How to Make a Sketch Easel

EASEL DOES IT Es­tab­lished artist and il­lus­tra­tor James Gur­ney ex­plains how to make your own rig for eas­ier paint­ing on lo­ca­tion

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Through­out James Gur­ney’s In The Wild series of videos, he’s of­ten seen on lo­ca­tion with a sketch­pad set up on one of his home-made easels. Here he goes into de­tail about how he makes an easel, en­cour­ag­ing you to take the DIY route, too.

It’s worth say­ing from the out­set that this sort of project will ap­pear much more daunt­ing if the most DIY you’ve done to date is ham­mer­ing in a pic­ture hook. Yet the time you in­vest in mak­ing your own easel will be re­paid when you’re out paint­ing or draw­ing.

Com­pared with the typ­i­cal artist’s easels you can buy, James’s de­sign is more portable and more ad­justable, as well as be­ing per­fect for hold­ing the paints and pa­per he uses. When you watch him work­ing on lo­ca­tion, you’re struck by how un­ob­tru­sive the easel is.

James spends about 40 min­utes tak­ing you through the con­struc­tion process, also pro­vid­ing a PDF that lists all the tools and ma­te­ri­als that you need. If you’re not used to mak­ing ob­jects by hand, the level of de­tail he gets into can seem a lit­tle obsessive: there’s lots on how to make hinges flush with their planes of wood so that they close fully, or how to add mag­nets that will keep your wa­ter­colour tin pal­ette firmly in place.

But it’s th­ese lit­tle de­tails that catch out the in­ex­pe­ri­enced. Any­one can put a cou­ple of bits of wood to­gether: it’s do­ing it right that’s harder, and you’re much less likely to make daft mis­takes in con­struc­tion af­ter you’re watched this and made care­ful notes.

A bonus sec­tion help­fully shows you how to make a sim­ple dif­fuser rig to block di­rect sun­light as you work, although the fi­nal se­quence of clips with the easel and dif­fuser be­ing used on lo­ca­tion is per­haps over­played, mak­ing it feel su­per­flu­ous.

James de­signs his easel to fit on a stan­dard cam­era tri­pod with a ball head mount, mak­ing the whole set-up portable and ad­justable. The amount of tools and ma­te­ri­als you’ll need for this project might put you off, but James clearly ex­plains ev­ery­thing you re­quire. James also shows you how to make a light dif­fuser to block out di­rect sun­light as you paint.

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