A well-equipped studio will save an artist time, space and money. Having an unsuitable easel for your needs can result in it falling over (if it’s not sturdy enough) along with your work in progress, or you might find yourself spending ages trying to adjust the height of the ledge unnecessarily, or you might find you need an easel that can move around the studio easily to adapt to changes in the set-up of your work space. If you draw at a table and find your back and neck hurt at the end of the day, it could be because you are not working at the right angle and you might consider investing in a work station or drawing board so that you can feel more comfortable and organised! In this overview of the studio equipment at Jackson’s Art Supplies, I will describe the options available to you and help you think about what would best suit your needs.
Please note that all our studio easels and some of our field easels require some amount of assembly.
Studio easels are the largest types of easel, designed to accommodate larger painting supports. They are available in a few different styles; each takes up a differing amount of space and each offers varying amounts of stability.
Radial Easels – Radial easels take up the least amount of space and may be ideal for artists setting up a painting studio at home – they have 3 wooden feet and the main part of the easel is made up of a long thin rectangular frame, on to which a bottom and top canvas ledge is affixed. Because they can stack up against each other relatively easily, they are commonly seen in life drawing classes, where space is of utmost importance. Many radial easels tilt in the centre – this allows the artist to work at a slight angle without the whole easel falling over! The whole column can also tilt, but only slightly as it does affect the easel’s balance. Check the specifications of the easels for an idea of what size works the easel will hold.
PROS: Take up very little space, easy to move about, easy to store
CONS: Can be a little unstable, will not accommodate as large a canvas as some of the other easels
H-Frame Easels – As the name suggests, these are an H-Shaped structure on to which is fixed a central wooden column that the canvas supports are fixed on to. These easels have a square base, and the H Frame is secured to it at the front of the base with an angled support fixed to the back of the base. This allows you to adjust the angle of the easel without compromising its stability. These easels are heavier than the radial easels, but they are sturdier and the range of sizes of painting supports it can hold is greater. The more expensive H Frame easels such as Mabef’s Roma and Roma Grande and Milano easels have a shelf or drawer built underneath the lower canvas support which offers very practical storage space, for the materials you like to keep close to hand such as favourite colours, brushes and rags. For those of you who want the stability of an H Frame easel but know that you will need to move the easel frequently, I would recommend an H Frame easel with wheels, such as the Mabef Roma. When the easel is where you want it to be simply screw the bolts down and these will secure the easel in its position. For artists who struggle to adjust canvas ledges the Roma Grande has a very easy to use crank handle, and for those who have difficulty moving the easel from one end of the studio to another, we even sell an H Frame easel with a motor on it! Some of our H Frame easels will tilt to be completely horizontal (like working on a table) – this can be really useful for watercolourists and other painters who use paint with a very fluid consistency that do not want it to run.
PROS: Sturdy, can accommodate larger painting supports, some have shelves/drawers and some are adapted for less able artists, store flat but do not stack up against one another when upright
CONS: Can be very heavy
The main structure of an A-Frame easel is triangular – 3 pieces of wood form a triangle, 2 at the front and one at the back. A central canvas support runs between the 2 front legs and holds the top and bottom canvas ledges. On cheaper A-frame easels this column is fixed to the angle of the 3 front legs; on more expensive easels it can be adjusted to be at less of an angle. A Frame easels cannot be adjusted for horizontal working.
PROS: Sturdy, can be stored and stacked easily, can hold relatively large canvases, lighter than most H-frames
CONS: Can take up a bit more room when upright, not suitable for horizontal work, some of the cheaper versions do not have an adjustable angle for the canvas support
Table and Box Easels
Table easels are perfect for artists that like to work relatively small scale, like to work sitting down, or have limited space in which to work. Tripod table easels are like mini A-frame easels and are available in wood or aluminium. They tend to fold very compactly and are adequate for light work, but do not offer as much stability as an H-frame table easel, such as ones offered by Jackson’s, Winsor and Newton and Mabef. The cheaper H-frame easels are little versions of the studio equivalents and offer good stability, but some others offer a draw at the bottom – this extra storage space is fantastically useful if you are taking your table easel to an art class. Some table easels such as the Jackson’s Academy Table Box Easel (EJ016) have telescopic upper and lower canvas supports which accommodate a large range of canvas sizes. Simpler designed Table easels such as the Jackson’s Academy small and large box easels use the lid of the box as the canvas support, which can be positioned to your desired working angle. This offers a really sturdy and ergonomic support on which to place your canvas for work.
Another form of box easel is the pochade box. These are especially designed for working out of doors. They appear from the outside as if they are a regular painter’s travel case but inside the lid is a board that can be folded out at an upright angle (once the lid is fully open) andpainting panels can be fixed to this board using the clips attached to it. In the box there is enough storage space for your paints, brushes and mediums. The lid that holds the paints in also has some holes which you can hold your brushes in for ease of accessibility. A tripod is also available for the pochade which means that you can set up and paint anywhere.
Field and Sketching Easels
Field and sketching easels are designed to be lightweight yet sturdy, and ideal for taking out of doors. They tend to be designed with telescopic legs that can be pulled out full if you like to work standing up, or partially to get the right height for work sitting down. Field easels are either made out of metal (aluminium) or wood, and when closed usually have a strap that holds all the legs together. They are a lot cheaper than studio easels, and they are less stable, with a greater limitation on the size of canvas or board it can accommodate. Be sure to check the specifications before purchasing. Some sketching easels come with a box attached, which makes carrying all your paints and brushes a lot easier as well. The Jackson’s Academy Half sized French style box easel has a drawer just underneath the canvas ledge, making it really easy to reach your paints and other art materials. The lids of many of these box field easels can double up as a palette.
PROS: Lightweight, easy to transport, good for art classes, relatively cheap, very practical
CONS: Can be unstable, can be a little fiddly to put up
Print racks are ideal for displaying works on paper. They stand on the floor and hold works on paper flat on their side. The wide opening at the top of a print rack allows viewers of work to flick through the pieces, like a browser. Jackson’s sells both aluminium and wooden print racks – the metal ones are on wheels and can more easily be moved about. As for other display solutions we also sell an aluminium and a couple of wooden varieties of mini display easels, perfect for exhibiting smaller works on.
Planchests are a great solution for safely storing works on paper, protecting it from damage and dust. Although they can be quite space consuming the top of a planchest often forms another horizontal work surface on which to work. Vistaplan manufacture a selection of metal and wooden plan chests that varying in size from A2 – A0 with either 6, 8, 10, 11 or 12 drawers – be sure to double check the dimensions of the space you will be buying your plan chest for, as well as give thought of how much needs to be stored in it. The plan chest drawers are set on steel roller bearing runners which mean that they operate with a smooth and effortless action. Plan chests are an ideal solution for storing prints, architectural drawings, watercolours and gouaches as well as cartridge paper and other art equipment.
Our Vistaplan drawing boards are either freestanding or to be placed on a table top for use – they are angled for maximum comfort. Some have a wire-parallel motion bar running across the board on which you can rest paper or use as a rule, these a typically considered for graphic designers and illustrators. The Vistaplan art workstations do not have a rule but do have a convenient carry handle and slots for keeping your pencils close to hand. These workstations are particularly useful for fine art drawers. All these drawing boards have adjustable angles.
Jackson’s Art Supplies sells 2 sculpture stands by Mabef – one to use on a table top and another that is freestanding. Both rotate so that it is easy to work on all sides of your 3 dimensional art work. They are constructed of oiled, stain resistant beech wood, and can be used in clay, terracotta and ceramic work. The free standing stand has 8 different height settings.