There’s a fabulous shop called Resource Rescue in Bayswater that sells all kinds of leftover bits and pieces from wood scraps to craft supplies to old shop mannequins. The foam pieces I used to carve grooves for canvasses in the wet panel carrier were from there. A few weeks back the shop announced on its Facebook page that it had taken leftover stock from a closed art and craft warehouse, so a friend and I headed over to check it out.
The first thing I saw was an easel full of art supplies. The art supplies were very much at the low end of quality, but the easel – a French style box – was pretty sturdy.
The design had a few flaws, but I figured I could fix those. The drawers were on the wrong side of the easel, for a start. The canvas clamps onto the lid of French easels, but that means that when the lid is open and in position to paint, the main part of the easel is behind the lid, out of reach. To get around this there is usually a drawer or two on the lid hinge side, but on this easel the drawers were on the opposite end side.
At home, after much rumination, I came up with a plan.
First I set about creating a way for a canvas to be attached to the inside of the lid instead of the outside. A pair of L-shaped metal corner supports on the lid struts provided something for a canvas to rest on, or be clamped onto if there’s a bit of wind. I also made a divider for the top section because every time I picked up the easel the contents would slide down into a muddle.
The drawers took up a lot of space and added weight to the easel so I removed them and screwed on a little door.
One cavity holds a brush carrier and some other bits and pieces, the other holds a palette I made that fits onto the top of the open easel and has beading that keep the paint from touching the inside of the cavity when stored.
The last amendment was to add a foot plate for a tripod and bigger rubber feet to accomodate the thickness of it.
I mostly use canvas paper taped to a board thesedays as it is light and takes up very little room. It can also be any size or shape so long as it fits on the board. I’ve made a board the same size as the drawer cavity, and a smaller one just because I had a scrap left over.
I’ve used the easel several times now, in life drawing workshops and to a plein air meet. And I took it with me on a recent two week slow drive to Adelaide and back. I’m pretty happy with it.