Modifying Your H Style Easel

Many pastel artists buy conventional H style easels that have nice features also for pastel  work. Some of you may also buy a Taboret or have a table or cabinet to put your pastels near the easel.  If you purchased an H style easel made by Best or one very similar in design, there is a way to modify it that certainly has been a great help to me.  Perhaps some of you may like my solution and so I would like to share it in case you want to adapt your easel in a similar fashion.

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The adjacent photo is a University Oak Best easel,  I purchased one like this for my studio. I like it because it tilts forward and that way pastel dust will not go down the face of the painting.

Most easels of this style have a shelf that is approximately 4 ½ inches wide X ¾” thick and the width of the easel. I purchased two 8” long by 1 ½” wide steel flat bars that were pre-drilled and countersunk at Home Depot.  I also bought a 7 ½” wide X 2’ long X ¾” thick piece of Alder board as my shelf addition. 

First I marked where the holes would need to be drilled on the underside of the easels existing shelf and pre-drilled them with a 1/8 drill bit since it is hard oak. Then I mounted the bars with four flat head screws that were # by ¾ screws. Since the bars are 1/8” or so thick, the ¾” screws will not go all the way through the shelf. Then I predrilled the Alder shelf after centering it and mounted it with ¾” screws.

Brackets screwed in to the existing Oak shelf and also the added Alder extension

Brackets screwed in to the existing Oak shelf and also the added Alder extension





Top View of added Alder shelf.

Top View of added Alder shelf.

Once the shelf is in place and screwed in securely, you may place your Dakota pastel box or whatever style or make of box you have onto your new shelf. Now you are ready to go!





The Studio Tour

Preparing for the studio tour took many months. I wanted to re landscape the exterior of the studio since all the construction had cleared out all the previous plants. Bringing in new soil was a part of that process to plant new plants in. Even before the tour the landscaping looked really good.

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After talking with other artists who had done studio tours, I decided to have some art cards printed of some of my bird and butterfly paintings and several landscapes. I talked to the printer who had printed my cards and got some help selecting the card size and envelopes. When I made the selection, we decided each card would had the name of the art piece and my website on the back. All the cards were the same size so that the envelopes could all be the same size to cut costs.  I also made the decision to have some prints made of four very different landscapes. When I picked the prints up from the printer I was pleased with the quality and color.  I mounted each one on foam core and matted each one. I purchased Clear Seal bags to slip the mounted prints in. I also purchased a light weight print rack to display them.

The Placer Arts League has in the past printed cards up with a map of the studios, and pictures of various artists on a large 7" X 10" card that is distributed throughout the county to many venues. This year, they decided to make then tour very large with 49 participating artists in studios that went from Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Loomis, Auburn , Meadow Vista and Dutch Flat. Far too many locations and too many artists to put on one card. They suggested artist's print their own cards.  Another cost to prepare for the tour.

Fortunately my son Colin is a Graphic Designer and he told me to send him some pictures of my art and he would design my card. Within a couple of weeks he emailed me a PDFs file for the printer and a smaller version I could both email and post. I have attached a copy below. The printer gave me prices on 500 and 1,000 and with only a 38 dollar difference I had him print 1,000 cards. I distributed them to restaurants, galleries, hair salons, art galleries and many other businesses as well as mailing many to friends and acquaintances and persons who had already purchased one of my paintings. Needless to say I posted the PDF to my Facebook Fine Art site and emailed it to a large list of people.

I purchased a guest book, card display, and borrowed extra easels to put paintings on and brought A-frames I built into the studio to hang more art on them. When the water and trail mix cups were put on the table, and everything was arranged I, had 26 paintings on display.  I prepared a new sheet of UArt 600 paper with a new drawing on Wednesday before the tour. Thursday I roughed in major color blocks with NuPastels and then used Turpenoid to liquefy the pastel and have the undercoat completed. My plan was to work on this new painting during the tour so that people could understand how pastel was applied.

Placer Arts provided tour signs for artists to put up at intersections to direct vehicles to the studios. I put up two signs at different intersections and one at the driveway of our home with arrows pointing the way to studio #14 on Friday morning before the tour was to start. The tour began at 10:00 am November 7th.

The first studio visitor arrived at 10:40 Friday and others followed throughout the day. There were only nine the first day, but several people liked my art cards and I sold nine the first day. One lady, a real estate agent bought seven of the cards saying she would rather buy nice art cards made here, than Hallmark cards that are now made in China.  Saturday was a busier day and I sold five more cards, answered many questions and enjoyed talking to a lot of nice people. Sunday was the last day of the tour and seventeen more people visited and I sold five more art cards.

A lot of my visitors signed my guest book, and complimented me on my art. I explained the pastel process since I was working on a painting in the slack times. One gentleman really liked one of my barn paintings because it reminded him so much of his grandfathers farm. A lady and her husband also liked my art and discussed having me do a commission in the new year. They took one of my business cards when they left and hopefully will follow through.

