Portable easels are like folding deckchairs and easy assembly furniture,they are treacherous, seldom really portable without your own dedicated sherpa, may fold, if you are lucky and are fingertrappingly unpredictable. If they are heavy enough to withstand a light breeze they are often too heavy to carry and then there is the tilt or not tilt issue. When you get a new one, it is advisable to try it out in the privacy of your own home. There can be nothing worse for your artistic credibility than to be seen by the public wrestling with your easel.. you can just hear the comments " well if she can't even get the easel up !"
I bought this ... not, I have to say, the $500 "engineered by engineers" model, but something modestly priced that doubles up as a camera tripod too and tells me it is light and portable. So before setting off this morning for my new-resolution-plein-air-painting trip I thought I should try it out. I am not usually baffled but this took more than 5 minutes so resulted in a slight fit of bad temper. It's a nice easel but has a stupid design flaw. There are two canvas support brackets which you have to fit...that's fine..but when you come to fold it up, it does not fit into the carry bag with the supports still in place ....it's all very boring, but it means that when you get to your location you have to re-fit these fiddly supports which themselves rely on a wing bolts and their accompanying small loose nuts...which of course immediately fall off into 10 inches of leaf mold. There are no spares... Another problem with this easel is that it does not tilt, which, for a watercolourist is a bit of a problem. I do have one that tilts but it does not fold down small enough for bike/backpack transport... sigh.. All I want to do is just go and paint something.
I have over the years had quite a few sketching easels and have never found one that is just right but now, as I have to cycle 3 miles to the gardens, the question of portability, weight, size, etc is even more important...then of course there is the question of the right backpack?... and then the right bike? I could go on for days.
Anyway I eventually arrived at the garden and had decided earlier in the week to make some sketches of the Soapberry tree and had, that day, made a quick pencil sketch and a small colour sketch.
The only reason for taking the easel is that there are no handy nearby benches, but I shouldn't have worried about the public as this is a quiet part of the garden.
Initial pencil complete with muddy marks
Small 4 x 6" sketch
There is an intention somewhere in my mind to make a series of drawings of this delightful tree. I enjoy working in series and sets and today I was just looking at the tree and the light. It's a lovely time of year as the light is low in the morning but changes very quickly, so the few sketches I made reflect (somewhat) the shifting light. I made 4 small sketches and a some larger ones..I like some of them.
First sketch no sun
First sun on leaves.
More low sun
Sun hitting top branches more
Full sun on the tops of the branches
If I had to choose just one it would be this one below where the first sun is catching the leaves.