Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Your Questions about Gear

Marque Todd says:
"I bought your WC video and have been avidly following all of the posts this week - a couple of things I am still grappling with for my kit and I hope you can answer:

"1) How do you protect your brushes from damage with all the jostling they get in a to-go pack? If they are loose in a container the tips can get damaged and that seems a pity particularly for expensive sable brushes. I am also having a problem finding something big enough for short handle brushes that isn't so long that it is hard to pack - any suggestions?"

Thanks, Marque. I keep my brushes loose in a box. The tips are safe as long as the box stays parallel to the ground, but in my belt pouch the box never tips on end. Sometimes if I'm worried about a delicate brush I keep the plastic protector from when it was new and slip that on. I keep the brushes all facing one end of the box. If one needs a good washing out later, I face it the other way in the box so that I'll recognize it right away.

I'm always on the lookout for a box that's just long enough for most short handled brushes but not too big, and one that opens quietly. If a brush is too long to fit in the box, such as an oil brush, I chop it down.

Jeanette uses a brush holder made of stiffened fabric. The brushes tuck into elastic bands, and the whole thing folds open to display the brushes while you're working. When in transit it rolls up and is held with Velcro. I like it except that it's a little too long for my belt pouch.

"2) If you are holding your sketchbook on your lap (vs. using the stiff board behind) how do you manage that with the landscape format? It is pretty floppy and somewhat of a balancing act. The only thing I could think of was to put a binder clip across the gutter/hinge area to help stabilize it."

Sketching at Yellowstone with friends from the ASAI
I've used the binder-clip-across-the-spine idea, and that works fine. Otherwise I just try to rest the middle of the book's covers on the tops of my thighs to keep it from flopping. If I have to, I steady the book with my left hand.

Glenn wondered about the sketchbook pochade rig, asking if I countersunk the T- nuts (Those are the threaded nuts with a flange that fits through the plywood, holding it to your tripod.)

Glenn, Yes, I countersink the T-nut flange using a 3/4 inch spade bit, then glue the T-nut in with Gorilla Glue, so that it doesn't work its way loose. But since it's getting pulled tight from the back, it holds really well. If I was using 1/4 plywood for the backboard, I probably wouldn't countersink for fear of weakening the wood.

For you scratch builders, here's the pochade laid out flat. The red dots on the paint tray are magnet positions, which hold on the metal mixing trays or watercolor kits.

Here is the underside with two quick release plates attached. My new iteration of the rig has three T-nuts, one just right of center and one on each end. I use the central support point if I only have one tripod, and I use the two on the end if I need two tripods to keep the rig more stable when filming.

Here's how the rig looks set up. Every angle and slope is fully adjustable: diffuser, sketchbook, paint tray, and camera bar. The camera I'm using is a Canon VIXIA HF series. It shoots 1080p to flash memory and has the all the essential features: focus lock, custom white balance, and exposure controls, plus an external microphone jack that yields less noise than my DSLR. For a mike I use the inexpensive corded Audio-Technica lav microphone, sometimes clipping it to the sketchbook itself to pick up the scratchy pencil sound cues.

In this view you can see the two tripods. The diffuser panel, which is covered with white rip-stop Nylon, can slide right or left in its gripper to eliminate the direct sun. On the left is the Mighty Bright HammerHead Book Light, which clips on for night sketching.

And here's the the painting that's on the easel, the one that you can watch being painted in the "Watercolor in the Wild BONUS FEATURES" video, drawn with a brush and sepia watercolor in a museum.

Here are the links to that 28-minute video, available only as a download.
"Plein Air Revolution" by Brad Teare, Thick Paint Blog
"DVD Review: Watercolor in the Wild" by Dan Dos Santos, Muddy Colors


Unknown said...

Thanks for answering my questions James!

I had thought about chopping the ends off of some of my brushes so that they would fit in a pencil case and I still think I might do that.

I found some really nice pencil cases at Jet Pens (http://www.jetpens.com/Nomadic-PE-08-Easy-Classification-Pencil-Case-Black/pd/5909) and also an over shoulder bag (http://www.jetpens.com/Nomadic-WT-18-Wise-Walker-Toto-Bag-Medium-Beige/pd/8835) with lots of pockets that I am going to try out for my rig (seems like it could be very useful when traveling to Europe too).

Jobot said...

James and Marque Todd: I would like to offer my method for traveling with brushes.
At home, I like to allow my brushes to hang bristle-down as they dry, so I've drilled small holes in the ends of the handles and run a loop of waxed thread through each. So each brush has a small loop lanyard. When traveling, I keep my brushes in a tin like yours, James, but I allow the thread-loops to hang out of the tin so that when I close it, the lid's pressure clamps down on the thread and holds the brushes fast and they physically cannot contact the opposite wall of the tin.

Other times when I'm just taking 1 or 2 brushes and don't want to pack the tin with me, I just tape the brush, by the handle, to my sketchbook cover with 2 pieces of good-ole blue painters tape. it's super-simple and the brush stays where I tell it to. Who doesn't love blue painters' tape?

