View Full Version : Heilman sketchbook double

Barbara WC
08-19-2014, 02:13 AM
Does anyone own the Heilman double sketchbook with easel?

I used to attend weekly portrait sessions that supplied easels and tray table for my pastels to rest on. No carrying of supplies except pastels and paper! I'm now in a new group, space is small. I've been lugging my Winsor Newton aluminum easel, which doesn't have the smallest footprint, and also taking a long a wooden TV tray table to put my boxes of pastels on. I have my pastels broken in half, and carry a 60 stick Terry Ludwig box with about 120 main sticks. I also have a 30 stick TL box for grays, and another couple of boxes with Unison.

I want to get down to a smaller footprint since space is such a premium at model sessions. I had organized my boxes so that they could either go to figure sessions or plein air painting, in essence, all sticks I might need for either situation.

I was originally looking at the Heilman backpack case to carry most of my sticks, but after showing my hubby the dimensions, he thinks I will consider it too big and heavy, and after thinking, he may be right.

On the Heilman website, they list that the double sketchbook can hold 140 to 200 half sticks. When I measured out the size of the box, it seems hard to believe that many sticks can fit in the box! How many half sticks does anyone have have in your double sketchbox? I imagine what sticks one uses makes a difference, I mostly use Ludwig and some Unisons. Does anyone have any photos they would like to share, with the easel? I've seen several online photos of the backpack model in use, but not the double sketchbox!

my newest idea is that instead of buying the backpacker which would get me through any situation, maybe I will end up getting two double sketchboxes, one for portrait sessions, the other for landscape. That isn't in my immediate budget though, but one is!

pictures appreciated, of the double sketchbook if anyone would like to share! Especially if it's up on the tripod and someone or something familiar is around. Hard to judge the size by many of the photos I've seen with cases side by side with no other contextual information!

one last question. Dh was telling me that every tripod has a different plate. I don't know what this means, but how does a camera tripod fit onto the Heilman box? Does it have the same screw threads thar a camera has? And what about the tripod head, what do you like? Dh told me there are many different types...


08-19-2014, 03:09 AM
Here is a thread that might interest you: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1312096. It's a comparison of the Heilman Sketchbox Double vs. Backpack. It has a great picture of the two side by side. To get an accurate judgement of the scale of the Backpack, it's the one most of the successful plein aire artists I've seen use in videos and demos and such. You can see Stephanie Birdsall carrying one here in this Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkMquNV4Qng (Off topic, I've seen the full version of this demo as well, and it's great.)

I searched for a bit and I'm afraid I cannot help with any pictures of the Sketchbox Double that actually show the scale. I always want to see those as well, and there just don't seem to be many out there in this case. Here is a link to Loriann Signiori's blog that shows some more pictures of the Backpack, though. Hopefully that along with the side-by-side picture above will help.


Personally, I would rather have the Backpack than the Sketchbox, but that's just me. I have the medium Heilman and do not find it too heavy, but I guess I don't plan to carry it very far, either. If I did, I would proably get the Backpack. The one advantage I could see to the Sketchbox would be if you wanted to carry it into museums to paint. I've heard many museums are now placing size limits on the bags and boxes you can bring in, so the Sketchbox might be able to get in where the Backpack could not. I'm not quite sure about he details on this, though. And it does not seem relevant to your case anyway. Just something to note!

As for the tripod, yes, every one has a different plate. But the difference dictates how it will fit onto the tripod itself, not how it fits on the camera or box. So even though each individual brand's quick release plate may attach to its tripod differently, they will all--or almost all--screw into the box in the same way. I say almost all because nearly every tripod has a 1/4 inch screw with 20 threads per inch, but there may be rare exceptions. In any case, if it says it has 1/4 inch screw, it will fit the Heilman.

I can post a picture tomorrow of how it attaches if you like. It's basically just a small screw hole in the bottom of the box, where the center is when the box is open.

08-19-2014, 09:49 AM
Well, it's an interesting call. I got the smaller Dakota Traveller which is about the size of the Backpacker. It's not that heavy and I have mine stuffed seriously full. I couldn't use it like the Heilman with the built in easel, would have to get Dakota's wooden tripod easel with the arms for that.

