I’m all about the mod. Anything that can get me set up and painting more quickly once I’m out of the car is a “good thing” — to steal a phrase from the quintessential queen of crafts, Martha Stewart. Yesterday, I did a nifty mod to my French easel.
I like to use a French Mistress when painting en plein air. Hey, it ain’t what you think! I don’t have some demure ingenue handing me brushes and tubes of paint as I need them, massaging my brow during the most troublesome passages, making me feel — well, I’d better stop here and just move on before I get myself into trouble.
My French Mistress is a folding palette which rests on the drawer of my portable easel. I’ll explain why I use a French Mistress, instead of the stock palette, in another post. You can see my French Mistress in the last image in this post if you don’t know what one is.
So to keep ‘splaining . . .
My first French easel broke down last October in Big Sur for good. It lasted for 26 years and I consider that decent value. For a while I thought I’d make it through my entire painting career with the same one, like a high school kid who manages to make a single peechee last all four years. My easel has suffered a world of hurt over those years. It has been dropped, dragged, bumped, and even soaked a couple of times in two different rivers — but it still did the job of holding my canvases, and carrying my gear. Until last October, that is. The last ten years I’ve been screwing, drilling, punching, gluing, and tying that box back together until it looks like something out of a low budget monster movie.
However, the wood finally gave out. There is no more triage to attempt. It’s D.O.A. Nothing left to put back together.
I though I’d try one of these new-fangled easels everyone keeps going on about. The Easy-L, the Open-M, the Soltek, and so forth. And they do look pretty nifty online and after much deliberation I settled on the Easy-L as a replacement. When it arrived I made two piles of gear: one with the Easy-L, accompanied by its requisite tripod, and all my paints and other accouterments. And then I added the assorted containers and bins I’d have to use to carry everything in. In pile number two I put my old French Easel, my Mistress, and all the same paint and stuff that normally gets carried inside the easel itself. (Long ago I fitted that easel with back straps and a waist belt, which left my hand empty for carrying optional things like water and food.) Hmmmm. Guess which pile turned out to be the smallest and most efficiently packable? Pile number two with the French easel. So the Easy-L went back to the manufacturer and I ordered another French easel from the art store. A beechwood Mabef. The exact same one I bought a quarter century ago. Apparently I hate change. I switched the backpack straps to my new easel and voila! Back in business.
Then I started obsessing about the wasted space you can find inside a French easel. Been thinking about it a long time, actually. There is almost 40% of unusable volume within the box, located between the palette and lid when the box is closed. (Sure, that space is there to accommodate the paint left out on the palette, but hear me out. Remember the French Mistress?)
So how could I exploit that wasted space for more storage? It was driving me crazy.
I found the answer at the Container Store.
Below is a