Linda,

One of the coolest outdoor easel designs I've seen is the Soltek. It is super fast to set up, can handle just about any size canvas or board, and can also tilt flat for watercolor field work. It's made out of aluminum and weighs 9 lbs total, which sounds like a lot, but that's a whole lot less than most traditional wooden portable easels. It has a built-in space to carry paint tubes. It costs a lot, though -- around 500! I've also heard that the smooth gliding ability of the telescoping legs can sometimes get messed up by fine sand. (They still work, but not so smoothly.)

I own an EasyL Lite made by Artwork Essentials, which I really like. It weighs 7 lb including the tripod. It's fairly fast to set up, and holds panels up to 16" in height. I even use it in my studio. It comes as a kit for 300., which includes the box, the tripod and a detachable brush holder. One thing I don't love about this particular model is the built-in wet-panel carrier -- it doesn't offer enough protection for wet panels -- so I don't use that feature. If I had it to do over again, I might consider one of the other boxes made by Artwork Essentials, or...

Alla Prima is another brand I've drooled over. These handmade boxes look gorgeous, but I don't have any personal experience with them.

The traditional fold-out wooden easels are beautiful and I can see why people love them, but they're also kind of heavy and may be harder to set up (and take down) than some of the newer pochade box designs. Once on a trip, a friend of mine wrestled her 'portable' french easel to the ground, got its legs folded in and all the parts bolted down, and then wiped her brow and said, "Man, I feel like I just roped a calf!"  :o)

Jenny




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