It seems to me that you'd save space by using the Heilman anyway because you're combining your pastel tray with the easel. No longer using up the space of two folding things, just one. The tripod's going to have a footprint like an easel does, but its easel comes up out of the pastel tray and looks sturdy in the video. I do not think you'd save space by using the smaller one in terms of footprint, because the backpacker wouldn't stick out wider than the feet.

You know what your best palette is. If you keep the combined palette with you, surprises like the model having unusual skin color or tattoos or some backdrop element you want to put in being a field color, or elements in the field that really call for portrait colors won't throw you for a loop.

I'd say go backpacker but that's just me. You thought of switching out and if weight is a really big problem, the smaller ones might be easier to handle. But it won't save much space, just weight. It's all in one and either would give you the elbow room of not bringing the folding table.

Me, I'd like to get a lightweight folding table or even stool that I could bring along when I go out to the clinic garden. I'd love to have something to put my pastels on rather than juggle them in my lap. Last time was a sort of field trial for doing plein air pastels using the walker and I really needed someplace to balance the pastels even if that was just the little 12 color Terrages box.

Barbara WC
08-19-2014, 11:33 AM
Saskia- Thanks for your imput! I did see that thread before, but was hoping to see some photos of the setup with the easel attachment! I am petite, and have back problems, so it was my husband who looked at the weight and size of the backpacker and said I would be happier with the double sketchbook! I'm used to working with the pastels at my side, have never worked with them in front of me, and my husband worries this will be a big change- he also thinks the backpacker might stick out too far in front for me. I'm not so sure! What I might do is figure out how far I stand from the easel normally, and get some cardboard templates the same sizes as the box and see how it would be to work with that in front of me!

I got the idea during the night (after posting this!) that I will take a sheet of paper the same internal size as the double sketchbox, put as many pastel sticks in as I can, and see if it is large enough for me. I also have the thought that maybe I would just carry a few extra sticks I don't use often in a small box, that I could easily prop up on top of the double sketch box.

So many decisions! Wish Heilman had a box in between the double sketchbox and the backpacker!

Thanks for the information on the way the box attaches to a tripod. No need for a photo- I understand. My husband was also talking about a ball head (which moves in all directions) and a head that only moves up and down and side to side (not sure what this is called). Do you have a camera tripod for your Heilman? What type of head do you have?

My DH is excited about me getting the Heilman. He confessed to me last night that he's been wanting to get a new tripod, but has had a hard time justifying the purchase because his is a very good one. I told him I would be happy to take it off his hands :lol:

08-19-2014, 11:34 AM
I know a lot of Artists that are using the backpack model. It is probably the one I see most often when I go out to paint. It's popular for a good reason. It holds a lot of sticks, and it is easy to find a pack it will fit in. I had to do a bit of searching to find one that the medium box will fit in. The photo's in the link that Sasika gavee you give a good comparison of the two. You can judge for yourself if the double sketchbox will hold enough sticks for you. The one area where the sketchbox may tempt me, is if I was planning on using it on my lap, instead of at an easel or table top.

She is also right about the release plate. What ever ball head you get will come with its' own release plate. It will attach just fine to the bottom of the box, whicever one you get.

Barbara WC
08-19-2014, 11:39 AM
Rob- agreed, either box will save footprint versus my setup now! And actually, the footprint of a camera tripod should be less than the easel I'm using now! I feel like I take so much space at portrait sessions...

Still on the fence which box to get, but am leaning towards the double sketchbox. I am going to cut a piece of paper the same internal size as the double sketchbox, and see how many of my sticks fit in. Had the thought that I could carry a couple of small boxes with colors I don't use often...

I have a lightweight, affordable camping chair that I got from REI. I wonder if something like this might be useful for you to prop your pastels on while you sketch outside. It only stands about 15" high though, so not sure if that is high enough for you while sitting down? I do like this chair a lot though, I use it for plein air sitting (although I usually stand, it's nice to have somewhere to sit to take a break!) http://www.rei.com/product/765283/rei-trail-stool#video-inner

08-19-2014, 05:52 PM
I have been trying to make the same decision between the two boxes. I have the large Heilman for studio and classroom work. It's really not that heavy. But I doubt I would ever take it outdoors very far.

I think I would be more likely to bring the sketch box on vacations and for just everyday stuff. The back packer does hold much more but, with my large box, I put many more sticks than what was listed in Heilmans site, I think their numbers are conservative.

