- Lesson details
The New Masters Academy Beginners Program helps aspiring artists start their artistic journey on the right foot. Your expert instructors will gently guide you to an understanding of drawing fundamentals. In this second lesson of the series, Chris and Heather will help you prepare to draw in your own studio. They will demonstrate the importance of comfort and lighting that will help you get started in your artistic career.
- Richeson Caballitto Bench
- Richeson Best Classic Dulce Easel
- Folding Chairs
- Compact Flourescent Bulbs
- Soft Boxes
- Light Stands
- Clamp Light With Aluminum Reflector
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on the right foot.
Your expert instructors will gently guide you to an understanding of drawing fundamentals.
In this second lesson of the series, Chris and Heather help you to prepare to draw in
your own home or studio.
They will demonstrate the importance of comfort and lighting.
It will help you get started in your artistic career.
And I’m Heather Lenefsky.
Today we’re going to talk about drawing furniture and accessories.
So, the first thing we’re going to talk about is what’s called the drawing horse
or the drawing bench.
The reason why they call it the drawing horse is because it’s pretty much a wooden bench
with a nice high back and a flat bench to sit on.
Now, these are the premade kind.
You can order them online or have them made in your local area.
Or, you could also choose to make them yourself, a do-it-yourself kind of a thing.
I personally made one for my home studio, for my drawing studio, and it cost me, including
materials, maybe around $30 US.
But you can also order them and have them premade.
This is very sturdy.
As long as the materials are fairly sturdy you can use pretty much whatever you need
for your drawing bench or your drawing horse.
Now, Heather, can you show us how you would use a drawing board.
I know mine is stable because I’m not as handy, so I paid probably around $90 US for mine.
Yeah, true, typically you can get them for that price.
Yeah, so you’re going to go ahead and just mount up and get ready for work.
So, you’ve got the back that you mentioned before, and the point is that you’ve got
something to rest it on, and you’re going to have a decent angle to your viewpoint.
So, you’ll notice—I think I just instinctively got on and slid almost to the back.
Partially, it’s because I learned how to draw kind of standing up at an easel.
One thing you want to make sure you do is not get tunnel vision because this is so close.
You don’t want to be working really tight.
Maybe have your knuckles rest…
You don’t want to do this.
Right, what not to do.
When you sit back and you sit up, you actually can see better context, the relationships
of the parts a little more easily.
Yeah, I would agree with that.
I like to draw standing up myself.
Whenever I sit at my drawing bench, I sit way, way back.
It’s a danger zone.
Yeah, in fact, I’ll often get up and stand quite a bit just to get a better perspective.
And for comfort too.
But Heather, is there another way you can get more comfortable if you prefer to sit
down while drawing.
There is a way.
If you don’t mind stealing off your other furniture,
or you have some custom-something made.
Just grab a cushion.
Drawing is a commitment right?
I mean, you’re not drawing for ten minutes at a time, I’m guessing.
What’s your standard drawing session?
Oh my God, three hours minimum.
That’s just part one.
So, the cushion, if you’re not as tough as our buddy, it’s kind of nice to have.
The other cheat that I was going to say is that if you’re in a workshop, and maybe
you can’t get up and step back if there is another row folks behind you, take your
camera on your phone even if you’ve got it flipped off into airplane mode, and go
ahead and take a square photo of your image.
And that can act as a reducer.
If you can’t step back, you can take a photo and kind of zoom out that way.
Yeah, that’s a good tip.
A lot of times when I’m at a drawing session using these benches, you’ll be in a group,
so that’s a great tip if you’re in a crowded room, or if you have limited space too.
Okay, that was a brief look at the drawing horse, one of my favorite pieces of furniture.
Let’s take a look at some other furniture you can use for your drawing studio.
Okay, now we’re going to talk about easels.
Easels are my choice of furniture if you like to draw standing up.
Here we have a pretty common wooden studio easel.
These come in all different shapes and sizes.
This is midgrade level, medium grade level.
I would say it’s about roughly anywhere from $150 to $200 US, but they come in all
different shapes and sizes.
They come in aluminum.
I’m personally using an aluminum one at home.
It’s a little bit less expensive, but this one is definitely a nice, big sturdy one.
Now, Heather, as a painter, I’m sure you’ve seen some pretty fancy easels.
Some pretty fancy ones.
Not in my apartment necessarily, but people that work in really large formats often have
significantly larger easels, and some of them are fancy custom jobs too.
But, what’s important is that your eye level stays about the same from one side or top
or bottom of the page.
And if you start working on a canvas that’s bigger than that, you’ll notice you’re
reaching up to paint a detail, and that is going to mean you’re distorting the image
looking up at it versus looking directly perpendicular.
And so those bigger easels are great because you can really move this giant canvas around.
Most of mine are small enough where a little adjustment here or there is fine for me.
