View Full Version : Still looking for the best plein air set up for pastels

04-06-2014, 11:41 AM
French Easel
Pochade box with tripod
Easel set up with tray
Adapted pochade for pastels
Pastel only pochade
List Brands

04-11-2014, 04:49 AM
Well, I have several approaches to plein air pastels.

Minimal, a small set of hard pastels like color Conte sticks or others, and a pad of pastel paper either good or sanded. Or take a small Unisons box, with or without the slotted foam, and fill with pieces from my main collection, especially the smaller worn down pieces in a good range. I got that idea from Colorix, one of her blog entries showed her setting up a 30 stick Unisons set box with about 100 pieces that were quarter or third sticks size tucked next to each other in slots, organized by color and value more or less even if they were in slots.

So that's the Very Cheap way to go. Unisons padded box for sturdiness and set it up with pastel pieces from your regular collection to the range you're comfortable with. Another variation, just get a good sized half sticks set like Sennelier or Rembrandt and bring that set box, no reorganizing needed. Plus a pad of pastel paper, could be any texture, or a Koolbind with the sanded paper inserts.

I do have a field easel with a box, it's the Anderson Swivel Easel and I bought mine secondhand from Deborah Secor when she got a newer nicer one. I love it! The box is perfect for putting pastels in and holds Unison boxes comfortably, allows a couple of 30 color Unisons boxes inside, has flaps that open out to be extra shelving, is easy to put up and take down. Most of all it swivels. This puts the easel clamp for a drawing board with the easel box sideways to it rather than between me and the painting. I have short arms. Anderson Swivel Easel eliminates the Short Arms problem. The sketch box is not as large as the Standard French Easel but a bit larger than the Half Box style of French Easel.

I'd always wanted one and the one I got is better than I imagined, also with the "used by a master" mojo. From what I've heard from other people, older French Easels can be wobbly or hard to set up, the cheapest ones have more problems than the nicer ones. You get what you pay for. But they are mostly set up for oil painting than pastels, you would have to add foam to the sections in the drawers or buy a pastel setup drawer separate from the normal drawer to use a Juillian or its cousins.

Juillian has Art History mojo and much coolness of its own, of course, but you're reaching over the sketchbox to do the painting. I don't know if you like to sit or stand, but I have to sit and so adjustable legs are essential. Height can be a problem for some people and sketchbox easels, the Anderson Swivel Easel also comes in a taller version for taller artists.

i have a pochade box too but haven't assembled it yet, I bought a kit and left it in the boxes packed to send later when I moved to San Francisco. Once assembled it may fit nicely into the basket on my scooter so I could be using that a lot for plein air. With the scooter, I might put pastels and pad in the basket, balance the drawing board awkwardly on my feet while steering and then prop it against the handlebars to paint. A stool to put the pastels next to me while doing so would be convenient, or small folding table. Unfortunately I don't have a saddle bag behind me on the seat, so I might improvise one for large things like my drawing board.

Drawing board with clips is very important for plein air. You don't have a table or easel unless it's the French Easel variation and even then you need a board to put the paper on the easel or use pastel boards as surface.

I used to have a lightweight folding table that collapsed down on its sides, it was about knee height and 2 feet square. I loved that, lost it in a long ago move and would love to get one like that again for plein air to have something next to me with the pastels on it. The Guerrilla Painter pastel carrier with its areas for different colors looked good and appealing, but whatever you do, if you do not have a table you will want something to put the pastels on. Either sitting or standing, juggling them on your lap is a bit awkward. This can just be prop a drawing board flat on top of a folding stool or a tall one.

TV tray tables can work for that. They too are lightweight and not hard to carry along, clip a strap on it to throw it on your back if hiking, under the backpack. The really lightweight old ones would be best, a wooden one weighs too much. Try thrift stores for that corny old thing. There may be light weight camp tables available that could work.

I also own a small Dakota Traveller. This works gloriously for plein air, it doesn't weigh much even full and I have about 240 colors in it. My biggest collection in one box is that Traveller. So I could work with pretty much a full range with that and a box of hard pastels. Those in a back pack with pads and something to spread them out on and I'm good to go with the drawing board. BUT...

My other plein air setup goes with my walker usually. Two 10 color trays of Pan Pastels, one loaded with the 10 Color Painters set from my full range collection and the other with the colors from 5 Tints and 5 Deep Darks for convenience colors. That palette is perfect for plein air, I have everything I need to mix anything I need. The 10 color trays fit into the walker or into a smaller backpack than the 20 color trays. I took all four 20 color trays out once for a plein air trip and had fun, but needed to find an area I could spread them out on a granite ledge to use them all. This setup with the small trays works using my walker as the thing to spread out on and stand, or sit on the walker and put them out on a stool or whatever.

My old camp stool collapsed and will not stand up any more. This is quite annoying and I do need a new one for those times I don't use the Anderson Swivel Easel. But when I get that shipped here that may be the perfect Pans setup too, the two 10 color trays would fit nicely in it with a big variety of tools and knives in the slot where I usually put my Colour Shapers and some pastel pencils. I also have some Unisons packed in it that I'd much like to see again too, the only pastels that didn't make it in the first shipping rounds.

