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Jane Appleby
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The two-easel convention

August 16, 2013

Dear Artist,

Every day we look at jpegs of some readers' paintings and know that they might do better if they were not so stubborn. In some cases it seems the art and the ego have gone into lockstep. If not rectified, work like this can remain amateurish for life. I've always been on the lookout for methods that might help myself and others overcome the problem.

One of the most valuable and proven ploys for upping quality is the "two-easel convention." This is where you have one easel to paint on, and another easel to evaluate on. For the second easel you can even change your clothes, pour a scotch, have a cigar, sit back, put your feet up.

Here's an email from yesterday that expresses the problem: "I'm trying to reconcile creation and learning. The artist in me needs to 'know,' and the student in me needs to 'question.' You said that you have to know what you're doing at the primary easel and to question what you did or could do at the secondary. I'm shocked how good the thing looks on the primary easel and how substandard on the secondary. It's disturbing. Could this be a sign of a mental disorder?"

Nothing to do with a mental disorder, it's all about the yin and yang of reordering thoughts and identifying weaknesses. Incompetence, in my books, is the failure of the critical faculties to interfere constructively with the natural flow.

The secondary easel, to be fully effective, takes some thought and planning. A quick framing honours the work-to-date and gets it temporarily stopped. Knowing that a casual glance at the newly-lit piece often tells more than an hour at the primary easel, many artists find it useful to be quick and easy going, without too much vested interest in the work. Elapsed time and refreshed innocence brings forth honesty. As the eye flits, corrective notes and forward-looking plans are made. Previously unseen boo-boos come at you like tattoos on a teenage girl. It's really a gift, and the gift comes when you see the work freshly with new vision--as if you were a different person. If this means a temporary split personality, then let 'er rip. The police can't possibly lock you up for long.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "If you're not honest about your level of ability, you may work a painting to death in the attempt to achieve a standard of excellence that you are not yet capable of realizing." (watercolourist Eric Wiegardt)

Esoterica: Think of the secondary easel as the "agnostic approach." Agnostic means "I do not know." When an artist switches into the agnostic mode,<br>Emily Carr with her dogs and elephant
Emily Carr with her dogs and elephant
a world of miraculous possibilities opens up. You see things more clearly and you tend to be more objective. Further, it's much more fun than locking yourself into some safe shibboleth that worked a bit for you and others in the past. It's all about thinking it out for yourself and setting your own ever-higher standards. "Setting high standards," said the former personal trainer Greg Anderson, "makes every day and every decade worth looking forward to."





Third easel through other peoples' eyes
by Gary Black, Australia


Use this approach and find you develop a different mindset at the second easel. You see your work from a different perspective and can really evaluate it as a "different" person.

I also send emails to my family and a select number of friends and include the current painting including its title. These people view my work on my third easel; their computer. The feedback I get is fantastic and on several occasions the suggestions are incorporated into the painting. Sometimes a title change is suggested that better reflects the painting as viewed by a general audience. This has helped me develop as an artist and to see my work through other peoples' eyes, with their perceptions and expectations.



There is 1 comment for Third easel through other peoples' eyes by Gary Black

From: Sandy Glass -- Aug 21, 2013

My sister, my friend and I all do the same thing. Never thought about it as the third easel, but you are so right.


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Rest period for reflection
by Sandra Sibley, Columbus, NC, USA


As a freelance writer, I learned early on to let an article or essay rest for a day before proofreading, revising and submitting. I do a much better job of catching mistakes and smoothing out the rough spots in grammar and style. I do the same with my paintings. I don't work on one for two days in a row, and I move it to a second easel so I can see it in a little different light and reflect upon it. I'm a student and have a long way to go to be an accomplished painter, but I know the best way for me to progress is to use this technique.



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Sketchbook as tool
by Raynald Murphy, Montreal, Canada


For me the sketchbook is a trial and error tool, much like the second easel in your dissertation. Sir Winston Churchill Pub<br>watercolour painting by Raynald Murphy Sir Winston Churchill Pub
watercolour painting
It is there that I reflect; that I try out ideas, which I practice. A sketchbook is always with me, sometimes two or three different formats or paper quality. Like MasterCard, I never leave home without one. The sketchbook gives me the permission to make mistakes. If not, it becomes another "canvas" ready to be exhibited when complete. It is not necessarily for public viewing or scrutiny. It is where I play, where I try new tools, new colors or different pencils. It is my creativity basin or pool.

