Easels: Supporting Artists in Many Different Ways

Easels are vertical frames that artists rest their work on for a variety of different reasons. These simple wooden scaffolds are often splattered with paint, or have nicks and scratches from tree branches banging into them. Their slender legs have scuff marks from shoes shoving them into place, or dried mud from standing in springtime pastures and on misty lakeshores. Easels are, literally, the unassuming draft animals of the art world. The word "easel" actually comes from an old Germanic word meaning "donkey", and, much like those barnyard stalwarts, easels have been aiding their masters in numerous endeavors in arts and crafts for over two millennia.

There are three main types of easels. Most people are familiar with tripods, which are slender, collapsible, and stand on only three legs when erected. Many of them feature crossbars for added stabilization. A lot of folks know about the H-frame easel, too. It is rectangular in shape, and its crucial supports and crossbars are all parallel to each other, making it look like a large letter "H". There is also a newer category of easel, the multi-purpose kind. It incorporates features from both the tripod and H-frame versions, and has extendable arms that clasp the artists' panels tightly to the frame so they cannot fall off if something knocks into the easel. These arms will still allow the panels to be maneuvered, however, so the artists can have greater access to them. All three variations of the easel are popular with artists, and can be purchased from an art supply store, or ordered directly from an online catalog.

The easel was brought into being by the ancient Egyptians sometime during the 1st century. From the moment of its creation, it was a boon to artists everywhere. Easels freed them from the dark confines of temples and palaces where they labored to create massive frescoes on walls, or sat hunched over desks painting miniature scenes on small decorative panels. Artists could take lightweight panels, and plein airpainting easels to the places, persons, and things that they wanted to capture on canvas. Plein air easels get their name from the French phrase en plain air, which means "out in the open". These artistic frames are usually of the tripod variety, and made from wood or aluminum. They are lightweight, no trouble to carry, and a cinch to set up. French easels are great examples of outdoor easels. The Mabef French easel and Mabef Field easel are some of the best plein air easels for sale in art supply stores today.

Artistic easels have also supported the works of artists faithfully, no matter how big, or small, the work might be. For example, some artists only paint or draw on little panels. Compact, cheap tabletop easels can easily be used to hold these panels. Other artists prefer to work on a much bigger scale. They make massive pieces of art that cannot be borne by small, or average-sized easels. Giant H-frame easels are best to use in such situations. They often come with twin masts to ensure that the artwork is properly held up while it is being put together, and have winches and pulleys to adjust the oversized canvas with. Windmill frames are also popular with artists that like to paint large works. They can spin giant panels around 360 degrees, and fold down so the canvas in them will lay flat in front of the artist.

Easels not only fit all sizes of artwork, they can fit into any space the artist needs them to. Most artists rent a small studio space to create in, or they dedicate an undersized room in their home to serve as a studio. The little spaces do not give the artists much room to work in, but they can always find dutiful easels to fit in these areas. Incredibly slender single-mast easels and A-frames do very well for people working in tight spaces. A lightweight sketching easel or wooden tabletop easel would also be good for someone who could only spare some surface area to work in, instead of a whole room.

If an artist is lucky enough to snag a large studio space, then he/she can go all out, and put in the biggest easel possible. A full-sized painting station would probably be the first thing most artists would put in. A lot of painting stations are essentially a combination of furniture and art supplies that are extremely helpful for artists to have. They have spacious surfaces like a desk, drawers to hold supplies and implements, and a sizeable easel affixed to the top of them. Many of them are also collapsible, and have wheels on the bottom, so they can be easily moved. The Best Becky Taboret is a perfect example of one. An online art supply store would definitely have this model in stock, along with dozens of others.

Easels will continue to carry the artist’s creation even after the work is done. Display easels are used to hold an artist’s work while it is being viewed. They are constructed from a lightweight material, and while this makes them easier to store and transport, it reduces their stability, so they cannot be used to hold heavy pieces, or art that is still being worked on. They are made from either wood or metal, and come in a wide range of sizes. Most are also collapsible, but others, like decorative wrought-iron ones, cannot be folded. Decorative display easels are not meant to give subtle support for artwork. Instead, they are unique and call attention to themselves and the pieces resting on them. They can be large or small. Many people have miniaturized ones in their homes to hold framed photographs of loved ones on their hallway tables. Any home goods store will have them for sale at a very reasonable price.

Like display easels, presentation easels are meant to showcase somebody’s work, although, it is the person’s ideas that are put on view for everyone to see, not their artwork. This is why an office or classroom is the most likely setting for a large presentation easel. Many teachers use them to put up notes for their students to copy during lecture, and office workers use them to make workplace presentations. Most models have a big work area where pads of giant sheet paper can be attached. They are usually constructed of whiteboard material, so dry erase markers will write directly on their surfaces. Their frames consist of lightweight metal and are often collapsible, so it is easy to move them about. Every art supply and office supply store sell these easels and other presentation products.

People using easels to support their work with is something that pre-dates the school years. Most toddlers have access to an art easel for kids, either at home or in their pre-school classroom, and they are able to create new worlds upon it. Easels for kids are usually made of thick plastic, and have clips at the top to secure giant drawing pads with. Some also come surfaces suitable for drawing installed on them. For example a Crayola kids' easel has a whiteboard on one side, and a chalkboard on the other, so children can use dry erase markers or chalk to draw on it. Parents can buy their kids an art easel online, or at any art supplies retailer.

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