The Sketch Easel was invented by artist and teacher James Gurney. I have refined the sketch easel idea into a beautiful and quality built art platform that will last a lifetime. For some, there is no need to DYI this idea- order one and get painting!
Back in 2015 Artist James Gurney introduced me to the idea of a DIY plywood book, AKA a sketch easel. He wasn't carrying around a blocky pochade box or French Easel, these boxes are too big for the intrepid on-location-artist. I decided to refine the idea and incorporate an adjustable shelf. I made the design my own and I realized how much better the sketch easel was to anything else:
1. Way more easy to pack, it's thin and slips easily into a backpack
2. Designed specifically for water media, 5x8 watercolor albums
3. Workflow is enhanced, your hands and eyes don't move far, everything is close
4. Works excellent for oil painting, if you paint in various mediums this is your easel
5. A second mini easel for the studio. Having a small rig handy to bang out a quick sketch or study
6. It's essentially an adjustable table and shelf. Use it at your next art show
7. High quality Southco Torsion Hinges, you simply move it to your desired angle and your done.
8. Made from 1/4" Baltic Birch and sealed for max weather repellency.
9. Super strong neodymium magnets. Attach tins and tools quickly and they won't blow away
10. Comes with a canvas tote bag for storage so you can keep it together. Room for a paper towel roll
The first thing you're going to notice when you start to use your sketch easel is that your eyes don't need to travel far from the subject you're painting to the work surface. You can utilize the tripod's height adjustment to set your line-of-sight so the subject is just above your work area. Moreover, all your tools- paint, palette, water bucket, and brushes are all within easy reach of your hands. No long walks for your hands or eyes.
The Raven perfectly exploits the tripod's vast combinations of tilt and height adjustment, especially when combined with the adjustable shelf that integrates with the easel.
I have found workflow in this regard to be better than my studio easel set-up. It's such a pleasure to work with such a compact kit, it allows me to paint in a relaxed posture with almost no bending or head turning needed.
As mentioned, I did not invent this easel, James Gurney did. He got me started painting small and often as a way of getting outdoors with a simple gouache/watercolor setup. Back in 2014 I answered the call he made on his Gurney Journey Blog to share sketch easel designs. He liked my ideas and posted my design on his blog. https://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/search?q=coombes
This first version was very clunky but it got me painting and thus redesigning. My easel was refined and changed several times before getting to its current state. So far I have filled six Pentalic Watercolor Albums with gouache and watercolor sketches, some were studies for larger studio works.
I can't stress enough how handy having a second easel is in the studio. If your goal is to become a better painter, then you must paint often so that means finding ways to make time and make yourself paint often! The sketch easel allows the artist to not take the painting process too serious and have fun. You can experiment without making big commitments.
Here are some other uses I have found for my Raven Sketch Easel:
Whether you make your own or buy one, get yourself a sketch easel. It has helped me develop as an artist because it promotes growth. It makes painting uncomplicated and accessible, something you can do in an hour. No more excuses!
Folded 16.5" long x 6.25" wide
Unfolded 16.5" long x 13" wide
Folded 1.75" thick
Weighs 3.4 lbs
Materials: 1/4" Baltic Birch, Canadian White Maple, Southco Marine Torsion Hinge x2, 5/16", Neodymium magnets x10
Design: The easel was designed to fully support a 5x8 watercolor album. Most watercolor albums are of this size but the easel can easily hold a much larger size album including small to medium sized watercolor paper bricks.
For oil painting, the panel holder can hold a medium size art-board panel but I would say its limit would be 24x24" board. The panel holder grooves are wide enough for most art board panels.
1x Raven Sketch Easel
1x Adjustable tripod shelf
1x Panel holder
1x Magnetized pallet insert/ oil mixing surface
1x Canvas tote bag
If you use it... YES! Painting small and often allows you to complete all aspects of the painting process in one session. More finished small paintings will give you the gift of skill much faster than painting fewer but larger works in the same time frame. The sketch easel will introduce you to the world of quick paintings. This can be a game changer, and can help the artist loosen-up their work and breath life and energy into their technique.
The Raven Sketch Easels is not waterproof, it is water resistant. Waterproofing a wood product like this would require encapsulating it in a full resin or plastic finish. This would be overkill and expensive. It would diminish the natural look and feel wood provides.
-If you use your sketch easel it will not remain pristine looking of long. Paint, water and solvent stains will add character to your new easel, this is good! If it gets messy, you're using it, and I solute you.
-If your Raven gets wet or even soaked, no problem just towel dry it off and allow it to dry indoors overnight. Do not use heat to dry it, this could warp the wood.
I am a big fan of finding tripods on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for around $60-$100. I like Manfrotto aluminum tripods because they are high quality, not super light or super heavy. You don't want the tripod to be too light, such as carbon fibre, because it's easier to tip over. A bit of weight is good. See my video below on tripods.
Carbon Grey- This finish is sealed by a clear polyurethane coat. Over a long period of time, pulling it in and out of backpacks, this coat may start to rub off around the edges, and the natural maple will begin to show underneath. No problem, the wood is still preserved but a light spray of a polyurethane product will reduce further rubbing-off of the grey and will help water repellency. Minwax or Varathane products are great and available at Home Depo . Use matt or satin spray, oil-based product
The oil/varnish finish over time may start to feel dry. You can always apply some tung oil to replenish the wood. The product I use is similar to Watco (natural color) This is available at Home Depot type stores, and you can always add a coat of this to the wood to keep it preserved and water repellant.
The palette insert has magnets on one side (for watercolor tins and palette) and clear maple on the other side. I finish the clear side with linseed oil, this side is saturated with linseed oil to allow it to be used as an oil mixing surface.
I use Grey Matters mixing paper. I fold the paper around the pallet insert and mix. It's super easy cleanup. You could easily use parchment paper instead.
Normally I can have your easel to you in about a week's time or less. After receiving your order I usually ship it the next day and email you tracking info.
I make these easels in batches, 10-12 at a time. If you see that one is available- grab it because it may be a month or two, or longer before I have more to sell. This is small home based business, a side hustle of mine born from a love of art and woodworking. I have two other full time businesses I own and manage. If I'm out of stock and you want one soon, send me an email and I'll see what I can do. Bryanedwardcoombes@gmail.com
When you receive your sketch easel, set it up. If something isn't right please reach out right away so we can get it fixed for you. If you're not satisfied with the function or workmanship you can return it for a refund of purchase price. The item must be unused and in the original packaging.
4516 Southridge Cres
Shipping is non refundable, you are responsible for paying for the shipping. Please do not opt for a signature. This will add further delay to the process. Once received, we'll process your refund.
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