My go-to setup for most plein air work. Heilman box with Heilman easel on top, field tripod, no Easel Butler. Nupastels west on the black stone bag between tripod legs. Not shown: small Heilman tray that fits on the side of the box to hold pastels being used in the painting.

Our hard-working sales superstar Tracey Norvell recently posed this question to prolific artist Jude Tolar: “Do you know of a great, light pochade box for pastel painters?” Tolar’s response was worth quoting in full.

Jude Tolar:

“I use two setups depending on where I’m painting. For most plein air work, I use a Heilman Backpack pastel box (filled with mostly Terry Ludwig soft pastels, plus some Senneliers and Giraults). It is pre-drilled to hold the aluminum easel (they also sell this). The box has a quick-release attachment. I attach it to a Guerilla Field Tripod (from Judson’s Outfitters). Also sometimes use an Easel Butler, which attaches to the tripod, to hold a box of Nupastels. (Other times I just set the Nupastels on the ground, or on the black stone bag that comes with the tripod.) I bungee the Hellman box to the tripod, and bungee the Nupastels box to the Easel Butler. Fairly lightweight setup, easy to put together, undaunted in wind and other plein air settings.

“The Hellman box, when filled, weighs about 10 pounds. I carry it in one tote bag, my Nupastels/accessories/paper in another bag, and the tripod has a carrying case for slinging over my shoulder.

“This isn’t perfect, because 10 pounds is somewhat heavy. But it works well for walking reasonable distances, and allows me to have ample range of colors/values. I have yet to find a sturdy-enough pochade box that isn’t wood. Someone please invent one.”

For air travel or hiking. Paris set of Senneliers bungeed to an Easel Butler. The Easel Butler is attached to a very lightweight aluminum easel.

She continues,

“For traveling by air or for hiking up or long distances, I use a different setup: a box of the Sennelier Paris set of half-stick pastels. Broke them in half, removed one half of each, and filled in with Terry Ludwigs and Nupastels/Giraults. This is bungeed to the Easel Butler, which is attached to a very lightweight aluminum easel. The easel goes in my checked suitcase (or backpack if hiking); the Paris set goes in my carryon—bungeed! The Paris set comes in a heavy-duty cardbox that holds up well. I’ve even used the lid of it as a support for my paper, and no easel at all.”

Tolar provides a couple of links to info on what some other pastel artists use.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.

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Editor PleinAir Today, Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Plein Air Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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