– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
Renee Lammers was spending more than $5 a week on sketchbooks, an amount she deemed too high. So she invented a workaround. Now, that invention is selling like hotcakes in a plein air painting hotspot.
Lead Image: Renee Lammers finds that her sketching can also works as a viewfinder.
Lammers’ invention is the Sketch-N-Can, a handheld steel case a bit bigger than a sardine tin, with an acrylic window in the hinged lid. It comes with a Pigma Micron 05 archival ink pen and some standard 3”-x-5” index cards. In just the few weeks since she has developed the product and started using it, artists on Maine’s Mohegan Island have bought her new gadget, and stores have asked to carry them. “It was the rage on Monhegan, and that really made me smile,” says Lammers.
The Maine artist says she was looking for a solution to her sketchbook problem, and when she contacted a company and received a prototype, unexpected things began to come together. “I like to put my sketches on the back of my paintings, so I want them to look presentable,” Lammers explains. “That means I wanted something waterproof, so they wouldn’t get Gamsol on them in my pack. I found a supplier who had cans with clear lids. I didn’t know that this would be useful, but I found that the lid serves as a viewfinder.”
That acrylic window can also be drawn on, acting as tracing paper so an artist can check angles of rooflines and such — as long as the ink is soon wiped back off. And finally, Lammers says that because the can is water-resistant, she can have it in view and glance at her sketch while painting, even when rain is threatening. Lammers says that the can is big enough to also hold a cellphone, should an artist want to keep that out of the weather yet handy.
One of Lammers’ friends, painter Carol L. Douglas, used one and raved about it in a news column she writes. “I don’t tend to buy gizmos, but she had them with her at a paint-out, so I took one and tossed it in my backpack,” Douglas told PleinAir Today. “When I used it, I was surprised at how useful it was. In addition to being small and light, I was able to throw it on the dock and read my sketch without the pages fluttering. For people who like to use viewfinders or want to check their sketch against what’s really there, the plastic cover is a great idea. And since I can refill it at my local office supply store, it turns out to be a good value.”
Lammers says she includes only one pen because she found that including another one made the unit too cumbersome. She sells the Sketch-N-Can for around $20.