I am mostly a plein air watercolorist. So when I take out a pristine watercolor sheet outdoors then my mind thinks, "This could possibly end up in a frame, exhibited and sold." I tend to be less adventurous and to choose "safe subjects" especially when painting in watercolor which permits little in terms of corrections. Therein lies the big difference with a sketchbook. The sketches I do in my books in watercolor are sometimes left unfinished, overworked, re-worked, added to later and sometimes annotated with personal or technical notes. Briefly, they become "my art journal." It is where I learn, where I feel I permit myself to change, to improve. This learning, I believe, overflows to my first easel, the loose pristine piece of watercolor paper. I use the sketches in my books sometimes as basis for a larger watercolor painting done in the studio.



There are 2 comments for Sketchbook as tool by Raynald Murphy

From: Russ Hogger -- Aug 19, 2013

Thanks Raynald for sharing this. It brings back memories for me when I used to go out sketching many years ago. When I got them home hoping to use them and come up with a masterpiece, there always seem to be something missing. That's when I started using a camera. Now I never go anywhere without my digital camera, what I now call my main sketching tool.

From: Nan Fiegl -- Aug 20, 2013

I'm with Russ.


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Level of ability unknown
by Elizabeth Au, Honolulu, HI, USA


I don't know if I understand or agree with Wiegardt. I speak for myself and probably others, too, that I don't know my level of ability, but I certainly want to improve my painting skills. And who is to say what that standard of excellence would be to critique myself, and if I haven't yet 'arrived,' who knows what my capability is, really? I always use the secondary easel idea by removing my painting from my easel to set it up in another spot to look at while thinking about what I might do when I go back to finish working on it.



There is 1 comment for Level of ability unknown by Elizabeth Au

From: Liz Reday -- Aug 29, 2013


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A most useful habit
by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia


The two-easel approach is the most useful habit a painter can form - and it does work. Water's back! - Lake Alexandrina<br>acrylic painting by Mike Barr Water's back! - Lake Alexandrina
acrylic painting


It has been shown that even when we move into a different room at work or at home, the brain starts to think differently. This is shown by how often we walk into an adjacent next room to do or get something, then once we are in that room we have forgotten what it was we were about to do. It is not so much a sign of old age or dementia, but a natural change of the brain.

Having completed work on a different easel and also perhaps in a different room, it enables us to see it in a new light. It is subtle, but it is different.

The joy and flow of paint on the working easel can often blind-side us to what we've actually done.

It all sounds theoretical, but try it - it works!



There are 6 comments for A most useful habit by Mike Barr

From: Sherry Purvis -- Aug 20, 2013

Your painting is absolutely gorgeous.

From: Anonymous -- Aug 20, 2013

I am in awe of your cloudy sky painting skill!
Absolutely amazing!

From: sandra Bos -- Aug 20, 2013

wow...what a great painting! I love the cool colors and wondering if it was done in the studio and in plein air.? I always enjoy your work.

From: Sarah -- Aug 20, 2013

Absolutely love your work. Everything works--the composition, the flow and the colors--oh, the colors.

From: Anonymous -- Aug 20, 2013

Very very beautiful painting, Mike.

From: Carol Reynolds -- Aug 20, 2013

A wonderful painting ! The sky is beautiful.


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Accumulated work most revealing
by Diane Overmyer, Goshen, IN, USA


I just finished teaching one of my four-day plein air workshops. One of the great things about these<br>Painting criteria
Painting criteria
longer workshops is the ability to do a critique of each participant's accumulated work. While I talk to each student when they are working on individual paintings out in the field, many issues come to light. But when we line up all of their work side by side, it tells a bigger picture.

Consistency is one of the biggest things that becomes evident for students who are on a strong growth curve. Also it is easier to zero in on problem areas by viewing at least 3 or more paintings. My students themselves often will see areas they need to develop more or problems they need to solve once they are looking at the body of work under different lighting and with fresh eyes.

Attached is a list of criteria that I recently read on an Oil Painters of America blog post that I think was excellent. I am going to begin using something like this for students to rate their own work, and for me when I am looking over a body of my work.