The other reason I'm leaning towards the sketch box is that I can always add a small box of pastels on the side to supplement when I want to do more. Easy to throw that in the pack with everything else.

I'll be interested to see what you choose and how it works for you

08-19-2014, 06:28 PM
Barbara, that's a brilliant idea to solve your dilemma. If the double sketchbox will do, you'll have more freedom of movement and could get two to have different palettes.

Mike has a good point about the double sketchbox, that it might work better on a lap than the backpacker. That left me tempted by the double or single sketchbox for a plein air palette, because I work seated on my walker and the size is small enough I could toss it into my walker's carry basket for the trip. Double sketchbox would be large enough to hold all of my Ludwigs, half sticks of my 27 Giraults and additions to both of those palettes along with the dozen or two Terrages... it's an intriguing thought. I have the Traveller that's full but a smaller lighter kit with a complete palette could be great.

Single sketchbook size Heilman doesn't have the easel and is a pochade, looked like you flip the lid up to put boards or paper in the lid. I took a good long second look and I think I like that for exactly what it is since I prefer working on my lap to anything else. I don't normally work vertically on an easel but I could get used to a pochade.

It's kind of intriguing by being so compact and Ludwigs are pretty compact too. It'd be a while before I saved up for either but they are very tempting. It would make sense to get one in a different size than my Traveller since I would prefer to keep the original one in the same order it already is.

I have been looking at various cardboard set boxes to put together a small plein air palette, most recently the set of 12 Terrages turned out to be a very good size. I had an 18 color Unisons box empty back in Arkansas that I'd dearly love to have here and fill with assorted half sticks. The double or single sketchbook Heilmans seem very cool for that and both versions have a way to let me paint while holding it in my lap. I'd just have to get used to working vertical in the lid to use a pochade.

Barbara WC
08-19-2014, 08:41 PM
I'm pretty sure the Heilman double sketchbox will work for me! :clap:

Although it took me all afternoon, I was able to pare my sticks down to fit in the double sketchbox. Here is a useful exercise for anyone trying to decide between the backpack vs. double sketchbox boxes:

I used brown Kraft paper to cut out templates using the dimensions on the Heilman website. It looks like in the photos on the Heilman website, that each "side" takes up about 1/2" of interior space on all 4 sides (so 1/2" on each side, 1" internal where the hinge is).

The backpacker template looked quite large to me! So I first decided to try to "fill" my double sketchbox template:

Outside dimensions (open): 14.5"x9.25"
Internal dimensions (approximate, each side): 6"wide by 8.25" depth. (times two sides):


Looks like the double sketchbox will accommodate the sticks I use most frequently (most of these are the other "half" that are normally in my box, that's why they look new!) In the photo, the sticks are all half sticks of Ludwigs, Unisons, with a couple of Senneliers (wish they didn't crumble so much!).

Darks are sooo messy, so I plan on keeping those separate in a little Ludwig box, which can rest on top of the sketchbox.

I recently changed groups from a draped figure (clothed) to undraped figure, so don't need a huge range for clothing. Last week the model had a pretty scarf, but it was on her leg and I was painting her face and shoulders!

There are about 155 sticks in the mockup box, and 17 dark sticks in the little Ludwig box...

This was such a useful exercise too. I knew there were so many sticks that I never use, but I didn't realize how many until this exercise! I probably have over 150 Ludwig colors, and maybe 100 Unison colors...

Portrait session is tomorrow and I'm only going to bring this set to do the 3 hour pose. I also work in Rembrandts at portrait session, but will have those in another small box (about 60 half sticks)... I use those for the 10-20 min poses...

Working this way might be a challenge for me. I normally keep my sticks uber organized like this (some sticks are missing because they are in the Heilman mockup!):

I know value is more important than color, but it's so hard to tell the colors of the lightest value sticks- warm pink or cool pink? Warm yellow or cool yellow? Guess I'll have to rely more on using a scrap piece of paper to test sticks out first. I've been working with these sticks on and off for the past 3 years, hopefully they will be familiar enough jumbled together in the Heilman!

