My Coulter Easel arrived yesterday, and I immediately took it out for a trial run. Although I am new to oil painting, I’ve been painting en plein air with pastel for nearly a year. Having already learned several lessons about painting en plein air, I was ready to try my hand at oil painting.
Choosing an easel was a difficult decision. Most painters I know have 6 or more. Having painted with our local group, I was able to see other easels in action and talk about the pros and cons of each. In the end, I chose the Coulter Easel for the following reasons:
Coulter Easel Review – Compact Size
1) Ease of design – super simple
2) Sufficient palette size for mixing paint
3) Time and travel tested by other painters over many years
4) Few moving parts – minimal chance of failure in the field
5) Sturdy construction
6) The panel holder is separate from the mixing area. This allows the panel to be at vision height and the mixing tray to be at waist height
7) Easily fits multiple panel and canvas sizes
9) Adjustable for standing or sitting. I’m short in height, so I adjusted the legs lower for my height. I think it would work just fine for sitting too.
Concerns: My only concern was the tripod. I wasn’t sure that the legs would expand sufficiently for stability and uneven ground. Update: After nearly a year of use, this has not been a problem. The weight of my pack has been more than sufficient to keep everything steady.
For day one, I choose to not make any modifications to the easel, simply work with it exactly as is. I put my paper towels on the tripod handle, brushes on the left, knives, medium and OMS (Oderless Mineral Spirits) on the right. I used the wood base as my palette (not inserting glass) to keep it light for backpacking and travel. I simply brushed on several coats of linseed oil and I’ll clean it and coat it again. Using it today, I found that the paint wanted to seep into the wood. Over time, I expect the wood to fill and create a very smooth surface. (Update: Wiping the palette clean after each use, the wood has taken on a nice patina and has a nice, slick surface.)
The Highlight of the Day
One of the joys of plein air painting in a public area is chatting with those who pass by. Today, a group of 10-12 kids trooped over to check out our work. I love the look of intrigue, rapture and excitement on their faces. As I was painting the last bits, they gathered around and slowly inched forward bit by bit, getting a little closer and a little closer. It was so fun! I wished that I could give them all an easel and spend the day painting with them.
Shortly after purchasing the Standard Coulter Palette Box, I went ahead and purchased the mini size. I have found that the 9×12 mini provides plenty of mixing area. I prefer this smaller size for local and international trips. It fits easily in my carry-on and takes up less backpack space. The only modifications have been to add a small cup holder hook on the inside of each wing (one on the right for OMS and one on the left for a reusable trash bag) and a screw to hold the optional brush holder.
Here’s a picture of the mini in action.
PS: Of course, once I committed to this easel, I found this one by Joshua Been…several folks in our group have it and they really like it too.