There are 3 comments for Accumulated work most revealing by Diane Overmyer

From: Rose -- Aug 20, 2013

I like it....

From: Keena -- Aug 20, 2013

Forgive my ignorance, but why is design counted twice?

From: Diane Overmyer -- Aug 21, 2013

I am not sure why design is listed twice. Funny thing is that I could have sworn it said drawing as one of the categories...point is, come up with a grading system that works for you. I would have to ask the blogger who shared this on the OPA website about why Design is listed twice.


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2- 3- 4-easel convention
by David Coe, Gabriola, BC, Canada


I have used the two-easel convention unconventionally in that I will have 2, 3, & 4 going at once, each Rocks on the Shore<br>watercolour painting by David Coe Rocks on the Shore
watercolour painting
spending some time on the wall until it is their time. Sometimes they can be up there two or three times for the more difficult ones.

The attached watercolour spent more than two months untouched after a very small portion had been started, then was non-stop painting until it was done. Then back up on the wall until time to frame, or not.



There are 2 comments for 2- 3- 4-easel convention by David Coe

From: Kathleen -- Aug 20, 2013

Delicious painting!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 20, 2013

FRAME!


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What is right or wrong in painting?
by Mike Young, Oakville, ON, Canada


Let me deconstruct: your basic, unstated, assumption is that there is right and wrong in painting. Untitled<br>original sculpture by Mike Young Untitled
original sculpture
Or, you may prefer to say the art is of an acceptable standard or substandard ("do better"; "amateurish"). I have a problem understanding your definition of what is right and what is wrong. Without a definition of what your standard is, no comparison can be made. If it is impossible to define a universal standard then nothing can be substandard. Even if you can define a standard, that is only your own personal standard – most people have their own values as to what pleases, interests or engages them – probably a function of their own ego.

I am prepared to accept that there are painting techniques that are more efficient than others, but we are not all looking for efficiency. Some "tricks of the trade" in say, composition, may cause a piece to sell itself better based on the mechanics of perception, but failure to follow these rules of thumb do not invalidate a piece, although it may make it more inaccessible. But the view that a piece which does not follow the rules is wrong, or substandard, I cannot accept. All that can be said is that the work did not follow the rules.

I accept that some combinations of pigments and arrangement of those pigments please me more than others, but my taste may be far removed from my neighbour's. I look at the pantheon of art on the walls of the Museums around the world and I find diversity. Some I like, and they speak to me, and some simply do not engage me at all. Are those works that I pass without a second glance "wrong"? No. They are right for others and but not for me.

Can anyone be an arbiter of someone else's work? We can help others see their work, perhaps in a new light, or explain the visual vocabulary to enable better expression of the artist's point of view, but the only arbiter can be oneself. Failure to conform to conventional art practice is not wrong, just different.

So help me out here, what is wrong art or substandard art? I'd really like to understand this point of view.



There are 6 comments for What is right or wrong in painting? by Mike Young

From: Mike Barr -- Aug 19, 2013

Mike - your comments imply there is no skill involved in any form of art. The fact is, that there is skilled and unskilled art. It is also a fact that today, your sentiments are echoed in the broader contemporary art world and hence, anything goes. The result is that a beginner at their first go at painting, sculpture, quilt-making or whatever will produce work as good acceptable as an artist that has been doing it for a lifetime. There is no good or bad art...just art, which quite frankly is nonsense. A person who wishes to have a portrait done of a family member is not going to get a complete beginner to do it - why? Because, the result will be rubbish. Yes, there is a difference between good and bad art.

From: Hal Martin -- Aug 19, 2013

Totally agree with Mike Barr. And painting seems to be the only endeavor where this type of thinking is found. You can't play random notes on a violin (even if it's a Stradivarius and you're wearing a tuxedo)and be a member of the Boston Symphony. You can't take the skill level that qualifies you for in a pick-up basketball game at YMCA and play in the NBA. The only reason this idea has gained acceptance is that most people know when they're reading bad writing or listening to bad music or seeing a bad movie or play or they have a bad plumber, but not when they're looking at bad art.

