Do I Need to Use an Easel?

When you start drawing most people draw flat on a table but if you can access an easel then I would recommend using one.  Some learners feel quite intimidated by the easel, with all its screws and parts they seem cumbersome and unnecessary.  It might be worth giving it a go and seeing how you get on because drawing or painting on an easel is quite a different experience to drawing flat.

Give the Easel a Chance

At first it will seem a bit strange to anyone who is used to working flat on a desk or table because you are standing up usually instead of sitting.  The other thing that feels very different is the angle of the paper, it is upright on an easel rather than flat. 

In my art classes I spend time explaining what the easel is and how to use one.  I know what it felt like as a student walking into a full life drawing class and being faced with these contraptions called easels and not having a clue how to fix my paper onto one. Then feeling very embarrassed while I fiddled with all the various screws and fixtures to try and get my drawing board on the easel.  All this while the class was going on and I was disturbing the peace and everyone’s concentration.  Unfortunately this is often learners’ first experiences of using an easel because many art teachers or tutors don’t explain how to use them.   Don’t feel stupid if you have to ask someone the first time what you do with an easel.

The Advantages of Using an Easel

Easel’s are not for everyone but they do have several advantages, especially for drawing. Easels are great for working larger because you have space to move your arm, shoulder and hands much more freely.  This movement in the wrist, arm and hand tends to lead to more expressive work.  When a learner who normally works very small works on an easel they can’t fail to work a bit larger and use more expressive lines.

Should I use an easel?
Should I use an easel?

The major advantage with an easel is how you don’t have to keep looking up from your work when you are observing.   Measuring with a pencil is also more accurate because the measurements taken are immediately transferred to the paper without the process of changing the angle to meet the paper as you would with working flat.  Standing to draw or paint often creates work that has energy as sitting is a less energetic pose it can lead to more laboured work that lacks a certain liveliness.

Are there Disadvantages to Easel Working?

Some artists don’t like to work for long periods standing up because it can be physically demanding. Artists who like to work in a very detailed way perhaps wouldn’t choose to work on an easel because you can get a pain in your arm after long periods.  Purchasing a drawing board with a deck-chair type ramp on the back so you can angle it at an upright angle might be a good solution if you like working small and detailed.

Painting is a bit more problematic with the easel in terms of access to the paint and water.  Some artist’s who like working freely might hold their kidney-shaped easel in the air as they work (very arty!) but for many this isn’t practical.  You can of course put your paints on a nearby table/work trolley/bench but you will have to turn to get to your paints frequently, which can interrupt the flow of working. 

Drawing is less of a problem as there is a small ledge on the easel designed for pencils and brushes to be rested. 

In conclusion the easel is well worth giving a go, particularly for drawing and if you paint in a more expressive style.  An angled drawing board might be the solution if you work small and detailed for long periods of time.

Share your experience of easels, what do you think?

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