Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Traveling with Clothes and Painting Gear: Part 1-Easels

After 3 solid weeks of traveling to Scotland and France with my painting buddies, I want to offer some suggestions on painting boxes. In another post I’ll talk about clothes.


I have several sizes of easels that I considered taking….a Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box, a ‘Kevin Mcpherson’ ProChade box easel by Artwork Essentials, and a Versa 11 x 14 easel, also from Artwork Essentials. From my point of view, here are the pros and cons of each:

Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box 0v03235000000-st-01-pocket-box


* It’s really small and really light….While it is a box, this takes up minimal space.

* It’s extremely light. It weighs in at 1 lb.

* It holds wet panels. My configuration only holds one wet panel, but that is because I have a fold out side tray to hold my brushes which takes up wet canvas space when the box is closed. The side tray can can double as a larger mixing area, and I’ve used it as such (most recently when I left my palette mixing area in the freezer and forgot to take it with me.)

* There is a small amount of storage inside the box for limited paints and/or short brushes.

* It can be used in your lap or with a tripod.

* Because it’s light in weight, if you use a tripod, you can use a lighter one.

* You can customize the box. For example, I added the foldout Palette Extension kit, the rubber foot mounts, and the universal tripod mount set. Palette Extension Kit

* The panel size is limited to 5 x 7 allowing you to have a very consistent size in your body of work and you won’t have to carry a variety of panel sizes with you


* It’s really small. If you need room to spread out or are a messy painter, this could be a real challenge.

* Storage inside the box is very limited.

* It’s set up to paint in landscape (horizontal) mode. (With clips I can easily paint in portrait mode.)

* The panel size is limited to 5 x 7. Because the format is limited, you may be frustrated when you want to paint larger.

* On your lap, the box can be a bit awkward, but it is doable.

* Sometime the panels move a bit back and forth while painting. I solve this with clips that I keep in the storage area under the mixing area or keep 2 panels in the painting area for a tighter fit and take out the second panel when I fold it all up.

* You will have to add anything that isn’t part of the basic box, for example the tripod mounting set. However these cost very little and are super easy to install.

Kevin Mcpherson Easly L ProChade Box by Artwork Essentials:ProChade_1


* It’s extremely light. This weighs in 1.8 lbs.

*It’s very thin so it doesn’t create bulk.

* You can buy a full set up – easel, tripod, etc…from Easy L

* Because the easel is lighter, the tripod will be as well. Easy L’s is 2.7 lbs. (I also use this tripod for my 5 x 7 Pocket Box as well).

* There is a side table that come with it that slides in to place on the left side. I use it to hold my medium cup. I also added some wood at the top and bottom to hold my brushes in place and keep them from slipping. Or you can use the brush holder which comes with it.


* There is no place to hold a wet canvas. In fact, there is no storage of any kind.

* If you hang your turp jar, it can be slightly tricky as the lip of the box is not very tall. I’ve found the safest place is from the brass knob on the right side. If you are left handed this might not be comfortable for you.

* You are limited in vertical size to 10 inches maximum and 6 inches minimum. In other words, a 5 x 7 panel won’t work in landscape mode as the spring clip that holds the panel in place is fixed at 6” when it’s at rest.

* You have to use panels. I often cut linen from a roll and then tape it to cardboard to save on weight. However, you can tape your linen/canvas to a standard panel and have that as your backboard.

Easy L Versa by Artwork EssentialsVersa

* This has a really good sized working area.

* It has a wet canvas carrier built in which can hold 2 panels at a time as long as they are the same size.

* It has 3 different size options for holding wet canvases.

* By changing the brass resting shelf you can paint on panels or 1” deep canvases.

* It will hold a canvas up to 20” in height.

* It’s very sturdy. I’ve had mine for about 10 years. I’ve dropped it and it’s still working really well.

* Side trays mount easily and are very sturdy as they are made out of brass.

* Side trays can store inside the palette, along with you brushes.

* It is designed for oil, watercolor, or pastel painting.