From: Janet Badger -- Aug 20, 2013

All paintings are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 20, 2013

Ditto, gentlemen. Art is the only vocation I know of where a lack of skill can be justified - just read some artist statements. You don't have to submit to rules or standards but employing the basics will likely produce a superior work than if you didn't. After you master them then take off on a wild departure if you feel you must. Art is a case of the more you learn the more you realize you don't know. Mastering takes a lifetime.

From: tatjana -- Aug 20, 2013

Art is one of those disciplines that have a huge value as a process as well as a product. For art aimed to be a product, I agree with Mr Barr. But Mr Young’s letter made me think about art creation as a process which doesn’t need to be constrained by the rules of conventional mastery. There are many valid reasons why people create art – therapeutic, communal and imaginative being some good examples. In that arena, the "goodness" of art creation can be measured by how much good it does, rather than how good it is by the measure of mastery – for example, a youngster’s pastel hanging on the fridge or my mom’s crazy embroidery.

From: Brenda Howell -- Aug 21, 2013

Mike Young - You make a great argument here, very well thought out and worthy of discussion. Georgia O'Keeffe made the point when she submitted a dull, gray painting to an important art show when she understood that that was the standard for the show. Her dull painting was accepted. She entered to make a point. When she got it back after the show she destroyed it. Not up to her standards.


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Final tweak found on kitchen easel
by Brian Romer, Sechelt, BC, Canada


In my case, the second "easel" is actually the wall behind our kitchen stovetop under the two-stage light Big Sky, Porpoise Bay<br>original painting by Brian Romer Big Sky, Porpoise Bay
original painting
of the overhead fan, and well away from my always cluttered studio.

Once "finished" on the studio (or plein air) easel, a rather battered "studio frame" is quickly attached and the painting sits in the kitchen for a day or two, before the next one arrives. It is often removed by my wife concerned about cooking splatter and her otherwise always uncluttered kitchen, but it is quickly returned by me once the food is done.

I look at it often, passing through the kitchen, having lunch at the counter, fetching a beer from the fridge, feeding the dog, etc. Seldom do I fail to find a now absolutely necessary final tweak or two by the time the next painting reaches the stove stage.



There is 1 comment for Final tweak found on kitchen easel by Brian Romer

From: Sandy Glass -- Aug 21, 2013

Final tweaks are so liberating. Your painting is finally looking up at you and smiling. Now you know you are finished.


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Hitting the mark
by Nonny Kudelka, NC, USA


I've always used the 2nd easel; I call it 'resting': mat it and rest it...

Recently I heard an inspiring talk that used the analogy that someone who'd studied piano for many years, and been active giving concerts and such, would know if someone else was not quite hitting the mark, and what the mark should be. Later, I remarked to a friend that I really appreciated the artwork in the brochure we were given and went on to point out some of the best parts. He replied, "Oh, you play the piano?"... and we both grinned, since he's been the recipient of pastels of his grandchildren over the years. The point of the talk, of course, was to study your subject until you "make it your own"... the subject at that moment being The Bible...

But it brought up a question I've had over the years, and wonder if everyone does this: you see a piece of artwork in passing... do you automatically give it a point on a self-scale?: oo, better than I can do; ew, could be better; oh, nice (same level). It doesn't go beyond that moment, so I've never given it the 'weightiness' of 'judging' and don't usually even remark on it... just a personal thing.



There is 1 comment for Hitting the mark by Nonny Kudelka

From: Helen Opie -- Aug 19, 2013


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Diane Overmyer workshops Held in Donaldson, IN, USA.   <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Diane Overmyer workshops
Held in Donaldson, IN, USA.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Russell Hogger, Edmonton, AB, Canada



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Rita Curtis of Wyman Park, Baltimore, MD, USA who wrote, "I like to bring an ongoing painting to a room with different lighting. That's where I see how those paint passages I've fallen in love with fall short of my vision of the painting. It usually bums me out, but I'll remember now that seeing the reality is a gift."

And also Laurel McCallum of Winnipeg, MB, Canada, who wrote, "Thank God, I just bought another easel. At last I can begin to face myself."


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The two-easel convention...

From: jim noel.. -- Aug 15, 2013

My other easel is actually in another room...a black wall with a ceiling mounted spot, a comfortable couch, and a refreshing beverage. Sometimes a walk around the block first helps open up the pathways in my brain! Getting away from the workspace and into the contemplation space facilitates a more nuanced perception, and yes, the 'tatoos' really jump out at you!

