I encountered on the web, and at the time the only one I knew of, so I think of it as the original online instruction for building one, and it is still one of the best. Unfortunately, the original website no longer exists, so I have linked to a version on the Internet Archive.

Two strips of lath support the palette, which is cut with a thumb hole so it can be held separately. Brass mending strips and a small bolt hold the lid up and four blocks glued into the lid make a holder for a 5×7 panel.

Plein Air Muse, cigar box pochade box Plein Air Muse
This is a pretty basic cigar box conversion, with some dowels supporting the palette and a couple of braces for holding open the lid.

Lori McNee, cigar box pochade box Lori McNee
Another straightforward conversion, with wood or plastic blocks for palette supports and wing nuts for the lid. Plastic surface savers and one of the hinge bolts hold the panel in place. There are better photos of her box on Empty Easel.

PJ Coo, cigar box pochade box PJ Cook
This cigar box came with a divided tray which sets in the box upside-down to become the palette. A block on the back supports the lid and framing clips hold the panel in place.

Sharon Will, cigar box pochade box Sharon Will
A clever use of canvas stretcher keys to support the palette and an unusual slide hinge highlight this conversion. A small L-shaped fastener holds the panel in the lid.

Stephen D'Amato, cigar box pochade box Stephen D’Amato
A nicely done cigar box pochade for both watercolor and oil. Metal brackets and a wing nut hold the lid. L-shaped fasteners hold the panel. A leather strap holds the box closed and keeps the panel from sliding out in transit. Plastic watercolor trays have been cut down to fit into the compartment and the oil palette rests above them.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts, cigar box pochade box Thomas Jefferson Kitts
This conversion is a “thumb box”, meant to be held in one hand like a traditional palette while painting. The bottom is compartmentalized and one compartment has the thumb hole, placed so the box can be balanced in the hand. Everything but the palette surface and panel are removed when painting to keep it as light as possible. A wooden ledge and simple office clips hold the panel in place.

Cigar box pochade box conversions –
with T-nut or other tripod mounting

Marla Goodman, cigar box pochade box Marla Goodman
A box with a larger than usual mixing area, but too shallow to provide much storage. Techniques are applicable to other size boxes. A cut-to-size piece of masonite in the bottom provides the extra depth and strength necessary to use the T-nut. A unique clip and plastic tubing arrangement holds open the lid. Paint stirrers are used to brace the painting panels, which are simply held on with binder clips. Closure is velcro.

Gabrielle Sivitz, cigar box pochade box Gabrielle Sivitz
A two-part post. Not exactly a cigar box, but the principles are the same. A wood block holds the lid up. Four corks cut to size hold the acrylic palette in place, with room underneath for supplies.

Austin Maloney, cigar box pochade box Austin Maloney
Metal “mending strips” and a wing nut hold the lid in position. Another bolt and wing nut in a slot in the lid hold the panel in place. A commercial tripod mounting plate from Guerilla Painter is used instead of a T-nut.

Linda  Schroeter, cigar box pochade box Linda Schroeter
This looks like an unusually sturdy cigar box, but the instructions are pretty detailed. Dowels are hot-glued in the corners to support the palette, which is made from a masonite painting panel, painted and cut with a thumb hole to use separately. L-shaped brackets can hold panels in the lid, which is held open with metal braces and a wing nut. An extra piece of wood has been glued to the bottom to support the tripod mount; four rubber feet raise the box above that for use on a table.

Frank Hobbs, cigar box pochade box Frank Hobbs
A clever extender for the panel holder, made from lattice, is a highlight of this functional box. Another piece of lattice provides the extra thickness and strength in the bottom of the box necessary for the T-nut tripod mount. A piece of v-shaped molding serves as a trough to keep the fresh paint separate from the mixing area. A wood strip on the back supports the open lid.

, cigar box pochade box Jeff McRobbie
This is probably the best tutorial and most sophisticated design I’ve seen for a DIY cigar box pochade box. The wooden block on the back of the box that holds open the lid in use is set in a slot with a wing nut, allowing the angle of the lid to be adjusted. A square of plywood in the bottom of the box provides the extra depth and strength needed for the T-nut mounting. Strips of narrow wood support the palette, and another is adapted to be a removable brush holder that plugs into the outside of the box with lengths of clothes-hanger wire. The panel holder looks sophisticated, but seems easy enough to construct, and features a wooden adjustment knob on the back of the lid. The panel holder and knob extend a bit from the box when closed, but still make a compact design.

smoothie77, cigar box pochade box smoothie77
This YouTube video (w/skipable ad) shows an interesting conversion with double slide-out trays. A little short on the how-to instructions, but food for thought.

, cigar box pochade box Bart Charlow
This YouTube video (no ads) features an unusual configuration with two cigar boxes stacked together. Two mending strips and a thumbscrew hold open the lid. Cork in the lid allows pushpins to hold watercolor paper. A third, shallow cigarbox tucks inside the top of the first and acts as a removable tray that can be attached to the outside of the box with additional thumbscrews and L-brackets. The bottom cigar box is a storage area, and a slide out piece below that holds a brush washer when in use. The tripod mount has not been added at this point.

