Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Easel for Better Ergonomics

Well, I turned 48 yesterday, and I must say that years of hunching over my art hasn't done my back any good at all except for an opportunity to earn money to pay the chiropractor!  My dear Dan has always had a knack for coming up with the perfect gift for me because sometimes he knows me better than I know myself, this year is no exception!  I was totally delighted when Dan and our son Tristan presented me with a beautiful new box table easel for my birthday this year!
Taa-daa!!  I love my new easel!! It saves my back and stores my paint too!!

I had been experimenting with different positions to do my work because I'm trying to rock out 78 cards for my upcoming publishing project with author Lunaea Weatherston, Mystical Cats Tarot, (click here for a sneak peek) and let me tell you, that's a lot of cats!!  So I had propped up a piece of super firm cardboard that was about 4 layers thick and was using it as a sort of make-shift easel, just to see if the position would suit me never having worked on my drawings in a vertical position before.  Lynne Menturweck from Llewellyns art department warned me that I would notice new and different sore muscles I got used to it,  and she was totally right, and I'm glad she mentioned it or I might not have kept going, but I did.  Once I got used to it, it was amazing.  My upper back and shoulders were feeling much better.  And Dan was very happy for that, but I think he was tired of looking at me drawing away on that big chunk of cardboard propped against my table with a yoga block to get the right position.  LOL
"If I only had an easel...the bells, the bells!!!"
I had some of that foamy non skiddy shelf liner, so I used double sided tape and mounted a big piece to the bottom, now it won't scratch up my old wooden art table and I can lean on it as I draw without it sliding.
Putting shelf liner on the bottom protects the table from scratches and keeps
 it from sliding.  I just mounted it with double sided tape
 so I can remove it if I wish.

Since I usually work on illustration board and not canvas, I needed a board to put in the easel that I could tape my art and reference photos to.  Tristan ran with me up to the hardware store where I planned to get some Masonite, but instead we found a beautiful piece of very smooth birch.  Birch is one of the sacred Celtic trees and is a tree of magical new beginnings, inception and birth, it offers success in new projects.  I can't imagine a more magical wood to mount my artwork to while I work!  They cut it to size for me, 16" x 20" and then Dan and I used our sander to smooth the edges down.  Eventually I'll stain it to match the desk, but for now, I have art to do!

So here's my set up, I had a couple of little touch ups to do on some art for a
new item we're going to have in our Etsy shop.  I folded a tapestry that I can rest my elbow
on from time to time.

I really love this set up, my back stays straight while I work, no more hunchback for me, and since I've been using the "cardboard chunk easel" my neck and shoulders have improved tremendously!  I highly recommend trying this to any artist who hunches over their work, it might not be for everyone, I was really dubious being an old dog that doesn't always like new trick, but I'm so glad I did it!
Instead of hunching over, I just lean in, back straight, and draw!  Artist tip: That's
the low tack tape that house painters use to mask off areas, it's more affordable
than the fancy stuff marketed to artists and a roll of it lasts forever. 
The best part is, you can remove it without tearing up your paper or illustration board.
 I used to used regular masking tape but have since switched to this with great results!

Another shot of my new drawing position.

Do you want to know more about the project on my board?  It's already off again as of this writing and one of my Mystical Cats for the new Tarot Deck has taken it's place, but this is a sheet of designs for some new totem animal jewelry pieces we're doing.  I drew them, we scanned them and printed them on our Dye Sublimation printer, then Dan pressed them onto these amulets:

Raven Totem Animal Mother of Pearl Amulet,
available here: Mickie Mueller Studio Etsy shop

Here's Dan modeling the Snake Totem Animal Mother of Pearl Amulet,
available here: Mickie Mueller Studio Etsy Shop

Happy Art and Brightest Blessings!


  1. Beautiful easel! Excellent that you have found a new way to create without body damage. Love the hunchback graphic,btw, lol! Love seeing your studio and your process.

    1. Thanks Robin! It was too cool not to share!

  2. Was so nice of Dan and Tristan to ease your back with an easel ~nice fit. I have always loved Birch, We actually planted a young one six years or so ago whence we moved onto the farm We were told it would not fare well ~but it thrives (then again we have magic soil ;) Your totem amulets are remarkable I must take a peek to check if you have horse & hummingbird in your easy store.
    Spotty Dotty our "Mystical " Bengal cat sends you a "paw up" on your designs!


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