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Mar 25, 2012

A Place for Everything...

A new blog reader, who found me via PleinAir Today, just sent me a question about a custom shelf which can be seen attached to my tripod in many photos.

But first, before I get to his question, let me tell you about the easel I like to use out in the field. Because both are related...

The Open Box M Palette/Panel Holder™ I use when I travel:

Where can you get one? 

If you decide to buy one, tell Doug I recommended you. 
But understand he builds them to order. So give yourself enough lead time.

This is one of the original clam-shell designs that combines a panel or canvas holder with a mixing palette underneath. It isn't the only light-weight, quick set up plein air system on the market, but I have found it to be one of the most straight-forward designs and quite robust against the inevitable knocks and bangs you will encounter outdoors. Simple and robust are desirable things if you've hiked many miles in, or find yourself in competition at a paint-out and can't afford any down-time. (I have had other easels fail me in the field and let me tell you it ain't pretty. I throw a hissy-fit and start cussing like a sailor denied his shore leave...) 

To give you an idea of how light, yet robust an Open Box M is, a good friend of mine went out and bought one merely on my say-so. And on her first morning out a gust of wind blew it over onto a hard roadway. The crash bent the aluminum hardware so out of shape the box wouldn't close. You'd think that was bad, but hey, no worries. She took it in to a hardware store and boys in the back bent the metal sliders back into alignment and she was up and running right away . Faster than if she had sent the easel back to the manufacturer for repair. Now she knows enough to weigh the tripod down so the easel won't blow over. And her easel still works like a charm. It looks a little hard used but that just makes her look more like a pro. Which she is.

But back to my shelf...

No plein air easel is perfect but the Open Box M is close. The only thing I don't like about the system is the lack of any place to put stuff down. There is only so much I can hold in my hands while I paint. And after thinking about this for a while I came up with a solution that fixed two problems at once.

I built a custom shelf that can hold various painting accoutrements and act as a cover. The Open Box M Panel/Palette Holder comes with a small side shelf. I use that accessory to extend my palette area. So it is always covered with wet paint.

Here is an Open Box M Panel/Palette Holder in its closed position, ready to be inserted into a pack or bag. You can see the side shelf has been tucked under a brass restraining clip. In my case, the side shelf is covered with white paint. (I use the larger palette area below the panel holder to mix my medium to dark colors.) If I were to toss this set up into my kit as shown here the white paint would smear inside my pack. It would make a mess. 

Oh my goodness, what am I to do?...

I build a cover that matches the footprint of the panel/palette holder. When velcro'ed in place it encloses the side shelf that was clipped to the panel holder. In essence, my shelf prevent the wet paint from being smeared.

Here is the same shelf, but now rotated 180 degrees, to illustrate how the slot will engage with the tripod legs.

And finally, here is my shelf removed from the panel/palette holder, flipped over, and hung on the front legs of the tripod. I tend to place several pounds of crap on this shelf as I work.

The full set up, (excepting the side palette, which I idiotically forgot to reattach before taking the photograph. And I'm too lazy to set it up again.) 

Now I have a place to put my brushes, turp, and rags. Or a beer. Or whatever. Nifty, eh?

This is not a hard thing to reverse-engineer or build yourself – and since I am in the business of painting paintings, and not building and selling aftermarket shelving, I suggest you go ahead and make one yourself. I only bothered to build one prototype and it worked so well I never bothered to refine it. Maybe I'll post a couple of layout drawings at some point. Maybe not. Probably not since this ain't hard to figure out.

Besides, Doug may start manufacturing shelves matched to his panel/palette holders. I sent him these photos last year. Ask him to build you one. (Ha! Doug...)


5 reader comments:

dan said...

ah, this is great!

your pictures were helpful.

i'll try to make one for myself.


dan said...

ah, this is great!

your pictures were helpful.

i'll try to make one for myself.


Celeste Bergin said...

You're very clever, Thomas :)

Brenda Boylan said...

My bomb-proof Open Box is officially famous! HA!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Yes, Brenda, it was your Open box M I was talking about. Looking forward to seeing you use it at Red Rock, Nevada in a couple of weeks.