Jun 8, 2009
Easels.... and how to choose the right one for you!
Easels are manufactured in every possible size and from a wide range of materials. Some are strictly decorative and some are just functional, but all that are offered meet a specific need. Prices vary with the weight, size and materials used. Whether a talented child, beginner or intermediate painter, or professional watercolorist, there is an easel just right for your application.
Small display easels can be made of thin strips of wood, metal or acrylic. They are usually not designed to use as a "working" easel. Their primary function is one of decoration, to hold a small painting or framed sketch. Display easels are very useful when there is no wall space on which to hang artwork or when a desk/piano/shelf is the intended display spot. Prices range from very economical wood styles to elaborate metal (even precious metal) with moderate to high costs.
Artists often start with a tabletop easel before they decide on the size and style of studio easel they want to buy. Tabletop models are very sturdy for medium-sized canvases and come in both wood and metal. While few are decorative, all are well suited for artists' work so long as the canvas size does not greatly exceed the height of the easel. Tabletops most often fold quickly, making them perfect for field work or transport. They usually have a streamlined style that makes them easy to keep clean. Tabletop easels come in several sizes and have some sort of ledge to help hold the canvas in place while the artist is painting.
Floor easels offer the greatest variety in size, material and price. There are two distinct sections of easels that free-stand on the floor. Decorative easels and studio easels are sized larger and are well suited for display of finished works of art or mirrors and for studio work by artists. Artists usually select a wood or metal style that is heavy enough for the work they do. For example, an artist who specializes in a moderate-sized canvas would select an easel that fits that size, while an artist who works large is best served by a heavy-duty wood easel with a large, wide stance and a wide tray or ledge on which to rest the canvas.
Studio easels are made of quality woods or heavy extruded aluminum. Both are easy to clean, are heavy duty enough for large paintings and are usually outfitted with easy-roll casters for moving from one spot to another within the studio. Some studio easel manufacturers offer a rotating/repositioning canvas support so that the canvas can be turned 360 degrees during painting.
In the category of folding professional easels, there are several styles of compact easels that transport easily and are, thereby, well suited for outdoors or plein air watercolor work. These easels are constructed of wood or aluminum and fold into neat bundles that are easy to trek "into the bush " and work on location. Some sling over the shoulder and some fold up and include a chair and paint box but are still easily carried.
When it comes to a small bundle that carries a bang, easels called paint stations include not only an upright easel, a tray for your palette, and a lower tray for extra paint tubes, but also a hanger for a roll of paper towels. Now what more could you ask for?
Clamp-on easels are good for those with storage limitations that want a sturdy easel for moderate-sized works. They are usually made of aluminum, making them lightweight and easy to move around. Clamping on to a table edge, this beauty performs at infinite angles, in both horizontal and vertical positions, while allowing the use of the adjacent tabletop for supplies. Adjustable upper and lower clamps hold a variety of items firmly so that work can be done at whatever location you wish. Really well suited for airbrush and watercolor work, this style of easel interferes less with the work area and sets up in a flash.
Paint box easels are lightweight but are very well suited for field work. They consist of folding legs attached to the bottom of a paint box and they telescope to a working height so that the open paint box also serves as a work surface. With the carrying strap, this style of easel/box is great for field watercolor work.
Another style offers a paint box that opens to form an easel with the lid of the box above the box body, which has open shelves. The legs below the shelves hold it steady on all surfaces and the back support folds out from behind. With its unique three-point structure, the shelves and upper easel--all of which fold into a small suitcase shape--this style is very versatile.
Completely different, yet very effective is the Art Horse. It consists of a comfortable wooden bench with a vertical end against which canvases or drawing boards might be propped. Straddling the bench is quite comfortable, and grooves in the bench hold the bottom of the stretcher strip or board while it leans against the upright support at the end--very simple and very effective.
So, no matter what size paintings or drawings you do, there is an easel that is perfectly suited to your work. Things to consider when shopping for an easel include the size of your work, the medium in which you work, whether it will be used in the field or in your studio setting, longevity of the materials and ease of care/maintenance. Shop until you find the easel that suits you the most. And, remember, money that helps you achieve your best work is well spent.