Art Classes/Courses · Beginner Art · Drawing · Painting · Resources and Materials

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 try 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. 

If you have never used an easel don’t be scared to try

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.

Don’t feel silly if you need help setting up your 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.

Using an easel should make your lines more expressive

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.

Easels are common in life drawing and portraiture classes

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 try!  Share your experience of easels, what do you think?

2 thoughts on “Do I Need to Use an Easel?

  1. Thank you for posting this. I currently work flat or at a slight incline. I have never used an easel, however, many times I have wondered if an easel would be a worthwhile investment. Reading your post it seems to me that it is an option well worth exploring. Do you have any recommendations for brand, size, etc? I work in graphite and ink.

    1. Hello Michael, I think much depends on the scale you work. I have a drawing board because I work small. If you work large, an easel is a good option. A good wooden one such be a lifetime investment – they last for years! I got one second hand at a very good price, it might be worth checking sites like Gumtree etc. Do consider if you have space for a full sized easel, I couldn’t fit one in my home due to the low ceilings. Hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.