The Ease of Easel Use….Do They Really Make Painting Easier?

During my last painting project I was inspired to write a post regarding easels. Not a review, nor recommendation, but rather just my own personal experience and food for thought.

It all started when I was sitting at my desk ready to start my latest project – palette and paint ready, brushes lined up, feather prepped and waiting patiently for the first strokes of paint….sitting on the easel….

It’s not that I don’t like easels – because I really do….to an extent. I have used them numerous times before for much larger projects wherein I use a large canvas or when I am doing a public painting demonstration of some sort. I mean, they have been around for centuries, if not millenniums – such a simple design has honorably withstood the test of time. But for some reason easels are just not my cup of tea at the moment and I am quite content painting without one.

There are hundreds of different easel models and brands out there on the market. I have used everything from basic homemade easels made out of wood, metal rods, and other spare parts from the garage (Thanks dad! ;-) ), to tabletop easels, to decent store-bought metal and wooden easels, all the way to very expensive easels of various sizes and capabilities such as:

This:

Nice in an art studio and provides great stability for mid to large canvases. However, not very practical if you are limited on space.

And this:

(a.k.a. Art Horses, Pony Bench, Sketching/Drawing horse) Functional, but not very comfortable for the back when sitting for long periods of time for some people….

Like to travel or paint outdoors? There is an easel for you too!

Great easels for smaller works, but can be unstable for larger canvases. Folds up into a small package for easy transportation.

So to clarify, they are definitely a good investment…for the right type of person (meaning for their unique painting style) and the right type of artwork. Now I do not claim that everyone that does small scale artwork should completely ditch their easels and paint like I do – sans easel – after all, they even make teeny tiny easels:

Awww, aren’t they cute?

Some even come with a mini canvas. How cool is that?

So how do I paint, you ask? My reply would simply be, “Comfortably.” Now I hate to kill the romanticized vision of the determined artist toiling away on some expensive easel locked away in a quiet, brilliantly lit studio, creating a one-of-a-kind masterpiece…but allow me to paint a much simpler picture for you (no pun intended) – I enjoy taking a seat on a nice comfy couch with my art supplies spread out on a wooden tray to my right side (It’s amazing, but till this day I still haven’t dropped any acrylic paint onto my couch…knock on wood :-) ), my reference photo on my laptop to my left, headphones on, feather in hand, and ready to drown my thoughts into my painting for the next few hours. Even though it is not a “textbook” fine art setup – it is a state of comfortable bliss for me (mind, body and spirit)…and come to think of it, I believe my feelings translate into my paintings because of it. I enjoy the freedom that painting “easel-less” gives me, and not to mention, I find that while using an easel my painting technique suffers for various reasons.

So as for me, at the moment I will gladly stay easel-less unless I am doing a painting demonstration (including my YouTube videos) which is actually quite often.  Having said that, I am still faced with the decision of what easel to use…and I think I may have found a contender….but that will be another post for another day…..

Bottom line, all I am saying is that, yes – for some people easels are a necessity, but for others easels are nothing more than a fallacy – something you only “believe” an artist needs to create a great work of art. So if you have been feeling awkward whilst using an easel, don’t be afraid to go against the grain (is that a pun since most easels are made of wood?…) and try something new. You never know…your next great work could come from a canvas propped up against a wall, a drawing pad resting on your knee, or a feather cradled in your hand. In my opinion, just be comfortable and do what feels natural for you and really allow your unique painting style the freedom to develop – easel or not.

Happy Painting!

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2 Responses to The Ease of Easel Use….Do They Really Make Painting Easier?

  1. Susie K Smith says:

    Hi Brandy. I paint on feathers also and I use a plastic clipboard as a backboard. I cover the clipboard with a sheet of wax paper and tape it to the back of the clipboard. I do not use the clip part at the top. I use a thick but flat rubber band around the lower 1/3 part of the clipboard to hold the quill and/or lower part of the feather onto the board. The rubber band holds the feather enough but does not ruin the veins at all. Then my waxed paper covered clipboard goes where ever I want to paint at. Sometimes it is on my lap, or patio table, or art table. I can easily turn the clipboard upside down to work on my feather.

  2. Hey Susie! Thanks for your suggestion! I actually do something similar, but I use a cork board as my backboard. I used to use a clipboard, but that darn clip kept getting in my way! lol. :-) I love using the rubber band – it really holds the feather down nicely. Now, I must ask, what is the purpose of the Wax paper?

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