Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Pochade Box

In the last post, I mentioned something called a "pochade box." That will be the focus of this post. In researching pochade boxes, I found these definitions for "pochade":
  • oeuvre peinte sommairement
  • croquis en couleur execute en quelques coups de pinceau
  • composition litteraire legere vite ecrite
  • oeuvre litteraire ecrite rapidement
And this in English:
  • A freshwater fish stew from Savoie containing rasins and carrots.
I may have to try that last item some day, but by way of a definition that's more suited to my present purpose and in my own language, a pochade is a small, quickly executed sketch, particularly in oils, painted directly from the subject. A pochade box is a small, portable box designed to hold the painting surface, a palette, and often other supplies such as paints, brushes, etc. Used by many painters in the 18th and 19th centuries, pochade boxes seem to have fallen out of favor until the 1980's. In recent years, they have become very popular with many outdoor painters.

My pochade boxes are made out of wood, and can be attached to a camera tripod. Some pochade boxes can hold small painting panels in various sizes. Mine do not. I have them in two sizes, 6" x 8" and 8" x 10". Here is one of my 8" x 10" pochade boxes:

I built this box out of maple, walnut, and baltic birch plywood. The hardware is brass. The lid will hold three panels, and keeps the finished wet paintings separated. The palette slides out, making the storage compartments below accessible. In them are kept paints, brushes, palette knives, medium cups (if ever I use them) and a few other items. The arm that holds the box open detaches and is stored inside the pochade box when not in use.

When painting larger than 8" x 10" I use a full size portable easel. The easel is light enough to carry a short distance if need be, but when I really want to go for a long hike in search of my subject, or when time only allows for a small painting, nothing beats the pochade box. It can be used for quick notes taken in oil color as the muse dictates, or when she is willing to accept my company for longer periods of time, more finished paintings.

In future posts I'll write more about my painting equipment, including other pochade boxes. I'll also write about my experiences painting with them.

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