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Easels are widely used by artists to display a two-dimensional piece of art, or to hold a work surface, such as paper or canvas, at a desirable height. There are two common styles of easel, and three common uses for easels. There are also many modified styles of easels, as well as various materials used in the construction and design features of easels. Of course, one might choose to use an easel for any number of purposes. Therefore, there are a number of different ways to group styles of easels.
Easels can be grouped by design. There are two basic styles of easel design. The tripod design is a simple design based on three legs that converge at the top. Tripod easels may have crossbars that, like the rungs of a ladder, add stability between the two front legs. The third leg is adjustable and swings out and away from the main legs, allowing the easel to stand freely. A small shelf-like bar bisects the front side of the two main legs, and can be moved vertically to adjust the height of the work surface. Tripod easels are often called Lyre easels, or A-frame easels because of the resemblance to an “A” when viewed from the front.
Another style of easel is the H-frame design. The H-frame style is slightly more complicated in form, having either two or four main legs supported by a rectangular base at right angles to the legs. H-frame easels may also have crossbars for support, and adjustable shelves for vertical placement of the work surface.
There are three common styles of easels that are grouped based on usage; studio easels, field easels, and display easels. Studio easels and field easels are both used during the creation of a work of art. Studio easels are designed for use within an artist’s studio. They can often be very large and sturdy in order to support huge canvases which are not transported to an external location for painting.
Field easels, on the other hand, are designed expressly for taking the art studio outside. These easels are portable, and usually have spaces designed for holding the artist’s materials, including brushes, paint, and canvas or paper. These easels are usually small, lightweight, and cannot accommodate large canvases. One common type of field easel is the sketch-box, or French box easel.
There are specific styles of easels that are used for display purposes only. Display easels are used to show off completed artwork. These do not require the same level of stability needed when the painter is still working on the art piece. Display easels do need to be strong enough to support the weight of the artwork, yet they are usually more decorative than utilitarian.
Modified styles of easels include nesting easels, reversible easels, single-mast easels, bi-fold easels, and convertible or hybrid easels, which are related to H-frame easels. The frames of these many styles of easels can be made of wood, steel, aluminum, or brass. Many easels now have built-in work surfaces for use in other activities aside from painting. Available work surfaces include white boards, chalkboards, magnetic surfaces, cork, flannel, fabric, and paper. More advanced styles of easels include telescopic legs, wall mounts, wheels, trays, and small shelves that fan out from a pivot point.