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A Look At Some Pochade Equipment

 

Jullian Pochade Thumb Hole Box

This fine quality thumb-hole pochade box is made by French company Jullian. Founder, Roger Jullian was a French prisoner of war during WWII and was determined to design the very best sketchbox easel. When the war came to an end, Jullian formed his company and employed France's very best craftsmen to produce easels using only the finest materials.

Famous users of Jullian products include Sir Winston Churchill. More recent fans include Wendy Jelbert, Diana Sheridan and Francis Bowyer.

The tiny box is made from varnished beech and is superbly finished with attractive and durable fittings. The box contains a range of oil paints made exclusively by Blocks, twin-dippers, three brushes and a canvas board.

The canvas board is, however, an oddly sized item which is not readily available at your local art supplier.

As you can see from the image above the box includes a palette which slides into two slots and acts as a cover for the art materials. Also included is a leather strap in case you don't wish to use the thumbhole. On mine, I have also fitted a tripod-mount on the underside so that I can use a tripod out in the field. These mounts are available from Ken Bromleys by mail order.

The first thing that I did with mine was to ditch the paint tubes which came with the kit. I don't know if they are of good or bad quality, but they are not what I use normally, so there's no point in them being there. Instead, I inserted a smaller number of Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Oils. These are a quick-drying oil paint but behave just like normal oils. Your paintings are dry within 24 hours!  I also ditched the brushes that Jullian supplies and replaced them with my own. I had to cut a couple down a little to make them fit. I also included a small palette-knife, a pencil and a putty rubber.
 

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Needless to say, putting 37ml tubes in the box quickly fills it, so you are limited to a 6-colour palette. Now many people don't need more than six colours anyway, but I must admit - I do. So I had to find a way of carrying some other "occasional" colours without increasing the size of the item significantly.  So I found a superb bag which I could not only carry the pochade box around in (and therefore protect it from knocks and bangs), but it could also provide a small amount of storage space for a few extra tubes of oil paint, rags and turps. The perfect bag for this job was in my garage.... a Dremel Case!
 

 

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As I mentioned briefly before, the Jullian uses unique-sized canvas boards (220 x 160mm) which can be very inconvenient if you want to pop to your local art supplier and pick up some replacements. Needless to say, replacement boards are readily available from Jullian, but the prices are three times higher than comparable sizes from Loxley, Daler, etc.  If you normally paint on primed mountboard, ply, etc, then this won't bother you, but it bugs the life out of me. I had assumed it was a regular 8x6" unit. My only other gripe is that the lid only holds one board. Many other pochade box lids are deeper and are capable of carrying 3 boards. I think this is a serious design omission on Jullian's part. Apart from those two little gripes, I'm extremely happy with the box and look forward to many years of use.

  
Other Pochade Options...
Pochade.co.ukIf the Jullian costs more than you'd like to spend, fear not for there are a great number of options open to you. Perhaps one of the better ones is the pochade from www.pochade.co.uk for around 65 (left). These are actually made by a company called Red Top Designs and having bought one for a friend, I can confirm that they are great value for money. They are made from untreated maple wood and benefit from a coat of varnish/stain. My friend also made some minor mods/upgrades to his box to make it even more useful.

-Inbuilt palette and easel, with space for materials
-Lightweight and easy to use.
-Made from untreated maple wood.
-Forested from from sustainable forest.
-Takes three 8" x 6" (200mm x 150mm) boards.
-Closed box measures 230 x 180 x 75mm
-Tripod bracket available.
-Built to last but weighs less then 1kg.

 

Budget Boxes....

If you love to paint outdoors but don't see why you should have to spend a fortune, you might be interested in something from the Abbey Easels range.  I bought one of their "Compact Pochade" 8x6 boxes and found it to be excellent value for money at just 39.  It's similar to the one above by Red Top, but the Abbey is predominantly made from soft pine. In practical everyday terms, there's virtually no difference. After a few months of use outdoors, they'll both end up being knocked around a bit and you'll stop trying to keep them pristine. When I ordered mine, I asked the maker to include a small division to keep the brushes separate from the paints and it turns out that this was a great idea (even though I say so myself). The standard 37mm paint tubes fit perfectly in the top section, leaving lots of space for brushes, palette-knives, pencils, in the bottom section. I strongly recommend you ask for this option.

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Once you've opened the box, you will notice that it can accommodate three 8" x 6" panels in the lid which is great for painting multiple pictures on a day out. It's effectively a wet canvas carrier. The lid which covers your paints and brushes, doubles up as a palette and you'll be pleased to hear that you can keep your wet mixes on the palette while you carry the pochade to your next destination without fear of it touching your painting. It's also worth noting that the palette will slide to the left or right.

For this particular pochade I chose to furnish it with  Daler Rowney System 3 brushes instead of the usual hogs. The brushes fitted into the pochade with no problem except for the wide flat, which I cut down slightly. Finally, I should mention that the box comes with a long leather shoulder-strap. Personally, I never use these, so I cut mine down to form a simple leather "handle" instead.

So, overall, I'm extremely pleased with the pochade. It's basic construction using cheap materials is perfectly suited to the task and subsequently, costs are kept to a minimum. Delivery was swift and customer-support is exemplary.  Don't delay - order one today!

