View Full Version : Stand, sit or just lie down?

nana b
10-01-2006, 10:27 PM
I'm interested in what position you all do your pastels. Standind up at your easel? Sitting down at your easel? Propping it up on your lap or on a table? I can't seem to make up my mind what to do. I know I do better standing up but I get tired pretty quick. I have arthritis in my back and joints. Sitting on a stool is alot better on me but can't get the perspective I feel I need. And getting up and down is awkward with pastels all around ready to fall off in the floor. Sometimes I feel like I might do better with my work not an an easel but propped on a table to get to the detail. Don't judge me harshly for asking such a dumb question:wink2: , I'm just frustrated right this minute and tired:( . Or maybe I just want to know if anyone else has this problem. I would like to stand till I get tired and then sit down to work but oopps! I tried that and it just doesn't work perspective wise:eek: . Maybe I really just want to sit if front of the computer and visit right now instead of work on my painting:D.

nana b

M Douglas
10-01-2006, 11:00 PM
Nana I was just wondering the same thing today and thought I should start a thread. But here you've gone and beat me to it. So it must be a good question lol.

I stand at my easel which is actually a tabletop easel sitting on a high laptop table, I keep saying i'm going to get a new easel but this one works just fine for me. My feet do get sore but I find that its great for my back....when I worked in acrylics I sat at a table and my back used to get sore lol so I guess theres no winning. I do take alot of breaks which entails sitting on the stairs viewing my work. I think I sit more then stand:o


Deborah Secor
10-01-2006, 11:34 PM
I stand, but I have my tall rolling chair right behind me, so I frequently perch. I'm not really sitting down, because that just doesn't work, as you noted nana, but sometimes standing is hard, too. Perching works pretty well. I can roll my chair back a ways and look, then scoot forward and keep on painting. Or I can easily slide off and stand up when I need to, which is usually a good idea. I don't paint for more than a half hour without stopping to stand across the room.

Years ago, Albert Handell told me that I needed to step away from my work more frequently, until I was able to tell how my painting would look from across the room as I stood at the easel. That's what got me started on the habit of stepping away. I had to set a timer at first, and it interrupted me something awful--but in time I got to where I could hop off that perch, step across the room, see how it looked, and return to painting with a continuing flow. It became part of my style of painting. (My husband says I get more exercise painting than any other time! :lol:) I suggest this to my students all the time, too, as aside from learning to see what it looks like far away, it also keeps you from stiffening up--in more ways than one!


nana b
10-02-2006, 01:24 AM
Melodie, how funny that you would be thinking of asking the same question that I did. It makes me feel better.
I have already been to bed and I started wondering if anybody had replied to my thread and gave up trying to sleep to come and check it out and I had two replies! lol
And Deborah I think standing up, with a stool to perch on, is probably the best thing but I have thick carpet on the floor and can't scoot the stool back when I need to. Do you mean that if you practice stepping away from your painting that you will eventually be able to tell how your painting would look (at the easel) as though you are standing across the room? I've never heard or read that before. That would be neat but you said you still step away so it didn't work? I do have one of those reverse magnifying glasses, don't know what they're called but I'll have to find it because it does help by making the images look smaller therefore giving you that distant view. That way when I'm sitting down working I can use that instead of getting up and fighting to get the chair out of the way. We are thinking of replacing our carpet with hardwood or tile but untill then I'll have to work around it. I do feel better that someone else has the same problems and I'm not totally weird. Thanks!

nana b

Mary Brigid
10-02-2006, 05:01 AM
Nana b you are not weird. :lol: I too get tired standing at the easel so I make sure I take breaks also. And i keep my colours around the room which makes me walk about a lot. This stops me from getting stiff :lol:

Katherine T
10-02-2006, 06:31 AM
Nana - I have exactly the same problem. I have a disability which means I cannot stand at all for any length of time and thus standing at an easel is completely out. I've just spent 5 days doing a workshop where everybody else stood and I sat!

Now I absolutely agree with Dee about the importance of stepping back - but you can do this even if you sit down. In the workshop I just got up and walked back about 6-10 feet to look - getting up and moving around also saves me from locking up completely so I can't get up!

