Since my recent switch from acrylic paints to oil paints, I’ve needed to change the way I do paintings outside. Rather than being cooped up inside all day, when I get a chance I go outside for a bit, even if I’m still just painting from a photo reference. Because acrylic paints dry so darn fast, when I was done painting, I’d set the painting down and put my stuff away, and by the time I’d turn back to my painting it was completely dry. I could just stuff it into my backpack with my other gear and be off. However, the other drawbacks from painting in acrylic were constantly apparent. The paint dries very quickly on the palette too, which means I was constantly mixing new colors. It also dries fast enough to make it unworkable on the palette in a matter of minutes. And it doesn’t refract light that well, since it is essentially liquid plastic. Hence my switch to oil paints. They take much longer to dry, which means they’re workable and blendable both on the palette and painting for hours or days. But this also means that when you’re finished painting out in the field, you now have a sticky wet painting to negotiate.
The first time I tried doing this, I walked back to the car with my little wet painting delicately in hand. It was a rather breezy day, and all kinds of dust and little bugs and such were sticking to it. I almost dropped it at one point, and a plastic bag in my hand fluttered up and threatened to smear my last hour’s hard work. It was such a precarious situation, it was kinda funny. So I discovered the need for a pochade box. This is a small portable art studio: an easel, supply storage, and wet painting storage all rolled into one. Looking to purchase one, the nice ones run from $300-$500. I discovered this home made design by Jim Serrett and ran with it. I made a few modifications, and it was a bit trickier than I thought, but it turned out very nicely.
I took my home made pochade box for a test drive today and I absolutely loved it! It’s very easy to set up and start painting right away. The painting is held securely onto the surface, the supplies are readily accessible, and it fit perfectly in my lap. I will eventually attach a tripod mount on the bottom so I can set up a tripod and stand in front of it if I want. I also built a little wet painting carrier, with enough room to slide 3 wet paintings inside. Both the painting carrier and pochade box can be adjusted to accommodate 9×12″ paintings and smaller.
Many of my new daily paintings will start coming off of this pochade box, and I’m very excited to start using it on a regular basis. Especially because I built it myself – there’s a unique sense of accomplishment when you enjoy something that you spent waaaaay too much time building (in my case, about 20 hours). Part of this time was spent figuring out how to engineer certain parts that I wanted to work, some for pulling apart some pieces that didn’t work the way I wanted. I’m very happy with the finished result, however.