Shaun Johnston British, now living in Hudson Valley NY Email address
Wearable easel
For sketching with oil pastels in museums I created a wearable easel. Basically it’s a board attached to a sling that I pass around my shoulders. My first version was extremely simple. The sling was a tie stapled at the ends onto opposite corners of light board, shown from underneath on the right--a sheet of brown paper covers the staples. To soften the pressure of the board against the stomach that end of the board was hollowed out and a strip of fabric stretched across it. This worked well for small sketches, but did exert pressure against the neck.
I have since created an “improved” version. I put improved in quotes because I’m not sure the refinements are worth the trouble. Still, here it is:
Key features are: Use of a broad swathe of fabric (I used tulle) to spread the burden of supporting the board more widely over the shoulders and back. This works very well. More swathes of this fabric to spread the pressure of the board against the belly. See it stretched across my jeans, and in the photo below. The near edge of the board is held half an inch or so away from me. This also works well. The board feels weightless. The board consists of two sheets of foamcore glued together. I cut grooves in these sheets and glued wooden dowels inside them. I drilled for and glued eye-rings into the ends of these dowels--see under my elbows in the photos to the right. Clipped onto them are both the fabric passing over my shoulders to support the board and the fabric bands that keeps the board from cutting into my belly--see photo below right. Plus, on the left side, a string and hook to keep the board level in use, otherwise the left side drops. For work that requires firmer support I bought a monopod that I can attach (with velcro pads) to the center of the underside of the board. Then it’s like working at a table. This easel can take paper 16 x 20. It can take my erasable color sketching board. If I can hold my materials in my left hand I can be truly mobile while sketching in color.
The main disadvantages are that it’s become unwieldy to transport, and cumbersome to put on. But it’s amazingly comfortable, and holds artwork at a very convenient distance and angle of view.