At home (when my chair is back against a wall) I pick up the work and move it forward. If you keep a straight back and sit comfortably I don't believe that sitting down should have any great impact on your work.

However, getting a chair on wheels (with a lock) which rolls backwards and forwards could also be advantageous. I speculate about whether or not I'll be ending up in one of these at some point in the future - and so far I can see some possible advantages!

10-02-2006, 08:05 AM
I do stand when I paint, but have sat at tables with my guerrilla box outside. And stepping away is a very good idea, and I heard Albert say that many times also Dee.:D
I have sat my box on the kitchen island to paint which is tall, and that works good too. I sometimes paint in there to be with everyone while I paint, as my studio is upstairs. And I have an easel set up in the morning room for this as well. That way I don't feel like I'm hiding away all the time:lol:
I think an important part is whether you stand or sit, is to do one or the other, and not both, unless is perching like Dee does, so you maintain the same sight pattern.

10-02-2006, 08:33 AM
Well, I'm a sitter too. I have bad knees, and while I can walk just fine I develop a lot of pain if I have to stand in one place for more than about 5-10 minutes. Having to stand to paint would be excruciating and I would not enjoy it at all. In my Wednesday art classes most people stand, and a few perch on stools, but I'm the only one who sits. When I started taking the lessons Alex, the teacher, tried to persuade me that sitting was not a good idea, but I told him that I either had to sit or could not do it at all -so he quickly gave in, and now even makes sure he has a chair for me when he sets up the class easels. :) And he seems to like my work generally, so it's not the end of the world.

And when I saw "sit" I mean on a regular chair, not a high stool or anything. I'm in too much pain even with something like that. I have to have my feet flat on the ground. I will get up and step back occasionally to see how things look from a distance, but if I could not sit to paint I would have to give it up completely!

Alachua Artist
10-02-2006, 11:33 AM
I guess I'm an "upper" and at times a downer, just depending on how tired I get. If I drag all my stuff outside, I'm definitely an upper. If I'm in the studio, I have a rolling high chair that I can sit-lean-stand next to as I work.

I have a great easel, so the painting is always vertical - well, not always, as I'm finding I work with OPs flat on the work surface and then pin it up for occassional review.

Deborah Secor
10-02-2006, 11:35 AM
Do you mean that if you practice stepping away from your painting that you will eventually be able to tell how your painting would look (at the easel) as though you are standing across the room? I've never heard or read that before. That would be neat but you said you still step away so it didn't work?
Yes, it's true--and it HAS worked well for me. I can stand at my easel and sense exactly how this painting looks to my students as they watch my demo, most of the time. Albert taught me that in about 1989 and in the intervening years I've found it to be incredibly helpful. (And I'm so glad to hear Albert is still saying it, Tress!) I 'think' from across the room as I paint, but it's the going back and forth that has taught me. Of course, nothing replaces stepping back and seeing it from across the room, so I constantly check my assumptions this way. I'd stiffen up if I didn't keep moving--both artistically and physically. :rolleyes:


10-02-2006, 01:50 PM
A car accident I was in 3 years ago forces me to sit when I paint. I do get up and step back regularly, but I can't stand up to paint or I end up in bed within an hour from pain. I sit on a high stool, though and have my studio furniture tailored to give me good vantage points for still life setups and everything is within easy reaching distance.

10-02-2006, 02:14 PM
I do both, When I sit I adjust my easel so the painting is at eye level just as I do when I stand. I also have a nice small table easel. The part that holds the painting drops below the table's edge so it is at the right hight. The trouble with sitting is the awkwardness of getting up to look so a wheeled chair is ideal, just scoot back and forth. I paint with a woman that sits period and never gets up to look at a distance but her work is alwalys great. Small pieces I like to do flat on a table. But larger pieces have a distorted perspective if I do them on the table so they have to be on an up right easel.

nana b
10-02-2006, 03:10 PM
This is all so interesting, keep it coming. I think that it is helping me to realize that we are all struggling with this, some worse than others. And who knows we may figure out some easier ways when all is said and done.
Thanks to all for your imput.

nana b:heart:

10-02-2006, 03:38 PM

Quote : « I know I do better standing up but I get tired pretty quick »:evil: :lol:

Kind regards,


nana b
10-02-2006, 07:22 PM

Quote : « I know I do better standing up but I get tired pretty quick »:evil: :lol:

Kind regards,


I guess you will have to explain why that is so funny.

nana b

10-02-2006, 08:04 PM
Hi Nana,

I took the sentence out of the context and placed it into another one.
I hope to not have offended you.