I have one that’s just a little smaller than this guy at home.
For drawing purposes and for typical drawing board, I think this is a great size.
Some of the easels we were just talking about, those are for big, huge canvases and big,
impressive-looking kinds of things.
But for most purposes, this is great.
Now, speaking of adjusting for height and things, can you show us how we can move our
drawing board around and adjust the height.
Absolutely, so a lot of them are very similar, variation on a theme.
These two on the front here are going to raise and lower this bottom plane.
This will take care of this top guy, and if I go around the back, there is another one
that can accommodate changes to this height here.
If I loosen this and this one in the back I can take this lower if I want to.
I actually have it high on my one at home just because I have a light clipped to it.
Then if you want to take this down a notch, you want to kind of do it square.
I’m usually careful doing to this too, because I’ve clipped my gamsol right to the edge.
Then you can go ahead and bring this guy down.
Make sure you’re working roughly eye level or maybe about shoulder level.
Does that sound right?
I would agree with that.
And also this top piece.
Make sure your board is nice and secure.
If you want to adjust this way, front to back, you can just turn the knobs down here.
Again, every easel that I’ve seen, they’ve all said similar placements of the knobs so
they’ll be somewhere down here.
You just loosen them and kick your board forward or back.
I personally like to work a little bit forward.
I know it sounds strange, but this way I get less overhead light.
A lot of times in the studio, or if you’re drawing at a figure drawing workshop, the
lights can really affect—the glare can affect your drawings.
I like to work a little bit facing down, but that’s a personal preference.
That’s a good idea.
Do you have to weight the back of it if you’re leaning it towards you or?
That’s true, you do.
That’s why I don’t go too far.
In fact, that’s why I put my foot here.
I’ll often just put my foot here to make sure it doesn’t move.
So, pretty much every easel that I’ve seen, like I said before, all the adjustment knobs
will be in about the same place.
The main thing is you want to make it as comfortable as possible.
So, whenever you get your easel and start using it and start drawing regularly, just
make sure that it’s perfect height for you and the perfect angle so that your drawing
experience is comfortable and your drawing stays nice and even.
Like Heather said, you want it to be about eye level so that you get a nice even drawing,
a nice even view of your drawing.
Okay, the last piece of furniture we’re going to talk about is the most common, probably
the most readily available, and that’s a good old-fashioned chair.
I know we recommend the drawing horse, and I personally use it myself, and I’m sure
Heather enjoys it when she’s drawing as well.
But, we know they’re not available everywhere.
That’s what we’re going to show you today, how you can make the most out of the ordinary,
common household chair.
So, Heather, you’ve got two chairs.
I’ve got one.
Can you show us how you can start drawing if you have two chairs at home?
Yeah, so if you’ve got two, go ahead and just line them up front to back.
One if for you to have a seat, and the other is for your board.
So, support the board with the back.
How’s the one working for you over there?
The one chair is the same principle.
You want to use the back of the chair to support the board.
Not your back.
You basically want to sit like this.
I know it’s a little bit awkward.
You just put your board here.
Now you have a nice, stable surface for your board.
I know this may not be the most comfortable position, but I personally have had to use
the chair myself when I’ve gone to workshops that didn’t have horses.
As long as you have a nice, strong, sturdy board you can pretty much make the most out
of the furniture you have, especially if you only have a chair.
So, in the past artists used to have to rely on sunlight or candles if they want to draw
and paint at night.
But now, with modern technology we can have pretty much sunlight all day long.
Now, there are a lot of different lights you can choose from, a lot of different ways you can go.
So, Heather, can you tell us some of the more common lights you’ll be able to find at the store.
Yeah, just to keep it simple.
There are a bunch of different kinds of lights.
To focus on a few, there is the incandescent.
We can think the Edison era for that one.
Is that the—when you think of a light you think of this ordinary thing.
I’m so glad you did that.
So that’s an incandescent, a common light.
This is great and revolutionary.
A little yellow.
And now we can afford to be picky because there are so many types of light.
There is halogen if you want to do some freeway work at night.
Although, you’ve got to bring a massive generator because those things are super bright
and take a lot of energy.
If we’re talking about lighting a studio surface, we’re going to pass on halogen.
The LEDs, those have come a long way.
I’ve heard of those.
Heard of LEDs.
You can get LED Christmas lights, everything now.
Ah, the little small lights, right?
They’re a little smaller, a little sharper shadows.
They’re getting better, but I think we want to focus probably on fluorescent.
And fluorescents are great in terms of that spectrum that is very white, that’s a lot
And you might have some thoughts on why that’s important for a studio.
Yes, absolutely, when she mentions daylight, you probably heard a lot about temperature
and things like that.
So, let’s take a look at some fluorescents here.
These are the same type of light, fluorescents, but different shapes.
