Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Certifiable Guide to Tweaking the Beaufort Easel

Excerpts. You can download the entire document as a PDF if you want.

(Download the whole thing, all 2.8 mb, here).

I’ve purchased my last easel
That, of course, is a joke. Those who paint never could possibly purchase their last easel until (as Stapleton Kearns says) the death bunny comes hop-hop-hoppin’ along.

Anyway, my most recent easel is a Gloucester-type, made in China and sold by Jerry’s Artarama (and ASW Express). It's also known as the Anderson easel. 

Prior to early 2014, I’d only seen pictures of this design, primarily in Stapleton Kearns’s blog, http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/ . Then in January, I saw the design in person at Stape’s Snowcamp workshop in New Hampshire. At that point, I knew I wanted it. I played with building my own, but concluded that I had too few tools, too little skill, and too few hours to build my own.

The Beauport version of the Gloucester easel, photographed in one of its natural habitats, 32 inches of New England snow. (The other habitat? Planted firmly on granite shores north of Boston.)

The Gloucester - for real plein air painters

When you first meet it, the Gloucester easel is just a bundle of sticks. This bundle can be arranged into a 3-sided pyramid whose base is nearly as wide as its legs are tall. This makes it eminently usable (read: stable, not blown over) in the Cape Ann area, which often experiences high winds.

Because each of the legs is adjustable, you can set the Gloucester easel up on nearly impossible sites, including sea walls built from huge blocks of granite, wildly hilly countryside, or 24 inches of snowpack during a blizzard. The first two these physical features are found all over Cape Ann. The third is found in the colony’s Vermont and New Hampshire winter haunts.

Its size and features make it really good for
(a) Tall painters. You can use it to paint at eye level even if you’re in the NBA.*
(b) Real plein air painters (see previous 2 paragraphs; it sets up in all sorts of wild sites)
(c) Continuing your athletic development (lots of stretching and lifting in carrying and setup)
(d) Painting a very wide range of sizes, literally 4 x 5 inches to 4 x 5 feet or more.
(e) Fast setup (55 seconds to set up with the tweaks in this document; 1 minute 15 seconds to tear down and stow)
                *Most of the Gloucester and Rockport artists were 6 feet tall and over.