Look around

I will follow this post with another about more elaborate DIY pochade boxes, as well as updating my original post on commercial pochade boxes.

But when looking for ideas for a cigar box conversion, don’t limit yourself to those presented here. Look at the more elaborate homemade boxes as well as the commercial ones to see how they’ve solved the basic problems of storage, palette arrangement, easel adjustment and panel or paper holding for inspiration. You will also find variations aimed more at watercolor or pastels.

If you come up with some clever ideas, consider sharing them with others the way these artists have.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Monet’s Springtime

Springtime, Claude Monet, Impressionist oil painting
Springtime, Claude Monet

Link is to zoomable version on the Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikipedia; original is in the Walters Art Museum.

In this painting by Monet of his first wife and frequent model, Camille Doncieux, we can see the painter’s fascination with light and color.

The foliage is gesturally indicated, with mere suggestions of leafy texture. The background grass is just brushy patches of color.

Monet’s attention is on Camille’s face, and even more, on her clothing and the dappled sun effects on the dress and foreground grass. Monet has carried the pinks of the dress into the sun splashes in the green grass. Under his guidance, our eye sees it as natural.

The rendering of the dress is more subtle than it first appears, with shifting areas of almost complementary color held in check by careful matching of value.

The variation of color just in the bonnet is remarkable.

 
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James Gurney’s How to Make a Sketch Easel

James Gurney's How to Make a Sketch Easel
As I will point out in an article soon to follow this one about DIY pochade boxes, there are a lot of blog posts and videos out there that offer do-it-yourself instructions for making outdoor painting kits, from simple watercolor kits in a bag to complex pochade boxes with drawers and panel carriers.

Unfortunately, most of them, however well intentioned, suffer from poor, spotty or incomplete instructions. In the case of YouTube videos, they are often shaky, handheld clips with low production values and little or no editing. There are a few exceptions, but not many.

At the other end of the spectrum we have James Gurney, who has been creating a series of instructional videos with high production values and an eye to teaching in a manner that is well thought out and pays attention to detail.

Though not free like most of the YouTube videos, these are very modestly priced as digital downloads, and well worth it in terms of actual usability.

Gurney is not only a painter, illustrator, videographer and writer, he is an inveterate maker and inventor, constantly searching for better, more clever ways to do things related to painting and illustration.

Gurney’s latest video is How to Make a Sketch Easel, and he provided me with a review copy. (I chose the digital download version; there is also a DVD version with an additional slide show.)

A sketch easel, as opposed to the more common pochade box, French easel or field easel, is a portable painting platform that mounts to a photographic tripod and is primarily associated with sketching and painting on location with water media rather than with oil.

Instead of a recessed palette surface for oils, the provision is usually for holding a plastic or metal watercolor tray. The easel back is designed to lay relatively flat and is suited for holding a sketchbook or watercolor block rather than a plein air oil painting panel.

Here, Gurney has given instructions for creating his own painting setup, one that he has refined over time and that you may be familiar with if you have seen his “Painting on in the Wild” videos, or are a visitor to his always excellent blog, Gurney Journey.

In this hour long video, Gurney gives detailed specifics of how to replicate his portable sketch easel, from materials list, to layout of the wood, to cutting and finishing the pieces, making inserts for hinges and tripod mounting hardware, as well as his method of quickly mounting and dismounting a metal painting tray and water cup with embedded magnets.

He also details creating sun diffusers — both a small one mounted directly over the easel, and a large one held on a separate tripod (he even builds one out of a tree branch and a sheet).

At the end of the video, he shows his finished sketch easel in action in some location painting clips.

These plans and instructions are very specific to Gurney’s particular setup and way of painting in the field, and are best suited to someone comfortable with DIY projects and hand tools.

However, they can also serve as a springboard for other ideas and designs, and Gurney has several posts on his blog featuring some of the variations of related designs created by readers: “Your Sketch Easel Designs”, “Your DIY Pochade Easel Designs.”, and “Your DIY Watercolor Pochades”. (Gurney is in the earlier posts referring to any tripod-mounted easel as a “pochade easel”.)

The HD digital download of the video is $14.95 and includes a link to a PDF parts list. The DVD version is $24.50 and includes an additional slide show. There is also a materials list on Gurney’s blog.

[Addendum 6/27/2017: Another round of readers’ New Easel Builds has been added to the Gurney Journey blog. That’s one of the great things about Gurney’s books and videos, he keeps adding depth to them with subsequent blog articles.]

 
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Heinrich Hermanns


Heinrich Hermanns was a German painter and printmaker active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He studied at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, and in addition to his training and the influence of other German painters, he took inspiration from the French Barbizon School and later the Impressionists.

Hermanns was noted for his painterly portrayals of the area of the lower Rhine River in northeastern Germany and in Holland, which he painted in oil and in watercolor and gouache.

In his later career he focused more on cityscapes and architectural subjects, adopting some of the impressionist flair for light effects and painterly color, without abandoning the foundation of his his academic training.

 
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