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
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.