I am currently working on a large show covering the 1,300 mile Mormon and Oregon Trails from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City with artists John Burton and Josh Clare. The show will hang at the museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and will open October 2016 and run through April 2017. A book and short documentary will be available when the show opens.
A couple years ago my easel fell apart which prompted me to look for another outdoor painting easel. Although I liked many features of the pochade box I previously owned, there were several things that frustrated me including wing nuts, springs and other moving parts. After looking at other pochade boxes and plein air easels on the market I couldn’t find one that fit my needs. So over Christmas break several years ago, I spent a few weeks working out a new design. One thing led to another and after multiple prototypes and a year of testing and tweaking, the STRADA Easel was born. The first edition STRADA Easel was delivered a day before I did a painting demonstration in front of hundreds of people at the 2012 Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas. The easel received an enthusiastic response from painters across the country so I went in search of a manufacter. I continued making design improvements and the following year we launched the product sold out at the 2nd annual Plein Air Convention in Monterey, California. Now the STRADA Easel is being used all over the world.
I designed the STRADA Easel with three goals in mind: strength, simplicity and design. At some point it is likely an outdoor easel will tip over or be dropped. Whether in the field or in a suitcase at the airport I didn’t want an easel breaking the first or even the hundredth time it took a fall. Yet, I still wanted to it be light weight. For this reason the easel is made entirely out of a high quality aluminum and has fewer parts than other easels and pochades, so there is less to break down and wear out.
To keep the STRADA Easel simple to use, various components of the design have multiple functions, including a patented self-locking component and adjustable panel holders with dual functions. Instead of using complicated nut and bolt type components I designed an easel which uses friction to hold things in place. I hated to repeatedly tighten and loosen the screws on the other pochade systems so I designed the STRADA with rigid top and bottom canvas/panel supports with fixed position points. By designing the canvas supports with fixed positions I was able to do away with additional screws to tighten. This also eliminates parts that will break down over time. The ‘open and paint’ design reduces weight and setup time. Additionally, there are no parts protruding from the sides, top and bottom surfaces making it easier to slip in and out of a backpack or carrying case.
One of the reasons I believe the STRADA pochade or box design is preferable to the traditional french easel is it allows you to keep your painting and palette in the same light because the top of the box keeps the palette in shadow. Keeping the palette in shadow allows the painter to judge both color and value more accurately. Furthermore the legs on french easel tend to be the first thing to fail and a quality tripod which attaches to the bottom of the STRADA will last for many more years.
I opted for a lighter and sleeker design instead of making the easel with extra storage space or built in panel carrier. The STRADA Easel is designed to be carried with other supplies in a backpack or roller bag. I have found the backpack is much lighter when you store paint, brushes canvas etc. in the bag instead of the easel. However, I developed generous side trays which attach to each side of the easel so when it comes time to paint you can have all your gear near your palette.
And finally I wanted to have a product made entirely in the U.S.A. This way I’m able to keep quality high. It’s nice to know some products can still be made close to home. To learn more about the STRADA Easel go to www.stradaeasel.com