Product Rating

 

Up Market.... 
Not everyone likes to paint at 6 x 8. Some people prefer to use larger canvases and for that you'll need something different. There's a company called "
Open Box M" in America which designs and manufacturers some amazing kit! They use the finest materials and build everything by hand. Their products range from a tiny 6x8 palm box, to a juicy 11x14 tripod-mounted pochade box. Personally, I opted for the 10x12 model which is nice and compact but still gives me a lot of options. So let's take a closeup of that particular model (below).

Open Box M PochadeI'll start by saying that the OBM's are expensive for UK buyers. Apart from the fact that you Open Box M Pochadeneed to pay for the quality build and materials, you also have to pay for the carriage charges and then stump up some import duty when the taxman spots it at the docks. A kit like the one described below will set you back around 360. If you're the kind of person who prefers Timex to Breitlings, this sort of kit will be of no interest, LOL. Having said that, I got real lucky when I found this kit on Ebay at a tiny fraction of the cost. The seller had bought the kit and had never found time to use it so she decided to auction it. Unfortunately for her, interest was extremely low for some odd reason and bidding never went higher than 45.

The first thing that you notice about the OMB Pochade is the quality. It even makes the Jullian look cheap in comparison. A beautiful black walnut and a smooth satin, oiled finish. Mmmmm. It even smells good! The box comes with a high quality, comfortable shoulder strap in case you don't wish to use the traditional suitcase type handle. Weighing in at 6lbs, you'll probably want to use the strap if you're going to be walking any distance and don't forget that you're going to need to carry a tripod too. If you want to travel real light, you could of course remove the pochade panel from its box and stick it in a rucksack with your brushes and paints.

Open Box M PochadeSome "Pochade Purists" might consider anything large than 6x8" to be too big to be classed as a true pochade, but to me it's all about Plein Air painting and if you use a small panel and brushes or a large canvas and palette-knives, it's all the same. You're out there capturing the moment, feeling the passion of painting, colours and light, and most of all, enjoying yourself.  Although much bigger than the petite Jullian, the 10x12" OBM setup is still pretty compact. Everything is stored neatly inside the box and the whole thing is quick to set up. It takes about 5 minutes to get ready and considering that you're going to be there for a couple of hours, that can hardly be called time consuming.

Open Box M PochadeIt should be pointed out that although my OBM Pochade is a 10x12" model, you can of course paint panels/canvases of much smaller or much larger dimensions! The unique (and patented) panel-holder will securely grip anything from 5 inches wide up to a staggering 18 inches wide. Now that's flexibility! Another plus-point is that it will grip either flat oil-panels or traditional stretcher-mounted canvases. So why call it a 10x12" then? It's because 10x12 is the maximum wet-panel size that can be stored inside the box. But don't think that it can only store 10x12's. The adjustable panel-carrier will adjust down to much smaller sizes too. In fact, it can even hold two different size boards at once. Real clever design work has gone into these pochades.  No detail is left untouched - even the brass accessory tray has a small folded lip to make it easy to extract from the storage area. It's a small thing, but without it, it would be an annoyance.

Open Box M PochadeWhen you open up the box, you see that the pochade panel is stored in the lower section while the wet-panel carrier is stored in the lid. The carrier isn't just placed in the lid loose either - it sits very neatly in a couple of runners which allow it to tip forward to aid extraction or insertion of the panels, without tipping out completely. Neat!  When you remove the pochade from the base of the box, you can access the three storage compartments where your paint and brushes/knives are kept. The centre compartment is made from a brass liner which is the obvious place for the brushes. In the front compartment I store my 37mm paint tubes and in the rear compartment I store the spare brass-tray which fits on the side of the pochade. This holds my most frequently used paints.

Open Box M PochadeOnce the pochade panel has been attached to your tripod, it's time to open it up and set the tilt angle to suit your position/stance. I'm very pleased to report that OBM's patented bracket works superbly well (far, far better than the Jullian) in securing the panel at your desired angle. There is no movement at all even when pushing quite hard on your canvas with a knife or brush. The whole setup is very well thought out and other than drilling some holes in the palette-extension piece for brushes, I can think of nothing that the OBM Pochade lacks. Open Box M PochadeHighly recommended!



Finally, I should mention another American manufacturer called Alla Prima. I know nothing about their products but judging from the information on their website, they seem to be a pretty good option to the Open Box M collection and have a variety of pochades ranging from heavyweights to lightweights (as shown in this video).
 
See Also... EasyLpro  and  ArtAttack
and  Guerrilla ...

               Guerrilla Pochade Box
 
So What Is A Pochade?
 
Well if you've never heard of the word pochade before, you won't know how it's pronounced will you? Try "po-shard". It' s a French word meaning "quick sketch" and is generally agreed to mean a painting which is finished in one quick sitting. Many fans claim that there should be a time limit of 1 hour on a painting for it to be a pochade. There's lots of clubs and communities forming all over the world which encourage people to take time out from their hectic lives to meet up outdoors and do some pochade paintings. Perhaps the most popular of these is the ever-growing - www.pochade.co.uk - check it out!

Detail is the enemy of the pochade painter - spontaneity, expression and light are the key elements. This allows the painter to lift the shackles and pressures of studio painting and to have some fun!

 
Highly respected artists such as Trevor Chamberlain use the pochade method to capture scenes for later use in the studio. Here are a few examples of his work...