Sunday, October 2, 2011

The BIG Box

When painting small, pochade boxes fit the bill for me very well. There have been a number of posts on this blog about those, in particular here and here. However, larger paintings such as 16" x 20" or 18" x 24" require more paint, bigger brushes, more solvent, etc, and that needs a larger, beefier means of carrying it all around. This post will be about the paintbox I use for bigger paintings.

I built this box nearly twenty years ago. Plans - or wishful thinking - were that I would begin serious oil painting soon after building the box. In reality, it was used mostly for storage of neglected painting supplies until just around a year or so ago. The design idea came from smaller paint boxes I've seen for sale in art supply stores. Not knowing much about oil painting, nor really knowing what I needed in a paint box, I just took the design ideas I saw in the stores and beefed them up considerably to what I thought would work for my purposes - whatever those were! This box was built almost entirely out of pine. Not the most durable of wood, but it was what was available then and it works well enough.

After years of pastel painting, and then lots of oil painting in pochade boxes, it was time to begin learning to paint bigger. Something was needed that would hold bigger brushes and large tubes of paint. Commercially made boxes of the scale I needed aren't readily available, so I needed to figure out what to do. Suitably sized plastic storage bins or even a cardboard box came to mind. Finally I remembered the lonely pine paintbox full of 37 ml paint tubes with stuck caps. It was promoted from storage box to working paintbox - what it was originally intended to be.

With the experience I've gained in painting larger pictures, if given the chance I would build this box entirely different. It's smaller than I would like, and the compartments could be better designed, but it works and will make do. This paintbox has everything needed to paint except easel and large painting panel, although I usually take the usual painting supply bag with it. Here's a photo and bullet points explaining what's inside the big paintbox:

Click Picture for Larger Image
  1. 11" x 14" canvas panels in swing out panel holder.
  2. Wooden palette. Fits in same holder.
  3. 150 ml size tubes of oil paint.
  4. In this compartment  I keep a tube or two of white paint, a small (37 ml) tube of ivory black, vine charcoal which I may someday use, along with an eraser, and whatnot. Whatnot gets into a lot of my stuff.
  5. Here I keep a few plastic bags for oily rags, plus a couple bottles of almost-never-used medium; one of linseed oil and one of liquin.
  6. Tube wringer. Domestically made - not imported. The imports break as soon as you try to use them.
  7. Brush washer filled with odorless mineral spirits. Bigger than the one I use with the pochade boxes, but I wish it was bigger still.
  8. This little compartment holds a small container of brush cleaning soap, if ever it's needed, a neglected medium cup, a wire hook for hanging the brush washer from my easel, and a thumbscrew for fastening the support that holds the paintbox lid open.
  9. Bamboo brush holder with brushes ranging in size from a little rigger to size 14 or 16 flats.
  10. Also in this compartment are paper towels in a plastic bag and a couple palette knives. The hardwood lid support fits into this compartment for transport. There's a collapsible mahl stick in there, too.
Back when I built the box, I thought it needed to hold a couple paint panels. They might come in handy someday, but that's not so important to me now. Access to the panel holder is made by turning a little wooden latch at the top of the lid, then the panel holder tilts out. Moving the palette out of the way allows the paintbox to be used like a pochade box. The paintbox is too big and bulky to be carried very far and being a pochade box is not its primary purpose. My feeling is, if I have to lug around such a big paintbox, it will be for big paintings.

The brush holder is a necessary evil. It's there to keep brushes in place. Otherwise when the box is closed and being transported the design of the box could allow brushes to fall into other compartments  - and into the panel holder, where there might be wet paint. I don't want the brushes painting unsupervised!


L.E.Reynolds said...

A cool box that could be very adaptable! Have you ever shown some of your woodworking art anywhere?

James Gunter said...

Thanks for your comments. All the edge glued strips of pine do give the box a unique appearance. As for woodworking art, I don't know that I've ever built anything for myself that wasn't more for function than art. The things I made while working at the wood shop years ago were more crafty than artsy. Maybe one day I'll show some spoons I carved for myself.