Fran's Plein Air Easel

There's a wonderful guy somewhere out in cyberspace named Jim Serrett who shared his design for constructing a plein air easel.  His generosity led to many, many artists building on Jim's thoughts, and creating their own versions of plein air easels.  Several online companies sell easels.  Yet there's something truly organic and fulfilling building one's own easel. Many of us are truly grateful to Jim Serrett for his generosity.

This easel allows use of 9x12, 8x10, 6x8 canvas panels to be painted on site.  The lid simply closes shut, keeping the artwork clean and safe to transport back to the art studio.


Two sidebars extend out from below either side of the easel. One holds painting knives, the other holds paintbrushes. (1/4" offset clips are used to create the slide mechanism below the easel.)  When not in use, they compactly slide back in place under the easel.


Picture hanging hooks hold paper towel sack, and small Gamsol bottle (wide-mouth, spill-proof Container Store plastic bottle).


The used paper towel bag (see red newspaper delivery bags) hooks onto the side hinge (Rockler brass briefcase hinge#34090).  I prefer an alligator clip for this purpose.


The Rockler brass plated 8" Stop Hinge #49819 attaches the upper lid to the base.  The base contains a thin sheet of plexi-glass (TAP Plastics) which is taped in place with black artist tape.  (White tape would produce too much glare in the sunshine.)  Easily cleaned with a razor blade after use.


A new feature I added to my most recent evolution of the easel is the use of window screen hardware clips (which I cut down w/utility knife).  They are loose enough to manuever up and down to paint on the canvas, yet firm enough to hold the canvas board in place.  This photo shows all the positions I drilled, but in reality the artist would need only 3 in place at a time ~ one at the base, and one on each side of the canvas. The screws pass through to the back of the board and are held in place with STOP screws.  Wing nut screws could also be used, but I liked the smaller dimension of the stop screw.


If the artist prefers not to bother w/window screen hardware and stop screws, UHU Tac putty (purchased at all art stores) is a wonderful way to simply attach the canvas board to the easel.  I simply put a small amount in all four corners.  Press into place, and begin painting.  UHU Tac has never failed me. Not once has my canvas board slipped off the back support.


The wood was stained with 2 coats of Minwax Ipswich Pine #221 wood finish. Then several coats of polyurethene semi-gloss varnish.


A small block of wood (2"x2"x2") was glued under the easel, approx 3 inches away from the back, and centered.  Over the years, I've used 3 different brands of insert nuts (which your camera tripod will insert into).  But I have found the easiest one is:  HM (House-Mates Hardware) Insert Nuts 1/4"-20 x13mm zinc plated  #66914.  4 to a package.  You will need a 11/32" drill bit.


Yes, I did sand the wood carefully during this construction process, but the results are very pleasing to me and worth the effort.


I hope you enjoy the process of construction as well and the use of the final product ~ and thank Jim Serrett for beginning the notion of artists creating their own easels!

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