Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5x7" Thumbox (Most portable plein air system ever!!!)

I love painting outdoors and am aware of the problems related to lugging heavy painting equipment into the field. For this reason, I have long searched for the most portable system I could find and for me, the Judson 5x7" Thumb Box seems to fit that profile.
Here above is all I need to get out and paint small 5x7" oil studies in the field.
(A) Toiletry travel bag I bought at Target for $13 bucks, it holds the thumb box and supplies.
(B) Miniature portable travel stool about $15...I saw these at the dollar store for $5.
(3) Targus Mini camera Tripod I got at Target for about $12.
Here above you can see everything I need can easily be held in one hand and is extremely light.
There are many travel toiletry kits out there, I took my thumb box into Target and test drove a few to see if it fit...plenty of room for the box and supplies.
Here above are the contents of the travel bag...
(A) Toiletry travel bag has pockets and zippers and even a hanger if needed
(B) 5x7" Judson Thumb Box about $60 - $80 (Click this link to their web sight)
There is also a You Tube video of Carl Judson using it that may be helpful...they call it the pocket box.
(C) Two 5x7" masonite panels that I gessoed 4 times. The box will hold an additional two panels so I can hit the field with as many as 4...nice!
(D) Ten tubes of paint..there is room for a few more but this is fine for the field, some might say too many. All you really need is three primaries and white so you could go super light.
(E) Small bottle of liquin.
(F) Pallet cup
(G) Small clips come in handy
(H) Rolled up paper towels. I use the blue shop towels because they don't leave little lint balls behind. I roll up about a dozen or so and they fit nicely.
(I) Palette knife
The box is constructed well, opens simply and is super light weight.
(A) I've never seen a smaller box and frankly I don't think I'd be interested in painting smaller than 5x7" in the field...if you wanted to though, they offer a 4x6" adjustable panel holder that will slide into the box and enable you to work on a 4x6" with no problem.
(B) Unsnap, turn the black knob and it opens, tighten the knob and it will hold the lid open in place. I keep a gessoed, 5x7" panel ready and waiting for me inside.
(C) I got my box with the pallet extension which unfolds to give me a little more paint mixing room and will also hold brushes in those little drilled holes.
(D) The palette slides open to reveal some storage room for my brushes and extra supplies..not a lot of room but with the toiletry bag, I find there is plenty of storage.
Contents of the 5x7" Thumb box ...(or Pocket box)
(A) Thumb Box in open position, you can see the thumb hole inside.
(B) Palette slides in and out
(C) Small piece of wood I cut to modify and extend my palette even further, I'll show you that below.
(D) Small handled brushes, some cut short to fit and a few travel brushes I bought on Ebay.
(E) The Ruby Beholder. This is a value finder and is the best kept painting secret ever! It's a quilters tool used to help desaturate color and enable you to see shapes as values. More on that below.
(F) Mighty Might jr. brush washer from Judson Plein air outfitters. This is the smallest turpentine brush washer I've ever seen and it fits perfectly in the box and holds enough turps for these little paintings. I use Gamsol instead of Turps btw. (Click here go to go to Judsons) They also have a video of Carl Judson using it.
(G) Miniature pliers to open paint tubes. I found this at the register at Lowes for $2 and thought, "Hey, that would fit in my little paint box"..."Viola" More on that below.
The hole in the box is how these little boxes got their name. You can simply paint while holding it standing or on your lap if you wanted. In the 1800's artist would modify cigar boxes, cut out little thumb holes and use them like this. Judsons has simply modernized the crude construction of the past and made it more painter friendly.
This is that small piece of wood that I cut and modified to slide into the box and serve as a palette can see it in place below.
With my modified piece of wood in place I've added a little more mixing space for my paints.
With the palettes in place, the mixing area is more than doubled..the brush holder will hold five brushes. I find as a righty, my hand sometimes bumps into them when painting on the right side of the canvas..I can remove two and it's fine.
Here I have cut the handle of a long handled brush to modify it to fit into the box for portability.
Here above I have two portable travel brushes that I bought on Ebay for about $8. I love them and often return to Ebay to get a few more from time to time. If anyone knows of a resource to get these please shoot me an email or leave it in the comments. (A) Closed position which preserves the integrity of the brush hairs. (B) They slide out easily with a light tug. (C) Ready to paint.
Here above is that plier do-hickey that I bought at the hardware store...they were in a featured bin at the register...$2...I had to get one. They are very portable as you can see and perfect for opening paint tubes.
Insert photo of my hands opening the paint tube with pliers above...(I actually set up the tripod and set the timer on the camera and posed for this action photo)...why is that funny to me now?
Best kept secret in America! I know thats dramatic but so is the name of this little wonder: "Ruby Beholder". This is a neat little tool to help you determine values. Easy to use. Hold it up to your composition and it takes the color out of everything so all you see is a red field of values. I paid about $8 online and another $8 for shipping. If anyone knows of a cheaper resource for this small red piece of plastic let me know or leave it in the comments. I will add that I first bought a sheet of plastic, the kind at Staples that is typically used for page dividers in's not quite the same, you can somewhat see the values but the there was a hazy vail that obstructed details. The Ruby Beholder is definitely the way to go. I got mine on Amazon...(Click here)
Landscape sans Ruby beholder...
Look at that baby work her magic..."Behold!!!...I give you the Ruby Beholder in action".
Underneath the box, pictured above, I ordered the tripod attachment accessory. This enables you to attach a camera tripod to the box. It was an additional $14 but I prefer to work with my pochade box on a tripod so I can be hands free.
It easily screws in to just about any camera tripod. The small Targus brand tripod here I bought at Target and it extends to three feet and four inches. I have a larger tripod if I want to stand but I really enjoy doing the smaller studies sitting down. I'm aware of the benefits of standing and moving back to see the whole breadth of your composition but with a 5x7" canvas I can do the cool guy lean back and see everything perfectly fine.
Here it is all set up in my garage...I can be ready to paint in less than two minutes.