James Gurney said...

Jobot, what a creative solution. Yes, hooray for blue painter's tape.

Marque, those look like good cases, thanks.

Glenn Tait said...


Thanks for the details about your pochade construction. I have not seen this type of T-nut up here in Canada. The ones I use have 4 prongs that dig into the wood to help hold it in place - though I use the Gorilla glue as well.

With my brush tins I use pieces of Uhu Tac to hold each brush in place. It's fast, scalable and allows me to angle slightly longer brushes, with no damage to the bristles. This works with plastic boxes as well.

To help keep noise and rattling down In my other boxes I first lay down a piece (or two) of blue shop towel covering the bottom of an empty box. Depending on the size of the box I allow about 2" to 4" of extra towel to hang past its sides. Onto this the pencils, markers, etc. are placed. Once the box is filled up the excess towel is folded in. With the lid shut the contents are held tightly in place with no movement or sound.

Anonymous said...

I went to my local fishing supply store and got a clear plastic Plano 3400 box. At nine inches long inside and five wide it's about the perfect length for WC brushes. It's divided into 3 trays just a bit over an inch wide. One tray for brushes and pencils, one for Niji's, half dozen WC pencils and the third for a tube of white gouche, wax crayon and erasers.
Over the years I've gotten a few Da Vinci travel brushes so no worries with bent bristles except for two flats I carry. That's fixed with a piece of door weatherproofing foam from the local hardware store. Easy to find width to match the tray and it's proud by an inch so laid in the brush tray closing the cover compresses it enough to keep the flats from sliding.
I particularly like Jabot's idea of trapping the thread loop in the closed lid to hold the brushes. Simple, efficent, cheap with more than a a bit of ingenuity thrown in.

Unknown said...

What great suggestions from everyone on traveling with brushes! I will indeed follow up on some of these.

One other solution I thought of was to lay my brushes in the box and then sandwich paper towels between the brushes and the lid to hold them in place. This also gives me some extra paper towel if I need it.

Mike Porter said...

James, can you comment on the brand of tripod you favor or have had experience with?
I am familiar with the Plein Air Pro product or kit but would like to build my own from your video, which is terrific, by the way. Watched it through twice and taken notes on key points.
Anyway...the tripod?

James Gurney said...

Mike, I was using a Velbon CX tripod with a 3-section leg and a 3way head. I think the model I was using is no longer made, but it's lightweight and folds down small enough to fit in a backpack, but there are probably others that are more robust if you don't mind carrying a bit more weight.

Mark Martel said...

I cut my brushes down to a metal box and always orient them one way. On the box lid I drew an arrow for "up" so I always store it right way up or flat.

What sort of hinges do you use again James? They look strong enough to set the paint panel but not for the weight of the camera. Thanks!

One other trick--I have an old hard-shell glasses case for a basic set of colored pencils and sharpener, 6-8 pencils fit once they've been used a while.

Unknown said...

Thanks Lou!

I ordered the 2-3500 Plano boxes on Amazon - you can get 4 for $17.50! Compared to what art stores charge for the "Art Bin" brand this is really a bargain!! And they are shorter, looks like they will be perfect for short-handled WC brushes.

Unknown said...

Great result on the oviraptorid skeleton, though I'd be surprised if it wasn't! I've tried sketching dinosaur skeletons myself, including with the two-values exercise from a few years back - http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2008/02/two-values.html - but the amount of overlapping struts defeated me.

Jobot: I'm afraid I can't visualise what you mean with the threads held by the tin lid. I keep imagining a row of brushes hanging loose inside it like salamis! Do you have any photos of the set-up?

Mark: my pencil tin is a piece of merchandise from 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park', with a picture of the film's stegosaur on the lid. The stegosaur's head has to always point 'up' with the pencil tips. :)

I always try to keep a brush's protective sleeve if I can, but it's not always possible - especially if it doesn't have one in the first place. (Like flats) In any case, I have a commercial brush tube, with brushes rubber-banded to a plastic insert; though I wonder if a cloth pouch or wrap would be too hard on the bristles.

Glenn Tait said...

Mike, if you are looking for something a bit "more robust", than the Velbon Sherpa 200r is a good option. I have used one for over 5 years with my pochade and various drawing boards. Its well built, not much plastic, weighs about 4 lbs, has a metal 3-way pan head and quick release plate, recommeneded load capacity is 8 lbs with a maximum capacity of 11 lbs.

More details: www.velbon.co.uk/sherpa.html

The other reason was the price, you can usually get one for $99 (list about $150) - but there is a new one on ebay today for $49.99 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Velbon-Sherpa-200R-aluminium-tripod-with-3-way-pan-head-and-quick-release-New-/371128133409?pt=US_Tripods&hash=item5668f5e721)

monbaum said...

Today I discovered that there are metric T-nuts and imperial T-nuts. I didn't know! Of course they don't sell the imperial ones here in Switzerland.
*off to Amazon and weeklong shipping times*