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Your easel, your altar by Robert Genn

Your easel, your altar
by Robert Genn

The American architect and author Anthony Lawlor looks at rooms as containers for the elevation of the human spirit. The kitchen, for example, is a sacred place where raw foods are transformed by the alchemy of heat into sustenance and delicacy. Bedrooms are sanctuaries for the mysterious transformations of sleeping and loving. Bathrooms are closed retreats of personal cleanliness and hygiene.

Apart from perhaps the nursery, nothing compares to the remarkable container known as the studio. Here is a sanctuary where mere materials are transformed into objects of beauty. Like the laboratory, the studio is a domain of imaginative possibilities--as near to "creation" as mankind is likely to go.

At the center of most studios is a piece of furniture called the easel. Whether simple and humble or complex and magnificent, it is at this unit that the creator sets her forces in motion.

You might pause to consider how blessed are we who daily stand or sit before the easel. Ideally, it should be a strong object, so it can be pushed hard against, or be made to hold rock-steady during our more delicate passages. The easel needs to be well lit from above so those born on it can be properly examined, pampered and reconsidered.

The easel is an altar to productivity. Traditional altars have been places of worship and sacrifice, and the studio easel is no exception. He who would do well at one must respect and honour the gods of quality, truth, composition, imagination, pattern, perspective, story, drawing, colour, fantasy and flair. To stand or sit at one, even in play, you need to prepare yourself for labour.

The easel is also a place of sacrifice. Substandard passages or whole works are summarily struck down at this often troubling altar--but rebirth is its usual fruit. Both honour and responsibility go with your easel, your altar.

Best regards,


PS: "For thousands of years, much of humankind has believed that only special places are infused with the sacred and that you must get away from the everyday in order to find it. Not so, everything is infused with the holy--from chairs to clothing to kitchen stoves." (Anthony Lawlor)

Esoterica: While I've built, bought, worn out, and rejected countless outdoor easels and boxes, my studio easel is home-built and has been with me for a lifetime. My dad and I built it in 1974. I've sometimes looked at more sophisticated cranking and tilting models, but I've always come back to this one. Maybe it's the spirit of Dad in its rugged design, the Luddite way it holds onto my paintings, or the patina from my cigar-smoking days that keeps it in its place. But maybe it's the tradition. I've made a lot of art on it, and rejected a lot as well. It's been a life together--this easel and me. I guess you could say I've fallen in love with it. FYI, we've put a photo of my easel at the top of the current clickback.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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