All in all it was a great experience and one I would do again. It was a little disappointing that there were no print or painting sales. I am not sure if it is the economy, or just tight times for many people.  From outward and appearances my visitors enjoyed their visit and sought out my studio.

The Joy of a New Studio

Last year I drew up rough plans for a new Studio / Sun Room addition on the east side of our home.  The previous year my wife had her dream kitchen remodel completed and now it was finally my turn to have a real studio space.  I sent the rough plans to my brother's step-daughter and she put them in Cad in a three dimensional format.  I used that concept to get bids from contractors so I would have an idea what I was looking at in costs.  The first contractor almost scared me out of the idea because of his bid.  It was way more than I could envision spending and I did not have the reserved funds to cover it. 


I eventually found an excellent experienced contractor whom I trusted who had excellent references and I called six of them to determine the type of work they had done. Everyone of them praised his work ethic, the workmanship and their happiness with the finished product. Once satisfied, I asked Paul Bestelmeyer if he would agree to have me work on the project with him as his second guy. He said definitely, he would enjoy that and would not have to hire someone. This would take my time but save me a lot of money. I also said I would do all the demo on the existing deck.


We worked well as a team and I worked the project from laying out the foundation to digging it and jack hammering the rock so we could set footings. I helped finish the concrete footings, and building the studio from the ground up.  There were many long tiring days as we erected the structure. 


We also had to have inspections along the way, and the wonderful thing was, we were building it above code, a lot stronger than the plans I had an architect complete called for.  We always passed each phase of the inspection.  The building inspector told us he wished more contractors built as responsibly.  I also purchased the windows and doors to match those in the existing house and found a roofing contractor to do the Concrete tile roof once we were at that point. We managed to match the siding on the front as well as the brickwork to the rest of the house.  I found a terrific brick mason who did the brick work on the east side and the front and also built the outside front entry stairs.

As we got closer to finishing the building, I would continue to work painting the inside or outside after the contractor went home.  I pre-finished all of the boards for the knotty pine ceiling so that did not have to be stained once it was up. Once we had the knotty pine ceiling installed we could spend time on the finish work. The finish work inside took quite a while to complete with all of the trim moldings around doors and the fancy trim on the east side windows.


The finished studio is a very comfortable well lit place to read, drink coffee, and most importantly to create new paintings. It is our favorite room in the house.


I love to put classical piano music on while painting and relax and enjoy the beauty I am hearing. That comfortable space translates to brighter more balanced work as I create new paintings.


Now that I have my own studio, I  applied to be on the fall Auburn Artist's Studio Tour in November of this year.  A few weeks ago I was told I was accepted and will enjoy the opportunity to  show my work in this wonderful room.

An Artist's Job is Work!

Artists all over are working hard to create works that they hope will turn heads or stop people in their tracks. While creating works of art is a pleasure and offers many challenges for us creative types it is also work.  When I work on a painting I find that each subject I have chosen has its own frustrations and blocks. Sometimes the work may go smoothly, and other times it may be a difficult learning journey.  When creating a painting and things just don't always turn out as intended I fuss and change things hoping to bring it to a close.  Sometimes a composition that initially seemed just the right setting just does not hold up when it is on the easel and nearing completion. Those are the times I struggle to correct, change, start over or toss the painting rather than waste the time on one that will just not measure up to my own standards.  That journey is part of the growth to improvement.

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There are so many things I could paint, but the decision once it is made, to push forward with a particular subject is sometimes more difficult than I had anticipated.  I don't always know automatically every time just what my next subject may be.  I like to be in sync with my subject, and feel fully engaged and enjoying the journey. I also like to vary my subjects and switch from landscapes to animals or birds periodically to keep me learning and challenged. Once in a while I will decide to go out painting plein air and choose to paint a very old deteriorating barn that has lots of character. The variance in subject matter provides different challenges and focus as well as an opportunity to grow my technique and my knowledge of the medium I work in.  Landscapes can be loose, but wildlife generally needs to be much tighter and detailed. The fur or feathers require knowledge of the animal or birds anatomy to create a believable representation in a drawing or painting.

Continual study and research are a part of every artist’s growth. I don’t know about you but I study peers I respect, take advanced classes, or workshops and read up on the old masters.  I also go to museums to look at the famous painters who are part of the museum’s collection or are a visiting show.  I watch and enjoy teaching DVD’s that fellow artists develop, and pour over their books, looking for tidbits that I can use that may be new to me.  When looking at paintings in art shows and I eavesdrop and listen to people’s comments on what they like, or don’t like.  All of this is fodder for my creative mind to digest and reassemble into my artist’s brain.  When I have finished my next creative subject painting, I hope to see smiles, recognition, or looks of appreciation when the piece is finally displayed.  Most of all, I love it when a person is moved by my creativity and purchases a piece for their home, like the piece below that recently sold.  That brings a satisfaction that few occupations can duplicate.  I hope you enjoy the journey, while you study, keep learning, and creating!

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