Why do people lean their easels back instead of making them vertical?

Mark_CarderMark_Carder admin
edited July 2015 in General Discussion
It seems 80% or more of artists lean their paintings back away from them. Why?

It causes more problems with glare and also makes it harder to judge your angles. In my online course it is usually the first thing I tell them, "do not lean your painting back" I tell them. They then fix it with no further comment.


  • MeganSMeganS -
    edited October 2014
    It drives me nuts if it's not upright enough. I had a huge issue with my drawing table. I knew I wanted it to be glass table so it was tough finding one that went more than 60 degrees. Many only go to 45! I have mine all the way over and it sits about 75 degrees or so. It was my biggest complaint on the ARTruistic easel. Returned that very expensive painting dryer rack that only holds one painting...
  • The person who taught me how to oil paint told me on the first minute of the first day to always keep my easel upright or leaning slightly forward to avoid glare. A lot of easels that have been designed since that time are designed specifically to lean back. They couldn't be put upright even if you wanted to. Go figure. It's very obvious that those easels were designed by people that have never painted before.
  • I never thought of having the easel slightly pitched forward to avoid dust settling ... sounds like a reasonable plan as long as it's not pitched so far forward that the form gets distorted.
  • edited October 2014
    @rgr‌ , artists that work with charcoal or pastels lean their easels forward so that the dust particles fall down to the ground and not slide down their working surface.

    Most easels I've seen that are capable of tilting forward only do so no more than 15%, any more than that and I feel you might run into other issues before seeing any type of distortion :-j . . . .

  • 15% would certainly cause distortion, and I'm guessing more than that would remain stable in my easel with the screws tightened, but I take your point.
  • My college art teacher would say to lean the easel back but I forgot the reason he gave for it. I always paint vertically.
  • Mark

    Two reasons spring to mind:
    The historical convention brought about by using 'A' frame easels.
    The need to make easels small and light means they are unable to be adjusted to center the canvas at eye level. So the angle makes an easel more comfortable to an artist hovering above them.

  • Mark; the easel you just introduce eliminated that problem if you follow the instructions you give. I built one the next day, I like it enough to put away my big "fancy " easel. I posted it last week. Thanks
  • Had a canvas lying on a table so it could dry after toning it. I came back the next day to discover moth poop on it! Now they dry in the easel!
  • Melissa

    Was it burnt umber moth poop?

  • edited January 2017
    hmm I guess it has something to do with the height of your eyes as compared to the easel.So if you paint the way @Mark_Carder shows in the video,our eyes are perfectly at the level of easel and the painting.but if someone paints with the easel in such a way that his eyes are slightly at higher level than the easel,then they they tend to lean their easel backwards(because if eyes are at higher level than the easel,the bottom part of painting will not be perfectly visible like other parts,so to compensate that if it is leaned backwards then bottom part can also be seen).
  • I'm the exception.. As I came from a watercolour background I prefer to paint with a board/canvas horizontal. I've tried using an easel for 3 paintings and I just don't like the vertical painting style that much.
  • Absolutely less dust and glare when vertical. Especially the dust....one of my guesses is, maybe it's a habit born from plein air painting and drafting, and when the painting surface is not too secure.
  • i'm trying my best to keep it vertical but i always angle it slightly for me personally coz i have less control on the brushes on a vertical plane ......working on it to fix.
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