Monday, August 5, 2013

Skullcandy, 11x14 and Soltek mod

Skullcandy, conte pencil on Strathmore toned paper

There was this skull sitting around.....

.....and I was too tired with a summer cold to do much painting.  So I drew.  Always a good idea.....but that's not what this blog entry is all about, other than to say that the only 'line' I used is the faint one establishing the center of the skull down to the ear hole.  You can faintly see it.  After that it was just tone after tone, shape after shape.

The reason to write today is to show you how I remodeled my Soltek easel.  I really like the Soltek and bought one when they first came out when I was visiting the studio of Jim Wilcox, the maker and designer.

My only complaint is that I'm an 'arm-swinging' painter.  The palette in the Soltek goes front to back while my arm goes side to side.  Plus, I never seemed to have enough room on the palette.  I tried several solutions but they were all just patches that didn't work that well.

I considered the Palm Palette which is a terrific solution but after thinking through how I paint I wasn't sure it would work for me either.  I wanted access to the storage areas, a backing edge to push the paint against, the ability to have the palette on a similar plane to the painting.... but needed it to be compact.  Here is my solution.  It is similar to what Colin Page straps across his Artwork Essentials easel.  I had already had this idea before I saw what Colin did so was encouraged to try it.

 It is a simple piece of birch plywood with oak edges on three sides that has been given several coats of linseed oil mixed with Gamsol to seal it.  I used Gorilla Glue to put it will never come apart.  The palette is the same size as the folded up Soltek....see below for how they strap together.

No, no paint on it yet.  The prototype worked so I just finished this better built version.   (....or I'm just this neat and clean...)
 The top edge is wider than the others so it can catch on the upper edge of the easel, keeping it from sliding down when I tilt the storage box.  I hold the palette in place with a bungee cord.
 By not making the palette deeper I can have access to the storage areas and trays to store brushes and palette knife.  The palette that comes with the Soltek can be used as an extra mixing area by just slipping it under my palette and securing it with a small spring loaded clip.  The solvent hangs off the front edge from an 'S' shaped hook, swinging on its handle.

 The Soltek palette can also be positioned leaning against the center pole, although I'll probably not use it this way.

The cover needed to be light weight so I used the corrugated plastic that's used for signs....about $5 at Home Depot.  I bent the edges by rolling a pizza cutter along the line to be bent plus encouraging it to soften and bend by heating it with a hair dryer.  Duct tape, what else, finished it off and holds it together.
On the inside I glued a strip of wood along the front for support as well as added piled up left over plastic that I glued together.  Both of those things keep the lid from compressing on the paint during transport.  The three oak edges support the other sides.  You certainly don't have to use oak but I do recommend a closed grain wood like birch for the palette.
  Because the palette is the same size as the folded up easel I can just strap the two together and be off.  The Soltek holds the paint and brushes.  Lightweight, cheap and easy to build, compact....but lots of mixing room.

By the way, earlier this summer I sent in the Soltek to have the longer legs put on.  They refurbished the beast and added the new and improved legs....well worth it.
There you go.  I have to go paint.


  1. Love your inventive ways! Look forward to checking this out closer!

  2. Great post Darrell, though I'm still not sure what its about ;)

    Just kidding, I could use my own Soltek.

    Just starting blogging again, and thought I'd reconnect with my favorite commenters. Hope things over here are going great - sure looks like it.

    All the best,


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