Tag Archives: easel

Landscape Painting Workshop in Suffolk

Join me for a day’s outdoor painting in this beautiful and hidden corner of Suffolk. If you want to paint the world around you, to get outside and capture the effect of light on the landscape without relying on copying photographs, then come along to this one day workshop.

Suffolk painting workshop
Suffolk painting workshop location

Working close by the mill and in the surrounding private nature reserve we will paint a series of landscapes by direct observation. This course is aimed at oil painters of all levels who want to work confidently in the great outdoors (you are welcome to use acrylics if you prefer).

The wonderful surroundings of this secluded location are ideal. Situated at the end of a long track down into one of Suffolk’s beautiful ‘hidden valleys’ Assington Mill has great views and plenty of cover so we can still work outside even if the weather turns bad.

The artistic heritage of this part of Suffolk is immense with John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Alfred Munnings and John Nash all living and painting within a few miles. In fact, Assington Mill was once owned by a John Constable – a relative of the painter himself.

This every practical day begins witha look at the range of plein air painting equipment now available to the outdoor artist. From traditional French easels and pochade boxes to ultra light-weight palette and panel holders from the US.

All with the added bonus of home-made lunch, biscuits and cakes throughout the day.

14th September 2014, 10am – 5pm with the option of staying on in the evening
Assington Mill, Bures Road, Assington, Suffolk, CO10 5LZ

Bring your usual oil painting kit including an easel suitable for outdoor use and outdoor clothing.

Book Now, or find out more.

Posted in Advice for Artists, On Location | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which easel or pochade and tripod for Plein Air Painting?

People often ask about the best equipment for plein air painting so here is a look at my kit and some links to suppliers.

I have two kinds of easel that I use outside: a French Easel and a panel/palette holder on a tripod.

The French easel is the one that looks most like a traditional  easel. It’s made of wood, has a tray on the back to rest my brushes, brush washer/turps can etc.  There is a drawer at the front to store tubes of paint and the palette sits on top of this. It’s a very versatile piece of kit that can support anything from a tiny board a few inches high to large canvas four feet across.

Jullian Half box French Easel JB40

French Easel

I also have a more lightwight kit in the form of a Palette/Panel Holder from Open Box M. This sits on a tripod with a quick release plate and has a small shelf for brushes, dipper etc. A spring clamp system holds panels up to 20 inches across.

recommended plein air tripod

The tripod I use with my pochades and Open Box M panel holder is a Velbon Ultra Rexi L. It’s light weight, packs up small and is very sturdy.  The legs are able to open out wide which is great for setting up in windy locations and when set up normally it takes up very little room – ideal for street scenes.  I recommend using a tripod head with a quick release plate as that allows you to set up and dismantle your kit quickly. I have found a small Manfrotto ball head is ideal, it’s compact in size and rock solid.

Velbon Ultra 655 – updated replacement for the Ultra Rexi L.

Manfrotto 494RC2 Ball Head with Friction Control

Roy Connelly painting Lands End Cornwall Painting at Lands End.
Pochade: Open Box M. Tripod: Velbon Ultra Rexi L.



Posted in Advice for Artists, On Location | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oi! No painting in the Street

Ken Howard, Roy Connelly and Peter BrownAbove: Ken Howard, Peter Brown, Roy Connelly – click to view


This is a recent interview with Ken Howard RA in which he talks about the difficulties encountered when painting on the streets of London.  The problem is not one of perspective,  capturing the light or changing weather but of being moved on under the spurious excuse of ‘health and safety’.

I was pleased to get a mention in the article, along with Pete the Street – Peter Brown NEAC.

The Health and Safety Executive saw fit to respond with a letter defending common sense:

“Real health and safety is about dealing with risks that are likely to cause serious harm or even death to those in workplaces. I would urge you to challenge those jobsworths who persist in devaluing the real and important stuff by using “elf ‘n’ safety” as an easy excuse for spoiling everyone else’s enjoyment.”

You can read their letter in full here on the HSE website.

Finally, in a humourous response to the original story in the Telegraph, The Guardian newspaper found 10 ‘serious menaces’ in Trafalgar Square that were apparently missed by the wardens.

Posted in Advice for Artists, On Location | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of French Easel Maintenance

I own quite a few easels but the ones that get the most use are my French box easels. I have an Italian French easel made by Mabef and a French one by Jullian. The easel in these pictures is my Jullian half box and it is about 18 months old. It has to put up with a lot as it is in use everyday – often in the rain one day and in the baking sun or freezing cold the next, so I think is is important to maintain it regularly. Looking after your easel need not be too much of a chore and should ensure you get the most from it.

