Painting with a Guerrilla Painter pochade box
05 January 2020
Like any easily influenced fan, I was seduced by Lena Rivo's plein air videos, and splurged on the rather expensive Guerrilla Painter 9x12 inch pochade box in an attempt to paint like her. The weather here in the UK is nothing like Portugal, especially now in winter. So I compromised and painted in the shelter of our garage instead.
What is a pochade box?
A pochade box, as suggested by its pronunciation, 'posh-shard', is a posh painting easel box of some kind. They are usually made for oil painters as they feature compartments and devices for storing paints and whatnot and for transporting wet canvas. You can also use them for gouache (pronounced 'goo-wash') and watercolour, which is what I am using mine for, though admittedly it is a bit of an overkill.
Like all rather expensive art equipment, the purchase of it requires sleepless hours of considerations and late night browsing the internet for product reviews, user photos, youtube unboxing, bargains, etc, before the actual purchase. Some would think it is a form of procrastination from actually creating art.
But of course, it can dramatically contribute to the improvement of one's art as I expect mine to do for me. And I might even become as good as Lena Rivo. After all, it is the exact same 9x12 Guerrilla Box™ that she uses. Here are some of the hopeful thoughts I had when making the purchase:
- It can help me paint from life more often (as opposed to from photo).
- It would make it easier to paint with tube paints (such as gouache) which is awkward to do on the lap like you can with the more portable watercolour pans.
- I can keep it in the car for spontaneous plein air painting when I get the chance. I imagine stopping the car at random places on the road to paint a beautiful scenery (with children screaming murder in the car).
- I can do 'plein air at home' and use it in various locations within my home to paint (eg. I've always wanted to paint the sunlight falling in my bathroom), and not being limited to places with a desk.
- I can attach lights to it and use it outside in the evening when the kids are asleep. I've always wanted to paint the night scene.
- I can bring it to picnics or the park and sit down to paint on a picnic mat like Lena Rivo does sometimes.
Plein air painting with my pochade box
It was December when I finally got the chance to try out the new pochade box. It was the last day of school before the winter holidays. My 5 year old's school ended at 1:30pm that day, so I took the day off from work. For the whole morning I had freedom.
Unfortunately I woke up late and took ages to pack up the stuff, to find my portable stool etc. Also I was indecisive about what to draw, and where to go. So finally when I was ready, it was only 1 hour to go before pick up time, and I hadn't even had lunch! Also it was cold out as it was winter, so I ended up setting up in my garage with the garage door up, so it was nearly plein air.
Once I got over the faffing of the initial set up, I got absorbed in the painting process. It was quite a marvellous feeling actually, sort of being outside, and yet not too cold. I was listening to my son's 'How to Train Your Dragon' audio book (narrated by the marvellous David Tennant) while painting, which got me laughing out loud a few times.
There were many delivery men about, that being a weekday and approaching Christmas. I was glad I didn't paint on the street as it would have been embarrassing to have someone see what I was painting. It was my first attempt at gouache and I didn't really know what I was doing. Nevertheless, I still got glances from people walking past. Hopefully they didn't know how rubbish I was.
Sadly 1 hour flew by quickly and I had to clean up and go get my boy from school. Why hadn't I started earlier? I should really do this again!
My verdict on the pochade box
I love it! It is inpiring by way of just being beautiful and feeling right. There are a few issues and solutions I later found regarding painting with a pochade box:
- I'm not an oil painter and haven't got a matching 9x12inch panel at home. So I just use masking tape to tape my handmade accordion sketchbook to a A4 acrylic glass sheet which I have lying around. Any board would do. And then use spring clamps to hold it to the pochade support.
- I use a 25 x 20cm inexpensive plastic inking tray as palette. This is incredibly light and offers a large mixing space, and fits into the palette tray on the pochade box.
- The gouache paint dried on the palette rather quickly 'outdoor', so as Lena Rivo recommended, I used a spritzer to spray on it every 10mins or so.
- This was the first time I painted upright. I normally paint with a sketchbook flat on a desk or on my lap. I didn't realise just how difficult it was to paint a straight line or fine details with the canvas upright. The solution, I later found, was to rest my hand on a mahl stick or improvise a ruler or stick to use as one. James Gurney doesn't seem to own one though he does sometimes improvise one using materials available on location.
- While it is tricky getting used to painting with the canvas propped vertically, and it is possible with the Guerilla Painter box to lay the canvas flat, it is good to paint with the canvas upright as it makes it much easier to paint what you see if you can see it next to your canvas. James Gurney has an excellent blog post on painting vertically.
- It is generally better to sketch standing up as opposed to sitting down as you get better perspective this way. And it actually wasn't as tiring as I thought it would be.
- I might be too shy painting with the pochade box in public as it is very conspicuous!