I think I'm recommending the Anderson over pochade boxes. It's not that heavy. It's not hard at all to set up and more flexible than any other design but the Soltek in how you use it. The size of the sketch box is just right for a good range of pastels in set boxes or trays if you use Pans, a ten color tray fits neatly in and two could stack. It's both something to paint on and something to hold the pastels in reach at the same time but you don't have to reach over the tray to get to the painting. Adjusts easily to sitting or standing and does have a rock bag available to help keep it from tipping over in high winds. It's probably the best for pastels or any medium really.

SAS Designs
04-11-2014, 04:36 PM
I'm very new at this, but I just bought the Mabef Mini-27 easel, and the "arms" are perfect for holding the Heilman Backpack box. Now all we need is Spring, tho most of the snow has melted, today was the first day we had near 60 degrees. Still, easel works just as well inside my small house.

04-11-2014, 07:54 PM
Good luck. Whatís your budget. How big to you work. Do you stand or sit. How far will you be carrying your gear. All these and more will influence your choice(s). By the time you narrow these down, youíll find something you donít like or want to change. Iíve gone through at least three setups, and Iíll sure Iíll go through more.

04-12-2014, 04:14 PM
Some possibly useful links at the bottom of this page here: http://jan777.blogspot.com/p/pastel-plein-air.html

As Mike said: good luck!

But more importantly, have fun!


04-16-2014, 04:08 PM
Thanks again and again for all comments .I bought a Sienna pochade box with the pastel insert. I borrowed a tripod just to figure out what I should buy.The one I am using is sturdy and has the easy latch thing , I liked that but the tripod top still spins around and if that could be tightened then my pochade would feel sturdy.
The box is fairly well made and though I haven't used it yet ,I think I'm going to like it. It's the small one but I think it will be enough for small paintings on site .
I didn't want a heavy set up to truck around .I will report back my experiences.
If you know what to do about the spin around mechanism , let me know.please!

04-16-2014, 08:05 PM
Remember that the tripod is the heart of the whole set-up, obviously, and needs to be the sturdiest component. That wobble can be pretty scary when you've got a couple hundred buck worth of pastels in the box. Beware of cheapie tripods.

If something is spinning around and you can't tighten it, you may have a damaged tripod with a bad "head". Again: beware! :crossfingers:


04-17-2014, 09:10 AM
Ok , Jan ,I will have to investigate further . Yes the wobble unnerved me .that is not going to work .Can you imagine my first outing with precious Ludwigs and Mt Visions and ....Kerplunk!

04-17-2014, 10:13 AM
IMO, you can go the cheapie (and light weight) route with every other component except the tripod. It's the bedrock, so to speak.


04-17-2014, 04:17 PM
Don't film camera tripods have that little handle that can lock the... the... stuff that moves? I was recently told so, so I'll check those out.

04-17-2014, 05:02 PM
That's the ball head Charlie, usually sold seperately.

04-17-2014, 05:10 PM
Thanks Mike, that's good to know!

04-17-2014, 09:46 PM
I solved my problem , I just did not have the part of the quick release plate tightened on my pochade box once I tightened it the set up became sturdy.
I now am searching for the same tripod because it is sturdy and eventually will have to return it to my son . I'm going to be using it for a few plein air sessions so I'll get the hang of it. I now think I need one of those stone holders to just hold some items in to keep off the ground . I hope to get out tomorrow for my first adventure ! Stay tuned.

04-18-2014, 02:55 PM
Excellent! Keep us posted. Adventure awaits! :thumbsup:


Deborah Secor
04-18-2014, 07:27 PM
I'm going to be selling my newer Anderson Swivel Easel next month... I always liked using it. :)

04-18-2014, 07:41 PM
I can't imagine painting with the same equipment that you paint on ...wonder if osmosis would kick in and I could adsorb all of your skills and talent!

Deborah Secor
04-19-2014, 01:16 AM
:lol: I don't think it works that way! More hard work than that, I fear. :rolleyes: I'll post it in the Swap forum and probably drop a notice in Soft Pastel Talk when it's up for sale.

SAS Designs
04-19-2014, 11:28 AM
Just wondering, why are you selling it? I looked at it, but the weight ( almost 9 lbs.) was heavy for me.
I'm really enjoying the Mabef M27 mini. Have only used it in the fields near my house, but easy to carry, and Heilman Backpack fits well on arms.

04-19-2014, 04:32 PM
Ok Deborah , I will look for it ! Yes I know how much hard work it is and how much it takes to get from a-z . Paint , read ,paint ,study paint....
Thanks for all of the info you give all of us here at WC.

04-20-2014, 11:05 PM
Deborah how much are you thinking of asking for your easel?

04-20-2014, 11:07 PM
Sorry Deborah just read your post on eventually putting it on soft pastel talk.

Deborah Secor
06-13-2014, 02:51 PM
I just posted this easel (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1353230)for sale in the Swap Shop. :wave:

Edited to add that it already sold!

07-01-2014, 07:51 AM
I finally bought and am very satisfied with my new plein aire set up .thanks to all for your advice . I purchased a medium Sienna pochade with pastel insert, the supply box and a heavey duty tripod . I have been testing it out and I love it!
Thanks again for all the info that led me to my decision.:clap: