Drawing Areas: How to Set Them Up

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These are not just little tips and techniques, but a full course of learning how to see, think, and draw like an artist.

On this "Drawing Areas" page:

- why you need your own space

- what equipment you need

- how to use easels and boards

- how to use lamps as you work

- the shopping list to set up your space

A sacred “art corner” of your own is very important!

I first discovered why when my children were still quite small. I had been working happily on a painting, and was quite chuffed at how well-behaved my son was as he sat there watching me. Dinner-time came, and I put down my brush to get the chicken in the oven. I was just peeling the potatoes when it suddenly dawned on me that I haven't heard the children for while…

Fold-up easels are cheap and practical.

Investigation revealed that they had used my brush and a tube of oil paint to paint a big rectangle on the lower corner of my sensitive masterpiece, and I surprised them in the process of painting all of our small apartment's electrical outlets cerulean blue.  They were all still that color when we moved out.

Whether you have the luxury of a whole room to yourself, or whether you have simply a corner of a room devoted just to art, it needs to be a place where you can leave your setup in place for two or three weeks at a time.

It can make you crazy when you spent half an hour getting the lighting right, the still life right, then another hour trying to capture that light on paper, and a teenager takes the banana for his snack.

More importantly, you are recognizing and honoring your creativity - and that is part of the process of waking it up!

Simple and Cheap

No need to buy any expensive office equipment or anything else very special - you don't need much more than in the illustration at the start of this page.  You just need comfort for your corner, since ideally you will be spending a lot of time there as you work.  Today I have two spaces where comfort is the watchword:  one is my actual studio, and the other is my "artist corner" in my study.

A champagne glass.

In my studio I use a full-size professional easel with a big board on it to clip the paper to. I also have a comfortable old office chair; a couple of tables to spread supplies on, and a nice old couch to throw myself down on for a think or a tea. 

There are also a few creature comforts like a microwave to heat up water or instant food, and a full set of champagne glasses and a small refrigerator, but that's another story.

For the corner in my study, I have simply a folding table, a small but well-cushioned old chair, and my artist supplies, and I often use a table easel for small projects.  The table folds out to be long enough to set up a still life at the other end of it.

Easels and Boards

 If you don't have any useful, just which are drawing board on your lap and slammed, resting against another chair in front of you - not at 90°, more like 45°. You needed to be at an angle so you can see what's going on, and also so you can hold a pencil or charcoal correctly.

A drawing board and clips to hold paper in place.

Sure that you clip some extra sheets of paper under the one you're actually drawing on, to create some padding - you'll see that the extra cushion will make things work better. If you don't have a board, then just use your path paper, being sure that you buy one with a stiff enough cardboard backing to support your using it this way.


If possible, try to have a lamp shining close to your drawing board or easel - the set-up I drew in the illustration at the top of this page gives you a good idea. 

A clip-on lamp with a flexible head.

If it is a ceiling light, make sure it's bright enough. In the corner of my study I use clip-on lamps (see left) so that I can adjust lighting as I see fit.

The main point is to make sure the light is adjusted so your hand doesn't cast a shadow over your drawing as you work. In my studio I have them on stands  so I can adjust them up and down and just where I want.These lamps are great for controlling lighting on the still life set up or even a set up with a model - you clip them where you need them to be clipped, and you can swivel them to the right angle.

Another great alternative is one of those desk lamps with the extendable arm and spring (you know, like the bouncing lamp at the beginning of a Pixar movie?). You might have to pull the curtains over windows to block the light if you have a nice light setup on a still life or model.

Your Shopping List for Your Special Space

- An easel if you want to draw with one, preferably a cheap-and-easy folding one.

- Two chairs - a comfortable one to sit in, another one to rest your drawing surface against.

- Two clip lamps - one to light your page, the other to light up your subject.

- A drawing board or a pad of paper with a good stiff cardboard backing.

- Clips to hold your paper in place.

Completely optional:

- On Ebay or suchlike you can find a cheap photographer's lighting kit, which should include a couple of simple stands and adjustable lamps.  I find these are just great for getting the lighting I want.

Go from "Drawing Area Set-Up" to "Other Drawing Supplies and Equipment"

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