It can be surprising how much sand will stick to your easel if you paint at the beach. If you don’t remove it the sand will wear away at the threads so brush it off and oil the thread. I use 3in1 oil. You should really do this after each beach trip but I sometimes forget – until I feel the sand crunching in the threads!


Recently the front panel had started to pull apart from the rest of the box. To fix this I applied a few drops of wood glue to the dovetail joints and gently tapped it back together, then wiped off the excess glue and left it to dry overnight.

easel-2 easel-3

One problem with these easels is that the screws holding the hinges at the front of the box work loose and the top of the easel wobbles about when you are trying to paint. I keep a small screw driver in the kit to fix this but recently the screws no longer tightened up at all. The solution was to remove the hinges and pack the over-sized holes with thin strips of wood and wood glue. I let it dry overnight then cut off the excess wood flush with the sides of the box and re-drilled the holes. I replaced the screws with larger ones and this seems to have done the trick.



An addition that I have made to both of my French easels is the screw shown by the arrow in the picture below. This strengthens a joint that seems prone to coming apart, especially if you accidentally close the top with the drawer slightly open. Add one at each end of the cross piece.


French easels are usually made from oiled beech. To preserve the weather proofing of the wood simply wipe it with linseed oil once a year. And don’t forget to clean the palette occassionally.

Posted in Advice for Artists | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Painting Outside

My easel in Trafalgar Square
My easel in Trafalgar Square

I am frequently asked for advice on painting outside, sometimes by beginners, but often by quite accomplished studio painters. The following tips are replies to questions I have been asked recently.

How do you deal with people watching, negative comments or groups of teenagers? I will be painting in the centre of town!
Most people won’t even notice you! Those that do generally don’t stop for very long, its usually a quick glance and they carry on walking. You will get very few negative comments – I get, perhaps, one a year. I think your own personality will determine to what extent you talk to or ignore people when you are working. As for groups of teenagers, I find that they generally impressed with what you are doing. Its quite cool to be an artist.

Do you find that you sell a lot more work due to the interest in your painting on site ?
I have been invited to show in galleries and exhibitions by people who have seen me painting outside.

Have you any tips you can give me about setting up etc ?
It can be a bit nerve-racking the first time you set up in public but just go for it. Set your gear up and look as though you’ve done it for years – no one know’s any different.
If you are in London I would suggest setting up half-way across Waterloo Bridge. You will find that, as most people crossing the bridge are going somewhere, they won’t stop to bother you and you will quickly get used to people being around while you are working. It sounds like an ‘in at the deep end’ approach but most people will completely ignore you. If you set up outside a pub on a sunny afternoon the drinkers will have plenty of time to stand around and make helpful suggestions.

Some artists try to hide away completely when they work outside, but you probably won’t get the best view point. Be brave and choose your location to give you the best picture. I am quite happy to set up my box easel outside the National Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square (photo above) or on the South Bank on a busy afternoon.

I use a half box easel with a good padded shoulder strap. I think a full box easel is likely to discourage you from walking very far.

Everything I need goes into one bag, it contains:
6-8 boards in different sizes
a box to carry the wet panels
Low odour white spirit
a small jam jar with lid for cleaning brushes
T-square, useful for straight edges especially the horizon in seascapes
food and drink, hat, gloves etc

One important difference you will notice when painting outside, compared to in a studio, is how fast everything changes. Work small and don’t spend more than 2 hours at a time on a picture. Ideally 1 1/2 hours is about right or the shadows/weather/tide etc will have changed too much and you end up with one picture painted over another. You can always go back another day but in the UK you will be lucky if the light is the same for two days in a row.
If you have any questions or tips to add please leave a comment.

Posted in Advice for Artists, On Location | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pembrokeshire Coast

Painting at Newgale, Pembs.
Painting at Newgale, Pembs.

I have just returned from a very wet and windy week painting in Pembrokeshire, south west Wales. The coastline here is stunningly beautiful with long sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. Despite the wild weather I got plenty of painting done, much of it while sheltering behind the open tailgate of my car. The picture above is 8 x 36 inches (approx. 20 x 90 cm) and was painted with the easel resting in the boot. To see the painting in more detail, click on the image below.

St Bride's Bay, Newgale
St Bride's Bay, Newgale
Posted in On Location | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow in February

Painting in the Chiltern Hills
Painting in the Chiltern Hills
Last month’s snow was a gift to landscape painters. As I have been painting outside throughout the winter, it was good to see a snowy landscape at last.
This is my typical set up when painting out on location. I use a half box French easel to hold the small boards or larger canvases. The drawer of the easel stores my paints and the folding palette fits on top of the open drawer.
Everything I need – boards, brushes, palette knives, thinners, rags, storage box for wet paintings and, most importantly, my lunch – goes in the bag.

Posted in On Location | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment