Saturday, June 25, 2011

Breaking in the EasyL plein air easel

After about six years of wrestling with a french easel, I decided to see if I could find something more portable and easier to set up on location.  The french easel is a marvelous bit of engineering, but it is heavy, not easy to carry far from the car and very frustrating to set up, even on level ground.  (A pair of pliers and a screwdriver soon become essentials to pack in your easel.)  I looked at a lot of advertisements and reviews on "pochade boxes", lightweight aluminum a-frame easels, etc and finally settled on the EasyL from Artwork Essentials.  Now that I've had it for awhile and I was able to take it along on an extended painting workshop, it's time to evaluate it.  I liked the EasyL from the beginning, but four days of setting up and taking down out in the field have convinced me that I made a good choice. I haven't used any of the other popular plein air setups, so I can't compare, but I think this one would be hard to beat.  Here's my "review" ....

This is the general setup, shown in the wilds of my backyard.  This happens to be the Versa model, which I believe is the largest they make.  It will easily handle a 16"x20" canvas or panel.  It's hard to see, but extending downward from the top of the tripod is a small hook on the end of the vertical height adjusting column.  This hook turns out to be a fantastic idea.  By hanging a bag with a few rocks in it, or by hanging a backpack, as I do, the easel becomes very stable.  It would take a very strong wind to tip the EasyL when something heavy is suspended from the hook.  Great feature!  During my four day workshop, we had one day of pretty strong winds.  I never worried for a moment that the easel would blow over, although one or two french easels belonging to fellow painters did.  Over all the EasyL gets high marks for stability, especially when a weight is suspended from the bottom hook.

Here's the brush holder and the hook that holds my leak-proof turps container.  Two of these hooks come with the easyL at no extra cost. The brush holder is extra, but almost essential. 









I think the major advantage of the EasyL over other well known pochade boxes is shown in this picture.  The palette can be set at an angle so that you can look down at it as you are painting, while the painting can be set perfectly vertical or even sloping slightly away if you prefer.  This is a huge plus for me.  But even more importantly, the canvas is raised above the palette.  You don't have to rest your arm or dangle your sleeve in the paint while working on the canvas.  Very functional and convenient.

The picture below shows the rear of the easel.  The mast raises to accommodate good sized canvases or panels.  This is a 12h x 16w panel and you can see there is room to spare.  The mast locks in place once it is adjusted to the top of the panel.  There are also two slots for carrying wet panels. 





I also purchased a new umbrella for the easel.  I'll have some thoughts on that in a future post.

Happy Painting!

9 comments :

  1. Thanks for the EasyL review. I want one too. Love the painting on your easel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your review! Very helpful!
    Beth in Indiana

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the review, it's very helpful in searching for my first plein air easel.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What about the umberlla? I can never find one that works? Anita

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just posted a few thoughts on the Best Brella, which I highly recommend. It's expensive, but should last for a long time. Spare parts are also readily available on the Best Brella site, a true PLUS! I plan to do a full review of the Best Brella in an upcoming post.

      Delete
  5. I just purchased the Pro model and LOVE it--however, I'm having issues with it fitting in my backpack because of the knobs on the sides. What brand/model backpack are you using?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Veronica. I took the EasyL to REI and tried darn near every backpack they had on display. I bought a Kelty Redwing 3100. The EasyL does fit that pack. It carries everything I need, including paint tubes, sketch pad and pencils, turp can, paper towels. The tripod and my BestBrella are strapped across the top of the pack where a bedroll would normally go. Generally, I carry the EasyL like a brief case rather than putting it in the pack unless I'm going a fair distance and/or need my hands free. Even with this pack, the knobs on the EasyL can catch and make putting it in and out of the pack a minor struggle at times. All that being said, however, having the pack is a plus over multiple trips to the car or being chained to the parking lot or side of the road.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you tell me where I can puchase the EasyL? Looked on web, can't find out where to get it.

      Thanks so much.

      Juidy

      Delete
    2. I sure can Juidy....
      http://www.artworkessentials.com/

      Three years since I bought it, and it's still providing great service.

      Delete