box of tricks This easel is meant to be strong, light and easy to ad­just. What’s it like to use in prac­tice?

ImagineFX - - Art Tools Easel - Price £232 (also avail­able: Mini, £205; Mi­cro, £190) Com­pany STRADA De­signs Web

The sim­plic­ity of the de­sign is com­pelling from the first time you open it

The STRADA Easel was first re­leased at the 2011 Plein Air Con­ven­tion and has quickly be­come the favourite of many lead­ing painters.

The in­ven­tor, Bryan Mark Tay­lor, came up with the easel’s de­sign af­ter go­ing on a paint­ing trip and hav­ing his ex­pen­sive wooden pochade box get­ting smashed in tran­sit. Bryan said that he’s seen other artists ar­rive at their desti­na­tion, only to find their tra­di­tional wood box dam­aged or in pieces. His ex­pe­ri­ence – and that of fel­low artists – in­spired him to come up with a bet­ter so­lu­tion that was, in his words, “bul­let­proof.”

From the be­gin­ning the STRADA Easel was recog­nised as a great step for­ward. The sim­plic­ity of the de­sign is com­pelling from the first time you open it. There’s only one knob to ad­just, which mod­i­fies the lower can­vas sup­port. The up­per sup­port uses fric­tion and feels solid. The easel is made of high-qual­ity alu­minium and there’s very lit­tle that can wear out or break down. It could prob­a­bly take a few bul­lets and still work just fine!

Tor­sion hinges make get­ting the right an­gle for your can­vas straight­for­ward. Just an­gle the lid where you want it and it holds firmly in place. The whole easel mounts on to a stan­dard tri­pod mount. With a quick re­lease plate, setup takes less than a minute to go from back­pack to ready to squeeze out paint. A sturdy tri­pod is a must: we’d rec­om­mend pur­chas­ing one with a good ball head or other ad­justable mount. Be­tween this and the sim­ple ad­just­ments on the easel, you’ll be able to find the op­ti­mal po­si­tion to avoid glare and keep your work and pal­ette in the same light.

The base easel can be up­graded. You can buy trays that firmly at­tach to the easel on ei­ther side. One can hold paint and your other brushes, while the cen­tre space in the easel can then be used for mix­ing paint. You can also pur­chase a small hook to hang a brush clean­ing can from the easel.

A high-den­sity plas­tic pal­ette, much lighter than glass and friend­lier for travel, is avail­able to buy for both the easel and for the side trays. The plas­tic makes for quick cleanup and adds very lit­tle weight. The trays can also be stacked and stored in­side of the easel, keep­ing ev­ery­thing com­pact and or­gan­ised.

Af­ter us­ing the STRADA Easel for just a few times it soon be­comes clear that it was de­signed by an artist with both ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s just what you need to get to quickly start paint­ing out in the field.

A full setup might fea­ture trays, clean­ing can, brushes, tri­pod and a tri­pod tray be­low.

The Mini on the left is the most pop­u­lar size and is highly ver­sa­tile.

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