The decision to join a local painting class, at least for a trial period, presented another problem – the need to carry wet paintings on public transport. How do the other painters manage? They paint with acrylics, which (if not applied thickly) dry in minutes. I have been there, done that, and I dislike acrylics. Instead I use the Artisan range of water-mixable oil paints from Winsor and Newton. These dry more quickly than conventional oil paints but, even so, the drying time varies from two to five days according to the official literature (and much longer, of course, if applied thickly). Actually, to refer to this process as “drying” is incorrect in the context of oil paints but that is another story.
The reasons that I like Artisan oils are that I think they have a nicer “feel” about them than acrylics and, unlike conventional oils, they don’t require smelly solvents for thinning or for washing the brushes.
So, having looked without success for any commercially available product, I had to invent a device to carry wet paintings in such a way that would protect them from damage while not smearing wet paint around Cardiff’s normally clean and tidy buses or their equally clean and tidy passengers. Furthermore, the paintings might be on paper, rigid boards or stretched canvas.
The process started with an old paintbox, bought in 1973 as part of a painting kit that was hardly used.The box is just a little over 16in x 12in and a couple of inches deep – quite suitable for carrying a 16 x 12in canvas in the box itself and a home-made plywood palette in the lid.
I removed the original partitions from the box and glued small wooden blocks in the corners of the box and lid so that the paint on canvas and palette would not touch the inside of the box.
Then I attached two pairs of slightly shallower wooden blocks inside the front of both box and lid to steady the slim wooden prop to support the lid when open, so that it could be used, in conjunction with the stout wooden rail added earlier, as a desk easel. thus making the box multi-purpose and limiting the number of items to be carried to and from class. The finishing touches were four plastic feet on the bottom of the box and four soft rubber feet on the back of the box so that it wouldn’t slide about when being used as a desk easel. I also added a hook and screw fitting as extra security should the old catches prove unreliable.
The box can carry a 16 x 12in board with a small painting on paper attached to the middle of the board and placed face down on the back of the canvas, plus a pad or envelope containing additional painting paper if required and this can go between the board and the palette.
Having allowed the success of this project to go straight to my head I quickly designed yet another box. This one is intended to carry painting boards and here I decided to standardise on 16 x 12in as the board size but bearing in mind that paintings of any smaller size could be taped to 16 x 12in boards.
This box was made from two pieces of MDF and some stripwood and its internal measurements were 16.1 x 12.1in – at least that was the theory! Daughter Jennie kindly provided the transport so that I could obtain the materials and fittings from a local branch of B&Q which I cannot reach by any other means in less than a couple of days. The lid has a leather hinge made from an old belt that (like me) has pretty much forgotten the last time that it could circumnavigate my waistline AND pass itself coming the other way. A hook and small screw secures the lid and the smart brass handle matches the brass screws. Had I been feeling really conscientious I would have ensured that the slots in the screw heads all faced the same way. Instead, the workmanship was approximate – you try sawing, single-handed and with an electric saw, a sheet of MDF using the only available support, a ten-inch diameter circular kitchen stool! I drilled too many holes, or changed the design halfway through, I forget which, but the result is neat enough and carries three boards.
In the picture above, the lid (which is one of the long sides of the box) is at top left and you can see two boards in the box with the space for a third between the quarter-inch wooden strips that are glued to top and bottom of the box and act as separators.
And this is my near-ideal solution for carrying the rest of my painting kit. It is a strong plastic mechanic’s toolbox containing brushes, paints, rag, tissues, a spare palette, a screw-topped coffee jar for water and lots more including Artisan thinner and Artisan painting medium. The tray in the box was modified so that the coffee jar would fit and remain in the box when in use and the original handle for the tray was removed to produce enough space under the lid for the small palette and/or a pad of 10 x 7in oil painting paper.
Now I’m ready. Bring on the next painting class.
So what’s next? An MDF violin perhaps? Maybe not.