Pochade Box

DIY Pochade Box

Lately I’ve been making this pochade box, which is a box made to both store art supplies and to be an easel. Often these can be mounted on a normal camera tripod, as seen here, and can be carried in a backpack.

This one is made entirely of poplar wood, because it was cheap, but may not have been the best choice because there were a few times that the wood split while drilling a hole. Next time I’ll probably use oak. It’s also a bit thin, but reducing the total weight of the box was important for keeping the weight of a backpack down.

DIY Pochade Box

The way this is used as an easel is that a paper or canvas will be clipped to the inside of the lid, which stays open at a certain angle while you work. This way the entire storage and work area is contained in one small box.

At the back of the box is a porcelain palette, which is actually a dish of some sort that I got at a discount store. Because it was the largest object there, and I wanted it to fit exactly, the box was literally built around that palette at the beginning. It fits snuggly and doesn’t move even if the box is turned upside down, but can still be pulled out easily enough.

In front of that are two watertight 2oz (60ml) Nalgene bottles, one for rinse water and one for clean water. The small basswood box next to them holds the paint tubes. The tops of the box and bottles are level with the inside of the lid when it’s closed, so the lid for the whole pochade box also keeps the tubes and bottles from moving. The height of the bottles was what determined the height of the box.

At the very front is a bamboo brush-holding roll with sleeves in it. I had to trim off some of it with wire cutters so it’d fit because the box wasn’t quite wide enough. It can hold a few brushes and keep their tips safe from being bent by keeping them from pressing into the side of the box.

DIY Pochade Box

This hing was a bit of a struggle to figure out, as there were several styles that I tried first that didn’t work like I wanted or that broke while making them. It was important that the hing securely hold the lid open at the correct angle, because that’s the whole point of a pochade box. This final style works very well and is unobtrusive, which makes it convenient for placing the box in a backpack without the hing snagging on anything.

I’m not a carpenter and don’t know the right words for all these things, but I was going to insert a pin or piece of wood in the center of the sliding area to prevent the thing that slides from sliding too far so the lid would stay at the angle I want, but the position of the bottom part of the hing actually stops the lid from opening any further anyways. Fortunately it stopped right about where I wanted it. I’m a little worried that the lowest part of the hing is just held by one small brass screw and the entire design depends on that holding well. If there’s a problem then that one part will just get modified.

DIY Pochade Box

A little behind the center of the box, under the porcelain palette, is a T-nut (or tee nut). It’s a hollow tube with screw threads on the inside and at one end are prongs that sink into the wood. By drilling a hole in the bottom of the box and gently hammering that nut into place, a camera quick release plate can be screwed onto the bottom of the box that allows it to be placed on the tripod. The plate can always be removed and the box will have a completely flat bottom, allowing it to also used on a table or desk.

Pochade Box 1e

Although the basswood box I glued together wasn’t my original idea for how the paint would be stored, it does hold a good amount of paint in a compact area. From left to right they are Payne’s grey, indanthrene blue, French ultramarine, cerulean blue gouache, green apatite, golden (cadmium) yellow gouache, gold ochre, Italian dark ochre, Pozzuoli red (red ochre), perylene maroon, and Italian raw umber. The bottom row has Chinese (zinc) white, ivory black, and buff titanium. The big drawback to putting all of these in that little box, besides being disorganized, is that I had to be careful to leave a little extra room, because otherwise every time I put the tubes back in I’d have to arrange them perfectly so everything would fit. Eventually I might get a smaller porcelain palette to give more room for the paints to be laid out.

Overall it was an enjoyable, if longer than expected, project that’ll also be useful in the future. The best part was being able to custom make every aspect of it myself to fit my own needs.

Plein Air – Highland Springs


Watercolor on paper, 8″ x 5″

Today is the first day I’ve ever painted on location. Normally I always paint indoors and even the few times I’ve done it outside I didn’t actually go somewhere to paint what I saw. This time I went to a recreation area along with my mom. There’s a lot of trails, a reservoir, and many miles of wilderness. The only two colors I used were Lemon Ochre (self made, pigment from Natural Pigments) and Blue Ochre (Vivianite) from Daniel Smith. The paper is my first time using my new Moleskin watercolor book.

I know the trees look a little strange, but that’s how they really looked! They’re old walnut trees from a small orchard that seems abandoned now. Where I live there’s a lot of walnut trees and nearly all of them are the branches of an English walnut tree grafted onto the trunk of a black walnut tree. Sometimes the tree looks a little strange because the trunk may start out thick at the bottom and suddenly get thinner halfway up or the trunk may suddenly stop and have the branches of another tree sticking out of it at the top. The color of the bark is always very different between the lighter English and darker black walnut parts.

The area that I was in used to be a resort in the 1800’s and could have over 300 guests. There’s a lot of mineral springs and gas vents in that area and sometimes you can find puddles with bubbles coming out of them. If it’s dry and hasn’t rained in a long time then they may just be small holes in the ground with gas coming out that smells like sulphur, but if there’s water in the holes then the bubbles will look like it’s boiling even though the water isn’t hot. Eventually there was a fire at the resort a very long time ago and it was torn down. After that a dam was built and if anything is left of the foundation it’s now under a reservoir.

While we were walking on the trail to the picnic area that I was painting at I found some deer bones. It’s not the first time I’ve seen that on that same trail. Mountain lions live in this area. Those walnut trees are at the edge of a field of tall grass. A mountain lion could easily hide in that grass. There were two deer standing a short distance away and didn’t seem very concerned about us, but early on a couple of hikers came and their dogs decided to chase the deer away. I was kind of hoping the deer would alert me if they saw a mountain lion. Maybe they were hoping I would do the same.

Right now this whole area is so dry and we really need some rain. The reservoir was very low and some parts at the end that would normally be under at least shallow water were instead dry ground. Surrounding that dry part is a dense forest of water plants and very tall grasses that should all be in shallow water but are instead far from it. Little streams around the reservoir are also probably all dry. As we get closer to winter there’ll be rain and then the frogs and salamanders will appear again.