Watercolour easel set up

It’s been a while since I did any updates on my watercolour painting kit so thought that my current state of being itinerant and temporarily separated from my painting materials might be a good opportunity. (And I did warn you that there may be some ‘filler’ material while I’m itinerant!)

A short while ago I dusted off my Ken Bromley Perfect Paper stretcher. I first purchased one of these years ago but had found it a bit of a faff. Well, how this worm has turned! I’ve more recently found that the benefits of painting on stretched paper far outweighed the level of faff!  So much so in fact that I’m now the proud/mildly compulsive owner of four quarter sheet stretchers and one half sheet stretcher.

Once I’d overcome the faff of stretching the paper, I became a bit frustrated that if I finished one painting, I had to stretch another piece of paper and wait for it to dry before I could embark on another. By having a few of them, it means I can have a couple of paintings on the go, as well as having paper stretched ready and waiting. 

All of this coincided nicely with another small investment I made some time ago in a Manfrotto pixi mini tripod (pre-loved of course!) in the vague hope that I might start to do a few more videos. Along with another attachment, the tripod makes a stable grip for filming with your phone. I used this for all of the filming that I did for my Frazer Price Palette video:

What I didn’t realise at the time is what a great little tripod this makes for quarter and even half sheet boards once you’ve added on a Ken Bromley tripod adaptor to the boards.  As at home I paint standing up, this tripod is a nice height for putting on a tabletop or kitchen work surface etc. They’re nicely adjustable so you can tilt and secure the board at a wide range of angles depending on what you require or prefer.

Here’s a quick selection of images that I hope go some way to showing off how well suited to the task this is:

Most of the boards that I have been paired with the Ken Bromley tripod adaptor but, if you have the inclination, a drill, an 8mm drill bit and a very wide flat head screwdriver, you can save yourself quite a bit of money by purchasing a small ¼ inch to 3/8 screw adaptor. You can find these sold both individually or in packs for only a few pounds – which is quite a saving on single Ken Bromley adaptor. All you do is drill out the pre-drilled hole in the board with your 8mm drill bit and then carefully screw in the adaptor. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

A couple of sketches

I didn’t want anyone to think that I was spending my time resting on my laurels, so here are few recent sketches.

I still need to do more of these, but what’s great is that I really enjoy doing them and I actually feel like I’m gradually developing something that’s distinctively ‘me’ with this way of working.

Sadly, even though I should be back home soon, I fear that my watercolour painting activities are still going to be limited. I’m going to have to swap my usual brushes for some more traditional painting and decorating brushes as I have an entire flat’s worth of skirting boards that I need to paint once the new floor is finished!

Thoughts on Watercolour easel set up

12 thoughts on “Watercolour easel set up”

  1. Hi John, I am a keen follower of your blog who shares the same struggles with the medium and really appreciate your ability to honestly appraise your work.
    I am looking at your sketches – particularly the one of the Brighton seafront – and wondering about the tools – could you enlighten me as to what exactly you are using.

    Thanks and stay safe – as they say around here – well, pretty much everywhere.


    1. HI David, delighted that you’re a keen follower of the blog, I really appreciate it. You’ll also know then that I completely empathise with any struggles and challenges that you face with the watercolours! As for the sketches – If i’m thinking of exactly which ones you’re looking at, I think it’ll be the set of Copic Grey tone marker pens that I got around Christmas. You can see a review of them here: https://johnhaywoodwatercolours.co.uk/2020/01/01/copic-ciao-grey-tones-a-review/ – hope that this is helpful David but let me know if you have any difficulties accessing this information. In the meantime, good luck with the painting and I hope you’re managing to stay safe too! Thanks again for getting in touch. (oh, should say in case of any future comments, I read all comments before allowing them to be published so there can sometimes be a delay between you pressing send and seeing your comment published – it’s just my way of monitoring comments and answering them as best I can!)

      1. Thank you very much, John. Will take a look at review. They really add is it texture? Dont know but lovely work. Really look foreward to your posts. Keep them coming!

    1. Hi Jean and thanks for this – sorry for not replying sooner (this week’s post will explain why!) – pleases to report however that the floor does look good, but there’s so much skirting board to be painted!

  2. Hi John, fun fact I have the same tripod (how fantastic is that?) that I use for my hikes and trekkings with my phone, last sunday I was on a hike trying to paint sitting on rocks in a very wobbly-windy-freezy situation. So I was wandering if I could use that tripod to make some kind of portable mini easel to use with my sketchbook with the aim to work in a more stable and comfy way, today you undirectely give me the confirm, thanks a lot for it! 🙂

    Anyway, I have to get one of that copic set, is very very interesting your way of use.

    1. Thanks Luca – what a coincidence! Yes it definitely works though and now I use it pretty much all the time for my painting and hardly ever at all for my camera or phone!!

  3. Glad to hear you’re surviving the banishment, John.
    I have 2 of each of the paper stretchers and often wish I had extras for exactly the reasons you cite. I had also looked at the price of the adaptors and thought, “Well, one day…” so thanks for the tips about a cheap alternative. (As a furniture restorer, you’d imagine this wouldn’t be beyond me… We’ll see.)
    A good range of subjects and compositions here despite your straightened circumstances so I presume you’re relying on your new(ish) pens/markers. One thing that does bother me about them – I’m a very sensitive soul – is that there’s a distinct mismatch of warm and cool greys involved. This makes some of the tones look more like a dirty mark that an actual part of the composition. I have the same problem when using brush-pens for life drawing; it’s a bit dangerous to mix makers since they all seem to have a slightly different idea of what constitutes a mid-grey.
    Further to this, and I know I’m in danger of sneaking in colours by the back door, why not try some pastel pencils during your exile? I can recommend Stabilo Carbothellos which are very soft and chalky, offer a range of greys as well as proper colours and are also happy to be smudged around with a bit of water. Just a thought; I imagine life’s already complicated enough.

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this. I think with the copic marker pens, I’m also culpable of creating some of the dirty marks! My intention was to use them to create say 5 distinct tones. The way that I’m using them however is that I’m often layering them, so end up with lots and lots of tones, on top of which I’m then applying a bit of white gel pen and smudging it with my finger! I think what I’m trying to navigate is making the sketches as useful as possible to paint from, versus the sketches being ‘finished’ works in themselves! Finding it to be quite a tough juggling act. You should definitely look into the ‘cheaper’ tripod adapter approach, I sure you’ve all the necessary tools and more than enough skill, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like saving a bob or two!

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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