From: Larry -- Aug 16, 2013

I would add another of the common denominators I see when viewing amateurish paintings are the color choices.
Some paintings have colors that look just like an over exposed photo and the artist has meticulously painted the painting from that washed out photo. In these paintings the colors are very hesitant, washed out...maybe an over use of white ? This hesitancy that shows in a painting, makes me wonder about the artists true skills. An authoritative stroke of color/ paint, with no hesitation in the right place at the right time, is a wonderful thing to behold. On the other side of the spectrum, too much color can be garish, too loud and too harsh. Balancing colors from soft to bold, opaque to transparent, light to dark, true color to blended, ect... It is always a struggle to keep these balancing acts in mind and find that perfect harmony, but it is possible.

From: Frank Nicholas -- Aug 16, 2013

Two easils... sometimes more. When I'm painting with oils or acrylics I'm normally doing more than one at a time. Drying time allows me space to reconsider the work that's on the side and work fresh with new vigor on the piece before me. My preferred medium is watercolor, and frequently I do several at the same time. This allows me time to watch washes dry back, while at the same time draw off water pools that are troubling. Many times while traveling I lay blocks, pads or sheets everywhere in my rooms. The next day the work reveals some exciting things and some bad. A teacher from school, many years ago, once said, they don't all turn out. I agree, but time heals many wounds/

From: Suzette Fram -- Aug 16, 2013

Funny you should said this today, as I was just recently commenting on the fact that I can only go so far with a work, and then I have to stop and live with it for a while; sometimes till the next day, sometimes for a few days. I put the painting up where I can see it and catch glances at it throughout the day. It's amazing how that helps me see it with fresh eyes and helps to plan my next step. It's how I can figure out what the painting needs next, what might need to be changed, or adjusted. That also helps me decide when the painting is finished.

From: Dwight -- Aug 16, 2013

It seems my responses to Robert's words are usually philosophical, but that's much of my former training. That said, ALL of life is, or ought to be, a "two easel" affair. We live in a Yin and Yang world, like it or not. On most things we are Agnostics. What we don't know certainly outweighs what we do know. God help us from the know-it-all, with all the answers, who has no idea how much there is that he doesn't know.

From: Julliette -- Aug 16, 2013

From: Rick Woods -- Aug 16, 2013

The second easel principle works in many disciplines, by taking a second look at one's product in a different light. Writers compose a story, or a letter or an essay on screen, but then look at a printed copy where needed revisions suddenly seem to jump off the page.
The act of creation seems to require a breather, or a bit of distraction to allow the critical eye to take command of the process.
I take my work upstairs for a look at it in the evening or the next morning, with a trial mat.

From: Dan Mosheim -- Aug 16, 2013

mirrors are good too

From: Miles Smith -- Aug 16, 2013

Doesn't working on two or three pictures at once accomplish pretty much the same thing as the two easel convention, i.e., seeing each piece with fresh eyes after having left it alone for a period of time while you worked on another?

From: Shirley S Russell -- Aug 16, 2013

When discussing the secondary easel for evaluation, how should I make changes: one at a time when I find them, or at the end when I have found several, or does it make any difference?

From: Alana Dill -- Aug 16, 2013

"Previously unseen boo-boos come at you like tattoos on a teenage girl."

It's official. I have a literary crush on you. :-D

From: Carolynn Wagler -- Aug 16, 2013

If you are amateurish, how will you know how to evaluate on the other 'easel'. Am I missing something here? I would like more explanation of how to evaluate on the other easel.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt -- Aug 16, 2013

I am not quite sure how to apply the concept of the two easel convention. It sounds like fun. It sounds like having a conversation with yourself when painting or what I call talking to myself. Sometimes I think I am only thinking but unaware I'm talking out loud. This some times happens when I am painting and looking at the progress I am making. I guess having a breaking from your work can refresh your thoughts and can see more clearly where it is not working or how it is progressing. Are the colors working or the patterns add to the painting?

From: Carole Pigott -- Aug 16, 2013

I soooo agree with this – I live with my paintings on the wall of my studio and home for months after completing – while they are drying for final varnish, and have always felt that if one wants someone else to live with the work, the artist should try it first themselves. It is amazing how many time I find a correction our of the corner of my eye – while doing other tasks.

