25 Sep 2012

a look at pochade boxes

As promised, here`s my post on using pochade boxes.  It`s late, but I`m glad of any excuse to abandon a piece I`m doing in coloured pencil.  It was going so well over the last few weeks, but now.............. I just need to go do something else and then come back to it.  I hope.
Anyway, enough rambling.  Pochade is a French word, and I assume it`s related to the word poche meaning pocket, alluding to its small size, its usage being very akin to a pocket sketchbook, only with oil paint and boards (or acrylics), instead of paper and pen or pencil....

I think the original size was probably 7x5 inches, but I`m not 100% on that, so any know-it-alls, correct me if I`m wrong!? However, most people use an 8 x 6 as the smallest size, I think mainly because it`s difficult to get boards made any smaller than that in the UK? Of course, you could make them yourself, if you can be bothered.  

I`d scoured the internet for ages, especially ebay, hoping to get a larger vintage one, like the sort Richard Pikesley has in his DVD from APVfilms, but to no avail. I prefer the ones that hold several boards inside the box, so you don`t have to carry about a wet canvas carrier as well. 

Anyway, the pictures say a lot more, so here goes:

This is an 8 x 6" box, that I got about 2 years ago from Abbey Easels for around 35 pounds, can`t remember exactly, but just had a look on their webpage, and they now cost 39.  Click on the link below to go their page.

 I cut the belt-like shoulder strap because I prefer to carry it by hand, but if you didn`t want the strap either, I`m sure you could ask him to put a carry handle on it instead.  These have little grooves on both sides of the lid, which acts as your easel, and carry 3 panels at a time, which I think is perfect.  About 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how you paint, is really the very most you would spend on a painting of this size. I`ve stuck a 7 x 5 in here too, since it was lonely and had no home to go to......The palette slides out to the left or right and is the lid which keeps all your brushes and paints from falling out.

I saw on a site once where someone asked the man who handcrafts these, to make a separate compartment for brushes.  Not a bad idea,  but it`s surprising what you can get in there: about 6 tubes of oil paint, obviously the smaller ones, a few brushes and some painting knives, if you like to use those, like me. I actually bought some cheap brushes and broke the end off them so they`d fit in; you could always take your brushes in a brush roll or whatever......I used to keep some thinners or medium inside the box, in one of those (dare I write it?) urine sample bottles, a clean, unused one of course!! but eventually it leaked, so gave up on that idea.  You could try the little dippers with lids that they sell in art supply stores, but really, there`s not much room in there, and you`re probably better off storing your medium in a separate bag................

 Below is the big brother... more like the big cousin, since it`s not from Abbey easels.  I bought this one, which takes panels up to 10 x 12 ", at Ken Bromley`s Art supplies online, but I think there are several places that stock these.

This one has grooves to hold 2 large panels, but I`ve seen artists take smaller boards, some panoramic for example, and attach them to another panel or quite simply the back of the lid/easel with a bulldog clip.  It also has a strap, which I actually find very useful for this size, plus it has clips on the sides so you can take it on or off as you choose.  The main difference between these is that the easel and palette can slide right off, and it has a thumb hole, although to be honest, I don`t find it comfortable using it, but it means you can paint more easily without having to support all the weight of the box on your arm as well.  

As you can see from the pic below, this one carries significantly more, and is probably a more sensible buy if you know you`re going to be doing paintings in different formats and sizes: always a good thing.   I only got this in the summer, and am very happy with it.  My only gripe would be that the push fastener at the front doesn`t look like it will last forever, but so far, it`s actually very good.  I still love my little one, and find its size is more convenient to keep in the car or if I only have 10 minutes to spare and/or the kids are screaming in the backseat!  I rarely paint with them now, since I feel so guilty cause they get bored.. plus on those rare, indulgent occasions a sketchbook and pencil is a whole lot faster and less messy!

Below are some links to associated sites as well as some videos of DIY diehards who make their own.  Hope you`ve found this interesting and informative.  Will post some actual pochade paintings in a separate post.


just found a short video showing my 10 x 12!

(she says it can take up to 4 panels, but that would be 2 smaller ones in each groove instead of 1 big panel)

 This one is rather long, but shows a lot of different kinds of homemade ones, made from cigar boxes, etc, and is very useful. 

Happy painting!


  1. Thanks so much for this post Judith. I searched high and low for a pochade box, but most suppliers I found do not post to the Republic of Ireland. After reading your post I went to Ken Bromley Art Supplies - now my problem is solved. By the way your pochade box paintings are amazing and a great inspiration!

    1. Can`t believe I forgot to reply to you here Anni!!! What an ass of me ! sorry! and really glad this was of help to you.