This one is obviously going to be a little bit brighter.
That one looks more like a light saber.
They both produce really nice, even light.
When Heather mentioned temperature, you might have seen this number range.
For me, what it really simplifies down to is the color because lights come in different
colors. They really are going to be warm or cool.
They’re either going to be yellowy and orange like incandescents like Heather mentioned.
They’re going to be cooler, a little bit toward the blue, or they’re going to be
right in the middle, and these are known as neutral lights or white lights, and that’s
what fluorescents offer.
Nice, neutral light, even light.
Speaking of even, Heather, if you were using fluorescents to light your workspace, can
you show us some ways to recommend how to make nice, even light for your studio or your
Yeah, let’s take a look at a setup.
If you can scrape together a little money, we’re going to talk about a simple but ideal
I was surprised, this actually cost less than I thought it would to do this.
These units here, there is a stand with the bulbs, each of these is maybe around $120
US, so you can get the pair for under $250.
The way we’ve set it up is we have the two lights coming in symmetrically at 45 degrees.
If this is our surface here, which it is, and we’re looking at the easel.
If we think of this as the center line, we’ve got a light coming off this way, and we’ve
got another way coming off this way so that this is actually, allegedly a right angle,
and that this symmetry means that this is equidistant here to this.
Does that make sense?
Forgive my draftsmanship.
So, you would put the lightbulb here and this other lightbulb here?
Here we are.
This is our surface.
We’ve got lightbulb one and lightbulb two.
The reason we want them there is want them to hit equally to reduce the glare.
You also want to observe, look at the quality of this light.
You can sort of see my shadow on my side.
How would you describe the quality of the light from these?
The light feels very soft, nice and even, very soft.
It’s nice and even.
It’s also known as a diffuse light.
It’s very soft, very even.
One way Heather got that is not only because the lights are at a 45 degree angle, but she
also has these nice soft boxes placed on the light stand to help soften the light.
But if you’re working with your subject, you may not want to diffuse light.
You may want a sharper light or a harder light with harder shadows.
Now we’re going to talk about ways you can get a nice hard or sharp light when you’re
lighting your subject.
Okay, so we tackled an ideal scenario, and that’s great if you’re ready and that’s
in your budge.
If it’s not, and our goal is to find a way to get going.
Chris, do you have some ideas about another way they can start at a lower budget.
Absolutely, now speaking of budget.
One of the ways you can get started is with an ordinary clamp light.
It’s called a clamp light because it’s got one of these.
These are much less expensive than the set up we have here with the light stand and the
soft boxes. You can get these for as little as $10 US in many stores.
One way I like to do it is you can set it up right above your easel.
I know Heather has a similar setup when she is drawing and painting at home.
I’ve often also had it set up—you can get it just like this, but two clamp lights.
Maybe put it on chair or another piece of furniture behind you.
You can even get two at this price.
This is a great budget way to light your setup and still get fairly even light and fairly
soft or diffuse light as well.
Alright, now we have a simple subject matter here.
Now we’re going to talk about ways you can light your subject.
What I’m going to do is grab a light, a simple clamp light, and Heather is going to
put a simple backdrop.
Now that we’re setup, let’s kill the house lights so we can see the effect better, see
what this looks like.
Okay, as you can see, we have a nice, beautiful, sharp, hard-contrast shadow.
Very, very clear and really nice and dark.
This is great because when the shadow is clear, it really helps you when you’re learning
how to draw to be able to distinguish light from shadow.
Previously, we talked about how we wanted a nice even light on our surface.
As long as we have the even light on the surface we can play around with the light that we
have here. This is an ordinary clamp light on a light stand.
So, what are some of the things that we can do, Heather, if we have an even light on our
surface and our drawing table, on our drawing board, what are some of the things we can
do with the subject matter?
This is where you can creative.
You can play with taking the spot and changing the direction.
Chris has a nice one coming from the top corner.
But, he can take it around the skull, see what it looks like from a different angle.
Change the shape of the shadow.
Yeah, and the other cool thing is he can create the height.
He can come super high up on one end, and watch how it changes the light and dark patterns.
He can even take it like way low if he wanted and come up.
Another cool thing is, you know, down the road when you start getting into color, you
can really play with temperature, different color of lights, different gels that go over
them as you get more confident.
You might even play with diffusing it a little bit so that it’s a little more subtle.
But, in the beginning, that nice, direct spot is great, great to study form.
When she mentioned spot, she’s talking about the shape of the light.
That’s what this clamp light here has a nice—it focuses the light creating a nice
spot shape, focusing the light.
She mentioned color as well.
As long as the light on your surface, on your drawing table or your drawing board has that
nice, remember that even close to sunlight neutral color, you can pretty much change
whatever color you have here.
You can even go crazy with the colors down the road.