The artist's easel
Maybe the heading should have been ‘easels I have known’; it would certainly fit in with the many years I’ve been closely acquainted with them. Why talk about an easel anyway, surely its the painting that’s important. Correct. However, we have a chicken and egg situation waiting in the wings here. Where would the painting be without the easel? Would an artist’s studio look complete without an easel? How about a desert without sand. Certainly the inclusion of an easel finds a special place in my diary. I recall an occasion at art school in the 60s that had a profound effect upon me. For some reason a need occurred to go into the fine art studio, all the students were away at the time. The huge studio was filled with well over 30 large empty upright radial easels. To see them all at various angles in scattered groups was surreal. It was as if I had intruded on a complex film set. A distinct air of animation and expectancy was tangible. To witness this usual hive of creativity without the students by their easels imparted a feeling of excitement, whereas a genuine sense of great loss was evident too. The easels stood like a crowd of extras waiting for their cue to perform. Many years later a rock lyric from Emerson Lake & Palmers Trilogy album evoked this spectacle once more, ‘Each part was played, but the play was not shown, everyone came, but they all sat alone.’ How many times have artists experienced highs and lows while painting, every heart felt triumph and tragedy played out while alone in the studio. All the while the easel has remained a reliable, impartial sturdy support of painterly dreams. Having spent over 60 years standing or sitting by an easel, an unspoken fondness, along with a certain respect for it’s existence becomes apparent. I guess a similar sensation grows between a musician with his guitar or favourite instrument. Here then is one of my favourite subjects to include on my website. It helps retain a focus on the importance of creativity. A readily identifiable image that is by nature a private place, yet powerful enough to portray the essence of art when under the spotlight. It’s an intriguing shape to work with too, casting a long meaningful shadow. There’s nothing superfluous about this form, every aspect of its design is functional and complete. It doesn’t pander to fashion, have a warranty or come in a choice of finishes or colours. It’s there to serve a valuable purpose, rendering life long service. To this very day an easels presence in the studio relates a silent challenge. A constant reminder that creativity doesn’t just happen. It somehow keeps alive the prospect that the next painting process will reveal the long awaited picture of contentment.
Easels remind me of good days, not so good days and hope. There’s something reliably comforting about that. They mirror our inmost thoughts by holding up a dream for honest contemplation. A chance to stand back to relive the past, present and future in visual terms. Many folk may think that artists are a little touched in the head, even completely mad. Be that as it may, what ever impels them to purchase our paintings to become a part of their daily life, began in earnest when we placed it upon an easel. Granted the finished artwork may look good framed upon a wall, yet it will never look as reassuringly splendid the moment it finally came together in the studio. Those cherished moments upon the easel are beyond words or price.