Find a shady spot, keeping in mind to keep direct sun light off your canvas and mixing area. For me, this little box is more for those times when I want to enjoy myself a little more and get comfortable. Because of the scale of the tools I find the whole experience more intimate than using larger equipment. It's the polar opposite of say the French easel or the Gloucester easel where it's about large canvas, large brushes, big hardy strokes, standing and backing up...This for me as a professional painter is my day-off kit. This is not Stapleton Kearns easel...This is my relax, sit and enjoy and take comfort in the portability of a kit that can literally go anywhere with little effort. I keep this in my car at all times so I'm ready to paint whenever and wherever the spirit moves me.
Look how nuts I look in this little's ridiculous..forget everything I said about the left leg went numb in a half hour and my back got stiff...that could have more to do with turning 43. In all honesty the chair is fine for two hours of painting, I do use it but will sometimes prefer to sit on a rock...or broken glass or rusty nails...Just being silly, seriously, it's perfectly fine and portable..I do look nuts though.

If you would like to look nuts with me and some of my outdoor painting students, please feel free to join us out doors on the New Hampshire sea coast every Tuesday from 9:00 - 12:00 from March through November. This is the best time of year to be outdoors. See my web sight to find out where we will be so you can join us. We paint in a different location every month. I demonstrate and discuss landscape painting and principles of art and picture making. it's great fun and all are welcome to use and test drive my supplies. It's a great way to sample before you buy. I have many outdoor outfits I keep in the back of my truck. Here is a link to my web sight so you can see more info about our plein air painting class: Plein Air Painting. Please also feel free to call. Happy Painting.


Christopher Volpe said...

DUDE you are such a gear-hound. But this post rocks. What a sweet setup. Thanks for sharing all this great info. Gott get me one ASAP!

Todd Bonita said...

Yeah, it's very cool for the simple outting. I want to put the challenge out there to anyone who can show me a smaller set up..just for small can you go?

Mary Byrom said...

I love it !!! I think I have a smaller set up. Its custom made - Willek made it. I'll bring it over one of these Tuesdays so you can see has minature accessories he made. The guy is a genius.

Todd Bonita said...

Cmon Mary! I have to see this!..Hahaaaa...I love miniature things just for the sheer novelty of them. Thats amazing. When I was a teenager, I made a watercolor kit and fit all the contents inside one of those old metal band aid tins. If you have a photo please show me, thats too funny. Hope you are well my friend.
All the best,
p.s. when are we going painting again?

Anonymous said...

No-one can beat my micro-mini Windsor Newton paint set and easel that fits in my hand inside of it's leather case. It fits in a zip lock lunch bag along with my Arches watercolor post card pack. Glove box special! But,the metal band aid box you made gives me pause....I really would have to see a post on that to prove it. Can you bring your Ruby Beholder on Tuesday, Todd? Thanks. PN

Todd Bonita said...

Pat, that's too funny, I think that makes you the winner! I'm going to have to set a personal goal to one-up you and make a kit that fits in a matchbox. See you and Ruby Tuesday.

Mark Shasha said...

What a great post, Todd! Great Monhegan pix AND super cool thumbox. I'm lovin' it all. Talk to you soon! Cheers!

Debbie Shirley said...

Great post!
I have the same box and love it! I never thought about looking at target for an inexpensive tripod though.....right now I am using it braced on a watercolor easel -I may have to look for one of those tripods!
Where in NH do you paint? (I'm on the North Shore of MA)

Todd Bonita said...

Hi Debbie,

It's going to come in handy this winter. I sometimes paint from the front seat of the car and it's perfect for that. I live in Greenland, NH (rite next to Portsmouth) about you. I checked out your site, nice work..looks like you are from Boxford maybe? tough to tell. If you are not too far, please come paint with our little group some time. That would be fun.
All the best,

Pamela in Vt said...

Ruby Beholders are often available at quilt shops - for quilters to eyeball the color configurations.

Jacklyn Karabaich said...

Great Blog post! I tried a small portable oil painting kit and thought I discovered pizza box painting! We are all accessory junkies it seems, fun to keep looking!
Pamela in VT, thanks for the quilt shop info.