I enjoy drawing and painting outdoors but not the hassle of transporting and setting up an easel and my art supplies. This project was inspired by a desire to draw and paint virtually anywhere at a moment’s notice. With the Handheld Mobile Easel I can easily hold my easel, palette, water container, and a brush or two all with one hand while standing or sitting. It’s fairly simple to build with mostly PVC pipe and a few other materials available at most hardware stores. Once assembled it fits into a backpack for carrying along on hikes. I hope these instructions make it simple for you to build your own Handheld Mobile Easel so you too may enjoy painting outdoors without any delay or hassle.
Step 1: Material for the Handheld Mobile Easel
To build the Handheld Mobile Easel requires the following material found at many hardware stores. I was able to get all of these materials at Home Depot.
- About 6 feet of 1/2" PVC pipe
- 1/2" PVC Tee (qty = 6)
- 1/2" PVC Elbow (qty = 9)
- 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/2" PVC Slip x Slip Elbow or any other 3-way 1/2" Elbow (qty = 1)
- About 32 inches of wood corner moulding
- Size 64 rubberbands (qty = 6)
- 1.25" wide binder clip (qty = 2)
- About 18 inches of 3/4" width Velcro sticky back tape
Step 2: Tools You Will Need
The only tools required to build the Handheld Mobile Easel are a hack saw (to cut the PVC pipe), a bastard-cut half round file (to smooth the ends of the PVC pipe), scissors (to cut the velcro sticky back tape), and a ruler.
Step 3: Building the Palette and Water Container Holder Assembly
There are two assemblies to create in order to build the Handheld Mobile Easel. This step describes building the palette and water container holder assembly. Cut several segments of PCV pipe with the dimensions as shown in the image. Use a hacksaw (or a back saw) to cut the PVC pipe and use the half-round file to smooth the ends of each segment. Join the PVC pipe segments with the PVC tees and elbows as shown in the image. Cut 3/4" strips of the Velcro sticky back tape (the rough side - not the fuzzy side) and attach to the palette holder assembly as shown in the image.
Step 4: Building the Easel Holder Assembly
In this step you will build the easel holder assembly. Cut some more PVC pipe segments as shown in the image. Cut the 32 inch corner moulding into two equal pieces. Take three of the size 64 rubber bands and knot them together. Then attach one end of the rubber band string to a 1.25" binder clip. Do this again for three more rubber bands and a second binder clip. Clip each of the rubber band assemblies at opposite ends of one of the corner moulding pieces. Assemble the PVC pipe segments, tees, and elbows as shown in the image except before you attach the slip x slip (3-way) PVC elbow loop one of the rubber band assemblies onto the 5.5" PVC segment at the bottom right. Now complete the easel holder assembly by attaching the slip x slip elbow. Cut two 3/4" sticky back tape segments (rough side). Attach one on the left PVC tee that sticks out and the second tape segment on the slip x slip elbow where it too sticks out. Cut two 3/4" sticky back tape segments (fuzzy side) and attach these to the bottom of the corner moulding (the piece that is not attached to the binder clips) equidistant to the rough side tape attached to the PVC tee and slip x slip elbow. Now you can attach the corner moulding with the fuzzy side sticky tape to the easel assembly.
Step 5: Final Assembly
Now all that's left is simply joining the two assemblies from step 3 and step 4 as shown in the image. The remaining steps will show you how to attach a watercolor palette and water container and how to setup your Handheld Mobile Easel on location.
Step 6: Attaching a Watercolor Palette
This step explains how to attach a watercolor palette to the Handheld Mobile Easel. I prefer Cheap Joe's Original Watercolor Palette 12 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 1 1/2" deep with 17 wells. I like to attach a small square of Scotch-Brite sponge cloth to the palette using a binder clip. I find this more useful than a paper towel to remove excess water from a brush when painting (see first image). When I'm done painting I also use the sponge cloth to clean the palette and then rinse the cloth so I can reuse it over and over again. The second image illustrates the placement of the fuzzy side Velcro sticky back tape. The fuzzy tape on the palette should line up with the rough Velcro sticky back tape on the Handheld Mobile Easel assembly described in step 3.
Step 7: Attaching a Water Container
The image in this step illustrates how to take an empty plastic container such as one used to store seasoning and turn it into a water container that easily attaches to the Handheld Mobile Easel. Cut enough Velcro sticky back tape (fuzzy side) to wrap around the plastic container about a third of the way down from the top. Then wrap a Velcro One-Wrap Strap around the container where you placed the Velcro sticky back tape. When you wrap the strap around the container leave about a 1" gap to create a loop which slides the container onto a segment of PVC pipe.
Step 8: Attaching a Watercolor Block
The two images in this step show how to easily attach a 9" x 12" watercolor block. The first image shows the watercolor block attached for portrait layouts. Just rest the watercolor block on the bottom corner moulding. Lift the corner moulding with the binder clips attached and rest it on the top of the watercolor block. The binder clips should have the clip handle with the rubber band facing towards you for more stability. Also note that the right rubber band string is in front of the top of the easel for more stability. If you would like to paint with the watercolor block in a landscape layout (see second image) then make sure the middle rubber band (instead of the last rubber band) in each of the rubber band strings is looped around the PVC pipe at the bottom. Since the PVC pipe can rotate around each of the joints in the Handheld Mobile Easel assembly you can easily adjust the angle of the easel to suit your preference.
Step 9: Packing the Handheld Mobile Easel for Travel
The image in this step shows how easy it is to pack your Handheld Mobile Easel into the space of a common backpack. Simply breakdown the Handheld Mobile Easel into the two assemblies which where joined together in step 5. Then rotate the PVC pipe around any of the tee and elbow joints so it fits into the smallest possible space as shown in the image. When you reach your painting destination just join the two assemblies together as you did in step 5 and rotate the PVC pipes so you can attach the palette, water container, and watercolor block. You can see how I have setup my Handheld Mobile Easel in the next step and also the Intro of this project.
Step 10: Setting Up the Handheld Mobile Easel at Your Painting Location
The images in this step shows how I've setup my Handheld Mobile Easel with the watercolor palette on the left while it rests on my left arm, the watercolor block attached to the easel using the corner moulding in a landscape layout, and the water container slid onto a short piece of PVC pipe just in front of me. You can use any of the PVC pipe segments that stick up (perpendicular to the ground) to hold brushes, graphite, or charcoal sticks. In the second image you can see how the Handheld Mobile Easel comfortably rests on my thigh towards my knee while sitting. If you are standing while painting I recommend rotating the PVC pipe segments that rest on your thigh inward so as to distribute the weight in a way that places less stress on your left arm (assuming you are right handed). If you are left handed you should be able to adjust the placement and rotation of the PVC pipe segments in each of the steps in a way that is most comfortable for your style of painting. I hope you enjoy painting (and drawing) with your Handheld Mobile Easel.
Step 11: For Oil Painters
For oil painting I store my odorless turpenoid in a baby food jar and attach it to the Handheld Mobile Easel using the same procedure as Step 7. I then use the water container created in Step 7 to store my brushes and palette knife. I also use a traditional wooden palette with fuzzy side velcro tape on the back to attach it to the Handheld Mobile Easel (see Step 6 for similar procedure). Here is an image with my setup for oil painting. I use Viva paper towels when oil painting and find that I can hold a paper towel in my left hand while holding the mobile easel.