Besides, I love living with my work.

From: Sheri Farabaugh -- Aug 16, 2013

My 'second easel' is a spot next to the TV. It's amazing what flaws reveal themselves when I'm engaged with something else, and glancing at my latest painting. I keep a notepad handy to jot the fixes down for the next morning.

From: Lynne Morin -- Aug 16, 2013

I have a question about a painting of mine, it has happened before as well....I really like this painting at dusk when the light is falling but it is not so nice in daylight...do you have any ideas about when that happens? Does it just mean that the work is not good or are the tones wrong? Any ideas?

From: John Koehler -- Aug 16, 2013

i use a system like this, i have limited space so i hang the painting i am working on next to my TV set, and look at it while i take a break, for a few days. i belong to several art groups and we critique each others paintings, in a constructive manner. i also start the next painting, so as not waste any time..

From: Patricia D. Toole -- Aug 16, 2013

This letter in particular is so true and very, very helpful. I usually, like you said, put my painting in a quick frame and put it on the mantel, pour myself a Scotch, put my feet up, but don't light up a cigar. It seems to work every time.

From: Kitty Wallis -- Aug 16, 2013

I like to put my current work all over my walls in my house. That is my second easel.

From: Loraine Wellman -- Aug 16, 2013

What about the idea of looking at the painting in a mirror? Problems will really jump out - even solutions. It is definitely worth a try as part of the "second easel" approach. Another idea is to take the painting to another part of the house so you come on it almost by surprise and see it in a different way. Currently, I've abandoned my "usual" approaches altogether and I'm just playing for awhile at least.

From: Marj Vetter -- Aug 16, 2013

I like the feet up and the scotch, I’ll pass on the cigar......

From: Katheryn OldShield Mukai -- Aug 16, 2013

I've certainly learned, with encouragement, that even a temporary framing can be highly informative...I've had "unfinished" work that I was undecided about be put into available framing by friends and the piece has taken a life I never recognized, but they suspected. It's been a relief. No more nagging work buggering me...and yes, I also find I really need to see the piece away from the work space and more like where I'd expect it to be hung...does it stand up at all in other light conditions? Outside "my world" does it convey ANY thing it's intended to convey...sometimes there are sore dissappointments for all the "promise"...sometimes it's just a technical issue that I can correct, sometimes it's a whole re-examination of the concept.

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 16, 2013

Part of the problem as I see it is we don't play anymore with our work. What I mean is every time we sit at the easel are in create for gallery mode or "I gotta do something great today" mode. Serious mode. While the two easel idea has great merit, we need to paint when nothing is at stake. We need to paint for ourselves, not shows, not galleries, not for our spouses and not for greatness.
I have mentioned in previous clickbacks, the need to paint for nothing but the work. I paint every day. I don't try and make great work; I paint to regain the joy of the process. I paint for no one but me. It is usually a small still life, a self-portrait, my dog, a master copy. Anything where there is no pressure to be Right On!
I can try new things, experiment and most importantly-fail!
When painting becomes your profession or means to make money or succeed, we lose the reason for doing this in the first place. We need to create a space to try; to fail. Not everything I do is for sales. I draw a lot and I never sell these. They are my notes for works, my ideas for future projects.
Go back and paint for yourself. If you use the two easel approach, use one to fail on and the other for the "real" work.

From: Debrah Barr -- Aug 17, 2013

I have been using two easels lately- as I am in the process of finishing a series of paintings, and need to slow the engines down and look at the work awhile. It is a wonderful tool/habit to get into the practice of using. You are so right about finding interesting directions and then...going there. My painting sessions have been transformed from stress; What should I do with all this white paper/" to - jumping right in, splashing my watercolors on, then letting it all rest and dry, and then listening to what the painting is showing me. Yes, I said listening, instead of looking..as it as just as much a hearing process as it is a looking one. I can never tell you thank you enough for the "Painters Keys", too shy for art classes, so I have educated my self via the library and galleries, and now the internet!! You have helped me so very much!!

