Saturday, January 5, 2013

Project Weasel


Project Weasel : A Wall Easel

One of the things I've been thinking about is how to set up a backing surface to sketch, draw, as well as spray graffiti doodles onto. The room I am working in, the laundry room, does not have large amounts of open horizontal space so a drafting table can't be used. To compound the issue, of the two free spaces available, one is next to a doorway while the other is in front of the washer and dryer. I can't have a table edge protruding in either scenario we all know how something like that has a habit of hitting below the belt if we make a wrong turn. That leaves the option of a vertical-style easel. Typically, a traditional three-legged easel would be workable for most people. But considering my feet tend to kick things at the most inopportune times, I'd say a modification is in order. Time to think for a while.

After tossing a few ideas around in my head, I decided upon a wall mounted easel since it meets most of my requirements. The one drawback being I can't pull up close with a chair and work easily in front of it. But it's a trade-off I'm willing to accept. Besides, I can condense the name from wall easel to Weasel(C), making a clever association—at least in my opinion.

What I'm going to do with the upcoming series of posts is detail the process of building the Weasel. I realize wall easels are nothing new and there are models available for purchase. So am I doing this because I think I can build it cheaper? In the case of high-end models, yes if we only consider the raw materials costs. Some high-end models cost in excess of one thousand dollars. My costs would likely be around the one hundred dollar range give or take a little. A do-it-yourself rig provides a flexibility in tailoring the design to my own personal needs. And most importantly, it provides a sense of satisfaction from creating rather than buying.

Now that I have that issue out of the way, let's cover the major design goals. Some of my specifications will change as I discover what is or isn't feasible because of cost or time required for construction. But before we dive into basic requirements, here's a picture to serve as a reminder to everyone that when it comes to the tools I create, I focus on functionality over form.

The portable shower I made when the shower in the bathroom had major problems.

To me, tools serve as a means to achieve something and as such, I'll save the aesthetics for my art. Time to dive into the requirements.

The Details: (ZZZ time)

The basic design will allow adjustable movement of the painting surface in the vertical plane. This will allow for an easel board to be repositioned to a higher or lower position. A clamping mechanism will need to secure the position of the painting surface.

To make the device usable, the ability to adjust the vertical position of the artwork must be done with reasonable ease so as not to be more trouble than its worth. This implies a need to have all clamps adjustable without the use of special tools. Additionally, the artwork should retain its registration position and not require removal of the piece to change its vertical position.

Another feature I will consider is the ability to tilt the work surface forward or backward a small amount (20 degrees perhaps). Tilting allows flexibility with different media. For example, when an artist works with acrylic or oil based paints, the work surface is tilted backward (the bottom is closer the artist). If pastels or chalk based media is used, the work surface is tilted forward to allow the dust to fall away and not smudge across surface in an unwanted manner. For watercolors, which are a thinner media, the surface is placed closer to horizontal. While I might be able to allow for a forward or backward tilt, the horizontal surface might be a stretch. I'll consider it in my design though.

If time permits (which is not likely), I would also like the easel to incorporate a mechanism for positioning objects over the painting surface functioning independent of the easel's vertical movement plane (layer). The upper plane of movement (via a control arm) is for positioning an item over the painting surface and can serve as an armrest to prevent smearing the work. The control arm must have enough travel to be raised above the work surface to prevent obstruction when it is not needed.

Tilt requirements for different media:
Oil/Acrylic – tilt to the back
Watercolor (thin mediums) – require tilts closer to horizontal
Pastel – tilt to the front (to allow chalk dust to fall away).

End of the ZZZ nap.

With the core requirements in place, time to start creating my monster. My next post will provide details about the basic framework for attaching the unit to the wall. Expect a number of changes too as I learn what does and doesn't work. Considering I'm burning the candle at both ends currently, progress may be slow. Regardless, this should prove to be an entertaining exercise.

Ready to read more about project weasel? The next post for the easel construction project can be found here.