Monday, April 29, 2013

How To Build a Simple Big Easel

With a stirring to paint abstract expressionism I came across a fun book entitled "Expressive Drawing (A Practical Guide To Freeing the Artist Within)" by Steven Aimone. I was intrigued by Aimone's format of taping a big piece of paper on the wall. The, with a container of black house paint and a 1" china bristle brush in hand, position yourself as a fencer, holding the brush by the end of the handle, and impulsively begin swishing away! 

Taping paper to my nice white studio wall was not something I wanted to do. What if I got carried away and found my freedom of expression bigger than my paper?! So I designed a simple large easel that 'leans' against the wall, and with strategically placed drop cloths I am free to swish away!

This 4' W x 6.5' H easel cost me about $4.00 to make! The $4 was for my four 1x2's. It would have been a bit more but my professional framer just happened to have this spare piece of quarter inch masonite which he graciously gave me. Say, if you are in the Lincoln, NE area and need a great framer (actually he is a "Master Framer") then go to Jeff Griffith, owner of Frames for You (4727 Lowell, 402-486-3505). Plus, he is just plain fun!

Back to how to make a big easel! The size of your easel will be determined by the size of your masonite backing. 

Basic materials needed:
  • four 1" x 2" x 8' (they were ninety-five cents each at Home Depot - make sure they are straight!) - for easel support frame
  • fifteen 3/4" wood screws - to secure 1x2 supports for back of masonite (I had some scarp 1x2's on hand for this, if you don't have any, then buy a couple extra 1x2's - again make sure they are straight)
  • two 11/4" bolts, wing nuts, washers (secures bottom of masonite to 1x2 frame)
  • two 21/2" bolts, wing nuts, washers (secures top of masonite to two joined 1x2 frames) 
  • 3/8" dowel - cut in 3" sections. I used a broken 'wand' from a discarded wooden blind. (supports for the cross piece on which a canvas will set)
  • cross bar - I had on hand a scrap of 1" x 2" oak strip (cross bar to hold canvas) - oak is nice because it is a hardwood and less likely to warp

Pictures are worth a thousand words! 
Here is the finished big, light weight, easy to move easel:


Easel completed in all its humble glory! I taped some large white paper on the masonite to catch some paint and provide a white background for smaller paintings while working on them.

Back of the easel masonite are three braces (white strips). I screwed them on from the front and counter sunk the screws. Without these braces the masonite too springy.

Side view - note the horizontal braces on the easel framework about midway down - they help with stability of the triangular framework.

Adjustable dowels/pegs on which to put the cross bar - see the spaced holes for adjusting. This way I can put whatever size canvas I am working on at the appropriate height. 

Notice the blue rubber band (bands that come from bunches of broccoli at the grocery store). I wrap these rubber bands around the cross bar and both pegs to keep it in place. There was a tendency for the cross bar to fall off when I was moving canvases on it, so came up with the rubber band idea.

I cut these shims from the left over 1 x 2's. They came in handy to help 'shove' the easel firmer against the wall (due to base board being in the way at the bottom of the wall). I also used shims at the top of the framework - pictured further down.

The corner wedge at the bottom added stability to my triangular framework. Notice the shim underneath the frame which helped push the whole easel snugly against the wall. And note my canvas on the floor - spills and drops will happen!

Shims used at top of framework to secure the two vertical 
1 x 2's. I used 2 1/2" bolts with washer on front and wing nut on back to secure the masonite, frame supports, and shim. I also ended up taping a 'bumpon' at the end of these bolts to cushion them against the wall.

A short 1x2 about in the middle of the masonite back helps stabilize the easel against the wall.

This old time tripod enables me to lay my painting flat so I can easily paint the sides of my gallery wrapped canvas.

Here is my new work station in my studio! What a fun place to experiment, play, learn, and produce. Hopefully some good expressive abstracts will result - a new direction in my artwork.

Hmm, a light thought. If there is no change in our lives, then there is no growth. With this big shift in my art, even though a little scary (but fun!), I am anticipating more growth and experiencing another facet of the joys of just being alive! Yay!

Here's to many opportunities for growth in your life too!

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