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 17, 2013

My second easel is also my walls. The finished painting never quite meets my vision for the piece. I sit there and rip my technique and composition and fuss over one thing or another. My family chastises me for being so critical. I quit trying to explain if I didn't strive for excellence I would never improve as a painter.
We must be ruthless in self critique. There is no such thing as adequate, or capable, or any of those other words that describe mediocrity. I'm often tempted to pull it down from the wall and put it back up on the first easel to fix whatever, but then there is overworking; another thing I get annoyed with myself over. *sigh*

From: Tessa Dickinsen -- Aug 18, 2013

Primarily I'm a plein air painter. My second easel is at home. The drying paintings are up for adjudication. Do they stay? Do they need a few strokes, something that will save them? Are the hopeless causes? Usually I know by the following day. One decision takes them to the drying rack, one to the table for final adjustment, the latter decision takes them for a scrub. One thing that is always the same, however, is the attitude that I do the work to the best of my ability, including a bit of thinking, then I let it go. The results are what they were going to be anyway. Sometimes I am not up to the task, sometimes I goof, sometimes I nail it. But once I make the decision to stop, it's old news. I have a bank of experience. I only wish I had more.

From: Russ Hogger -- Aug 19, 2013

There are some artists that know all the rules but don't know how to break any of them. I spend as much time in my studio just sitting around and looking as I do painting. Do a bit of painting, make a cup of tea (milk with two lumps kind) then sit and relax while evaluating the progress of my most recent work. As some of you have already suggested, I look at my paintings in reverse through a mirror. That usually makes all the mistakes stand out.

From: Heidi Smith -- Aug 20, 2013

My secondary easel is my fireplace mantle which has a skylight up above. I place the finished painting there which gives me the opportunity to look at it at different times of the day and light to see if and what it needs. It is also critique time for my best supporter; my husband, Ron, a non artist with an excellent "eye" and me. This seems to work quite well for me.

From: Michaele Freeman -- Aug 20, 2013

I like Jane's pumpkins along with the "37 Club" article. Pleasing results! Although I am not "painting" in the same sense, I now "paint" with wool as a fibre artist doing Traditional Rug Hooking. My rugs are my own design, and so I find your articles very much of interest. A thought regarding the old hourglass—perhaps the "sands of time" have worn the hole between the two ends of the hourglass so that the sand is allowed to move more quickly between the ends. Just a thought! I look forward to your "Letters". Michaele Freeman

From: Susan Harris -- Aug 20, 2013

I have been using the two-easel convention for years now. I love it and don't think I could finish a painting without it. Sometimes it takes weeks or months of studying a painting to discover that one missing ingredient, sometimes I immediately know it is finished. Since my studio is in my home, I move the evaluation easel from room to room to catch different light and different angles. Sometimes I even hang the painting on a wall in a room so I can view it in passing to see if it has indeed reached the finished point. This process has helped me realize that not only lighting, but the angle of a painting on an easel vs on a wall can make a big difference. It has been amazing how a painting can look 'finished' in one place and missing something in another. Lighting plays a big part in it and I try to cover every angle so that when the painting is purchased, the collector will be happy wherever they choose to hang it.

From: Charles Wallis -- Aug 20, 2013

I frequently photograph my work when nearly finished. The reduced size shows problems up right away. Many times when the finished product is just doesn't feel right, I set it aside facing away for a few weeks or a month or so and then take a look. If I don't see the problem at this point. I put it away for longer and if I never find it, I paint over it. I like the idea of the second easel and asking the questions about what would make it better even though I am happy with it thus far.

From: Shane Conant -- Aug 20, 2013

Illusion of objectivity can only be created when honesty as a virtue rules over desire in the record of personnel responses to the environment that informs the sensory perception. The second easel gives an answer to the sender of what the ultimate message is of his communication and allows the editor to decide it's veracity without the confusion of ownership.

From: Inga Poslitur -- Aug 20, 2013

37 Club is a powerful one. I saw it's powers in my work and my students. Love the idea of committing to do it for a month!

From: Paula Dalton -- Aug 20, 2013

My studio "first easel" is in a cramped, poorly lighted basement - My "second easel" is upstairs, outside in my driveway, under the fresh light of day. It allows me to not only see my work anew, but to evaluate them in a completely different environment.

From: Jane Appleby -- Aug 21, 2013




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