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