* It’s definitely heavier than the other two easels. It weighs in at 4.8 lbs. I added a glass palette that adds additional weight.

* The knobs can be awkward inside a backpack, as can the wet canvas carrier edges, as they sometime catch on things.

*If you have panels stored you will need to remove them to adjust the height of the panel/canvas resting tray as they are secured with screws which loosen from the back.

Practically Speaking:

I was really torn as to which easel to bring with me on a 3 week trip. I’ve traveled with each of the easels and had good success with all of them, but those trips were about both painting and vacationing. This was all about painting as we were painting 2 – 3 paintings per day. I had to be able to move about, but I also needed to be comfortable with my set up.

Because I didn’t want to be limited by size I brought the Easy L Versa. After traveling on several planes, navigating train stations that only had stairs, and lots of them, I’m not sure I made the right choice.

I only painted small paintings. Nothing I painted was larger than 10” in height so probably I could have used the Kevin Mcpherson ProChade Box and been quite happy. I might have made due with the Guerrilla box, but being limited to just 5″ x 7″ for so long still seems like a stretch.

Every easel has pros and cons. Some of the women traveling with us had Strada easelsOthers had a Coulter system. Though it opens and closes really fast, Coulter’s take-up a bunch of space and is weighty. The Strada weighs in at just over 4 lbs. without the sides, and with sides would weigh similar to the Versa, but it is a very elegant looking easel. However, neither hold tubes of paint or wet canvases. In truth, there is no perfect solution. But for future trips I will take either the ProChade or Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box.


I was painting with a girlfriend and Christopher came running by and asked if I could paint him.  “Sure!”  I said, thinking he was kidding.  5 minutes later he comes back and says, “I’m ready”.  OK…….  So I started painting him and then finished it in my studio.

This is an older painting, but if I remember correctly, I only used 3 colors, plus white, for this painting. Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Alizarine Crimson, and Cad yellow medium. It’s really wonderful how colors can harmonize with a limited palette.

Follow Up on Drying Time of Cobra Water Soluble Oil Paints

Lavender Fields small

After 12 solid days of painting in Scotland (sometime 2 paintings/day) I can start to give an update on the drying time of Cobra Water Soluble Oil Paints. First, they DRIED! I think one of the keys was that the room we kept our gear in, including wet paintings, was very, very warm as it was a sunroom. Honestly, I think even in winter this room would allow one to grow oranges in this haven of Scottish warmth. We were lucky in that the whole time we were painting it was sunny. When  I was in warm and sunny southern France, I experienced the same thing. I also changed the material I was painting on from Yes, All Media Primed Canvas to Fredrix Kent oil primed linen.

After a few hours of painting I did find that need to switch my brushes out. I had brought a combination of bristle and bristle with synthetic (Rosemary Classic) and mongoose. After several hours of painting and using water for cleaning my brushes I was finding that the Rosemary Classic hog/synthetics were splaying a bit and not holding a firm edge. I bought inexpensive synthetics, which mimic sables, and have found they worked really well.

I could lay on a light scrub and the paint dried very, very fast allowing me to start building color without picking up the color of the toned canvas. This was a big plus for me as I was toning in the field. I would thinly tone my canvas with paint and water and then set up the rest of my colors while my canvas was drying.

I found that, especially in warm weather, the thinned paint would dry pretty quickly on my palette but I could re-wet it to continue using it. The piles of color, however, would stay wet just as long as my traditional oils did. I also found that when I scraped up my paint at the end of a session and put it off to the side, they were still quite workable the next day.

One thing I really love about Cobra Water Soluble paint is that because I’m not using OMS, I am not getting it on my skin. I don’t like wearing gloves so invariably my hands would have some turp on them. Strangely, if I was spending all day in my studio I could even feel the oil mixture in my mouth. This has not happened at all with Cobra.

If you are using water soluble paints I’m interested in hearing what your experience has been. Let me know!

Christ on the Cross small          

“Christ on the Cross” painted at a church in Castillon du Gard in southern France

Want to see more of my work?