I'll be placing an order after testing the limited set at session tomorrow! :D

08-20-2014, 01:26 AM
Oh this is great! Wonderful idea to test it like that and I hadn't realized you were cutting Ludwigs in half. That'd make plenty of space! I tend not to break Ludwigs because I can do broad strokes with the side of a full Ludwig stick.

Seeing this, it's even more tempting to save up for one or the other for myself. I might actually go for the single sketchbook if it's something I don't bring the Traveller along but just want it to be handy. Might permanently designate it as What Ludwigs Live In - and if I cut them in half would have plenty of space to add more Ludwigs, like get both the Cobalt and Ultramarine little sets.

Barbara WC
08-20-2014, 02:10 PM
Going to test out my set tonight at figure group, after that, will probably order double sketchbook.

One frustration I had when searching online, I found lots of photos of the backpack model in use- but none of the double sketchbook.

I'll post photos in a new thread after it arrives- on my lap, on a tripod with the easel, etc...

That is one thing I love about WC- great resource for looking at photos of other artists' setup!

08-20-2014, 03:40 PM
Check out the blog on the Heilman site. If I am not mistaken there is a photo of Margaret Evans using a sketch box. Maybe others as well.

08-21-2014, 06:56 PM
I went ahead and ordered the backpack Heilman today. I took the tip from Barbara and made mock up boxes. The truth is I really could do just fine with the sketch box. It holds a ton of pastels if you cut them in halves. But since I'm not traveling soon, don't go on hikes but mostly class rooms and workshops, I think the backpack is a better choice for me.

Might order her a little sister in the future!

Barbara WC
08-22-2014, 05:38 PM
Julie- lucky you! A Heilman on the way! I'm glad you found the mock up box exercise useful- I was surprised at how many half sticks the double sketchbox holds. I would love a backpack, but think it would be too heavy for me to lug around. I think it will be great for your use though!

The past couple of days I've tried ordered the double sketchbook on the Heilman website, but for some reason, I get an "error" message saying tax is not calculated properly. I've tried to order with 3 different web browsers...

I've tried calling Heilman phone number 3 times today- get no answer. And there is no answering machine- so I can't leave a message. The last time I called, it rang about 15 times...

I'll get through one of these days! Wish the online system worked for me, maybe it's because I am in California and they are too, and there may be something weird about their ordering system for CA people...


08-22-2014, 06:39 PM
Hi Barbara, you are right that the problem is you live in California and the sales tax. I ran into the same problem when I tried to order from the website since I am in California as well. The good thing is you will get your box really fast! The Heilmans are great about calling back and a pure delight to chat with on the phone.

Last time I got m shipment in two days so tomorrow maybe Christmas for me!
Let me know how you like your Sketchbox double.

08-22-2014, 10:24 PM
Yay and congratulations to both of you on new Heilmans! This thread got me interested in them again and now tempted by the tiny single sketchbook. I have a few other things to work out first including putting together a mockup palette to tell if that's too small.

Can't wait to see the photos! I can see how the sketchbox would really work for Margaret Evans, in her videos she's usually using quite a small palette so to speak and her usual colors would probably fit it easily.

They are very cool. Not sure about the easel arrangement and might wait till I get my Andersen Easel back. I also have the option of padding its sketchbox or using a couple of Unison boxes minus the slotted foam to pack that up. I would just basically have to leave the backpack behind if I started bringing the easel.

Barbara WC
08-23-2014, 02:36 PM
Julie- I hope you get your box today!

I got through to the Heilman's on the phone yesterday late afternoon and ordered a double sketchbook box! Got to talk to Marge- she is really great to talk to and seemed interested that I plan on using the box for portrait sessions.

Marge said one of the reasons they came up with the double and single sketchbook boxes is because some museums prohibit the backpack size, so there was some interest from pastel artists that visit museums to sketch. I have done that once with charcoal, but not pastels because my setup is prohibitive. Now with the double sketchbox, I'll be able to museum sketch with pastels! Yay!

Nice people, and looking forward to getting the box. I'll post photos of my setup after it arrives- there aren't many online of the double sketchbook in context (there are photos of the box here, but next to another box, but it's hard to tell how big/small it is!)

08-23-2014, 05:40 PM
Wow, that is good to know! I know I'd be tempted to museum sketch so that's another reason to think about the single or double sketchbox. Something that tiny would be so handy.