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  • Writer's pictureDanny McShane

Simple Lightweight Sun/Rain Shade for Plein Air

Updated: Jul 5

Summer had been threatening to appear but seems to have disappeared back behind rainy forecasts for July, but when the sun does shine the glare or strong shadows on white paper can sometimes interfere with colour and tone perception. So I thought I'd try a lightweight sunshade (that might see more use as a shelter from rain this summer).

Front view
Front view, with a half imperial (22x15") block in position

It's as simple as I could think of, though it took me a while to get here 😆.

Side view
Side view. Fixed angle shade, but adjustable tripod head helps.

The 'design' as such, is two pieces of white A2 Correx 4mm corrugated plastic board, sold for signage and costing about £4 a sheet, and two bits of bent wire. I'd have preferred translucent grey, but my choice was black or white and it took a bit of searching to track down this size for a small order (Buying in bulk is easier, but not much use).

Two A2 Correx sheets and 2 bits of stiff wire bent to ~60 degrees.

I spent ages trying to think how to hold the sheets in place and ended up with the two

design drawings
Design options -then go simple!

pieces of wire I'd first thought of. They're not adjustable, and I first tried 90 degree bends which looked OK, untiI spotted the flaw.... I couldnt see past the shade to see the subject I'd be painting. 🥹. So bending them a bit more to 60 degrees worked better. My tripod head gives me some adjustability for the paper and shade combined.

The wires simply slot into the channels in the Correx.

Wire fitment
Wires slot into the Correx channels -worth marking the channels.

I counted in about ten channels in from the edges and made indellible marks on the base and roof panels so I'd be able to quickly match up the slots to put the wires in. The Correx is flexible enough that it's quite easy to put together. I'm not sure how strong the channels will prove for repeated use, but I'm hoping they'll last long enough, and there are plenty of spare channels if I get any tear-outs due to wear, wind, or tumbles. It doesn't have to be pretty and duct tape should put it back together if need be. And that's mostly it.

Finishing touches (or overdesign?)

Speaking of duct tape, I was thinking if it rained I might get water running down the top sheet and trickling in at the 'hinge' and possible wetting my painting, so fixed a flap of tape to drape over the hinge space to carry water clear of the base. I just used duct tape stuck to itself for this.

And finally some strips of tape round all the edges to keep bugs and water out of the Correx channels. The two panels are not taped together -so I can still slide them apart to pack flat in my A2 Portfolio.

And that's really it. The whole thing sits on my drawing board in the same way my paper block does, held by the wooden lip. I usually have large office clips with me to use if it's windy, though wind will be the main limitation for this in use, but it's light enough to carry just in case it's useful on a partcular day.

Screen location
The bottom sheet of the shade just sits under my painting block, held by the lip on the drawing board. Clips optional.

I made this with A2 sheets as I like to paint Half Imperial (22x15", just a bit smaller tharn A2), but it could just as easily be made as a smaller shade at A3 for 16x12" or Quarter sheets.

Screen with smaller blocj
How the A2 screen looks with a 16x12" block.

Taking it apart is simply a case of lifting the top sheet off the wires, which can be left in the bottom sheet (they swing flat) or removed altogether. The Correx weighs very little and fits easily in the A2 portfolio case I take outdoors.

And it works!...

Shade in use outside
Cloudy skies threatened rain, so on went the shade.

Thanks for looking and

Happy painting!

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