Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Setting up an Outdoor Easel

As you know, the plein air painting season is in full swing. Outdoors I usually sit in a low beach chair with my paper clipped to gaterboard in my lap and my watercolor paint and water on the ground. This is OK, but standing up with the paper in front of my face works better because I can see what I'm doing more easily. However, although I've been looking for good outdoor easel for several years, none of them were ever "just right." Recently though, at her Yakima Canyon workshop, I saw Catherine Gill's easel, adapted from a camera tripod. It looked perfect, and so I decided to try setting my own up the same way.

To show you what I did, I'll start with the finished product and work my way backwards through the process:
Here's the finished easel. Gaterboard and paper, attached to the  tripod head, is completely adjustable for level and angle. I could even lay it down flat if I wanted, as if it were on a table. BTW, if you don't already have a tripod, you can buy the complete setup rather than baking your own. But that wouldn't be as fun doing it yourself, would it?
Side view. 
I bought the tray already made. It's plastic, lightweight to carry around, and has channels that the tripod legs fit into.  The legs can be spread farther apart if necessary.  You can see the different size holes for brushes and a water cup. The shelf is called a Traveler Series Watercolor Tripod Shelf and cost about $46 with shipping. Catherine's tray was made by a friend out of wood.
Here's where the tripod head attaches to the gaterboard. It attaches by using both parts of a tripod head quick-release attachment, a piece of plywood, and some velcro. It isn't necessary to decorate your gaterboard as nicely as mine.
Here's the female part of the camera attachment. I'm going to connect the gaterboard to it by using the male part of the camera attachment, as you'll see in the next photo.
Here's the male part of the camera attachment, called a quick release plate. I ordered one from B&H Photo so I wouldn't ruin the one that attaches to my camera. This plate usually clips onto the bottom of the camera. Instead, Bill screwed it into a square piece of plywood for me, which my neighbor Pete had kindly cut from a scrap left over from building his new kitchen cabinets. I had to get a particular screw from the hardware store that would work with the quick release plate. After looking at the plate, the hardware store guy knew just what I needed. 
On the other side of the plywood, I stuck some industrial strength velcro.
Here's the other side of the velcro stuck to the back of the gaterboard. Voila! All set!

 I've already used this ensemble a few times and just love it!


Joan OByrne said...

Thanks Megan. I just ordered a shelf for my easel...thanks for letting me check that it will fit. I probably won't have it in time for Thursday though! J

Karen said...

I love the simplicity of your solutions - you are doing Zen DIY

Megan Davis Seagren said...

Thanks, Karen. I have to keep things simple so I can do them, as I'm somewhat mechanically declined. :)