Friday, August 5, 2016

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Today I became an inventor.  I needed a place to put brushes and tubes of paint that were in use while I'm painting.  Above, you can see my stroke of genius, that I"ll be explaining in this post.  To avoid spending an exorbitant $40 to buy something that wasn't exactly what I wanted anyhow, I went shopping and explored for alternate options and came home with some ideas.
In this pic above, that I shared in my previous post about my plein air painting class, you can see I've got my paintbrushes plopped right on my palette.  There's also some tubes of paint that can't be seen in the photo, also plopped onto the palette.  As a result, I would pick up a paintbrush to use and there would be oil paint all over the handles.  And the next thing you'd know, there would be oil paint on not just my hands, but also my upper arms, my shirt, my elbows.... yeah, basically everywhere!  Or the painty brushes would roll off my palette and drop onto my shoe or leg, spreading even more paint mess.  I'm typically a messy artist to begin with, so this just made things worse.  I needed a solution, and I needed it fast, and I came up with what you can see at the top of the post and below.
Let me explain about the easel, to better understand what I've invented.  For plein air painting, I'm using a French easel.  If you are unfamiliar with what a French easel is, it is a simple and fabulous invention.  You start with a box that may weigh maybe 12-15 pounds (plus the weight of the stuff you put inside the box).  The box has a carrying strap.  It takes no more than 3 or 4 minutes to pop out the legs and get the easel standing.  Inside the box, there is room for a whole bunch of paints, my metal medium cup, brushes, palette knives, drawing utensils, and a nice sized palette.  Seriously!!  Here are pics of French easels, closed and opened.
Searching online, I found contraptions of a few different types: little cups that clip onto the easel, and an aluminum clip-on shelf called "Shelf Help".  I didn't like the cups, since I also wanted a place to put a tube of paint, and prices for the Shelf Help ranged from a low of $32 to close to $50.  But it wasn't available for free shipping, and so the least expensive option, with shipping and tax, still came in at slightly over $40, for something that looked like a toaster oven pan with a notch cut out, and with a shelf bracket to support it.  Not worth $40.  So after looking unsuccessfully elsewhere, I ended up shopping at Tuesday Afternoon, where I found a closet door hanger for belts or hats, and a metal tray, open at one end, for "guest towels".  I brought them home with my fingers crossed that something would work.
The closet door hanger fit beautifully over the open drawer of the easel!!  And then I used the packaging twist ties to hold the little open-ended basket on top of the hangers.  And you know what?  It seems PERFECT!!   I can't wait to test it out "in the field" sometime during the next few days!  And the best part?  It cost me just $12, total!  I may consider rigging some wire to form "cradles" to rest the brushes, so they don't bump into each other, but that seems easy.  Or I may lay a piece of paper-toweling on the bottom to keep things clean.  Either way, I'm totally thrilled that I no longer have to put my brushes right on the palette when it is loaded with paint.  And the bonus is that below the little basket, there are three hooks (as you can see in the right-hand pic below) suitable for holding anything from a container of brush cleaner, to paint rags, or even my hat. 
By the way, I looked it up, and it appears that the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" may have originated with Plato. Wherever the origin, the phrase made sense today, and I'm rather proud of my  cute invention!!