Kind regards,


Kathryn Wilson
10-02-2006, 08:59 PM
I like to paint standing, but after 2-3 hours I am "finished." I do experience back and leg pains so I have to limit my time at the easel. I find standing I have better arm movement and can stand back from my easel quite quickly and get back at it.

If I paint plein air, it is standing - I guess I am a busy little bee when I am painting as I do move around quite a bit.

K Taylor-Green
10-02-2006, 09:14 PM
I prefer standing when working on large pieces and sitting at my slanted table for small ones. If my back gets tired while I stand, I place one foot up on something, a small stool or chair rung. This helps a lot.

10-03-2006, 10:51 AM
I find standing I have better arm movement

Ah, this makes me think of another reason why I like to sit! If I try to stand and paint my painting arm is so shaky it makes me feel like I have some sort of palsy. But if I *sit*, as I do, I find I can control my arm much better.

10-03-2006, 01:16 PM
I sit on the floor at the foot of my bed. I could put it on the easel because my easel will tilt forward, but I like sitting on the floor with all my pastel trays spread out all around. I have wooden boards that I tape the paper to and I lean them against the wall or dresser in my room while I place the bottom on my lap. Once I do about 20 minutes of painting, I get up and lay on the bed and stair at it for another 15 minutes and then sit back down and continue.
I do not like to sit on a chair for pastel painting or standing. I prefer the floor. For oil painting I love the chair...

10-03-2006, 04:06 PM
I'm a stander who has had to learn to be a sitter for what is probably the same reasons as many of you other sitters - spinal joint and disc disease and occassional sore hip and knee. I can't sit on a high stool comfortably or I'd take Dee's route. However, my studio floor is now bamboo, and I have a desk chair on wheels as well as full mirrors on what was once a clothes closet so "sitting back" is easy as I can slide the chair about 8 feet away from my easel before running into a counter. I still hate sitting, but there really isn't a good option. When I paint plein air, I look for sites where I can sit on something - or suffer through standing as long as I can. I have one of those Jerry's artcarts, but the so called "seat" isn't at all comfortable, and every since one of our members said the canvas on it broke shortly after he got it I've hesitated to sit on it. Because of my back, I need to keep my supplies as light weight as possible, and the artcart does indeed fulfill this need.

Nana, I hope you can get that carpet replaced soon as I think you'll find a chair on wheels a good option. I know in our next house we want to have all concrete floors (the decorative type) for many reasons, and this is one of them.


Katherine T
10-03-2006, 06:46 PM
Peggy - sounds like you need the lightweight folding chair I've got for plein air


nana b
10-03-2006, 11:21 PM
Peggy, I agree with you about getting rid of the carpet. I use a stool that has rollers but it sticks on the carpet and won't budge:(

Prettytulips, you are so funny. I can just picture you working on the floor 20 minutes and then falling across the bed to stare at it for 15 more! I would probably fall to sleep if I laid down. Paint 20 minuts, sleep an hour:D Do you get pretty messy working with pastels on your lap? It seems natural for me to want my work in my lap also (like when I'm drawing) but I end up with a lap full of pastel dust.

Everyone, I find this all so interesting! We are overcoming a lot of obstacles to be able to do pastel. I know we love it, even if we do hurt!

nana b

eagle owl
10-09-2006, 09:09 AM
What do you think I should do? Can't stand for more than 15 mins painting - arms as well as back - and can't sit for more than an hour. I get so frustrated I could cry!! Some days I feel so crap I don't want to do anything :crying:

Anyone who comes up with a workable solution will have my undying gratitude :thumbsup:


Katherine T
10-09-2006, 01:29 PM
Have you maybe tried working a table with a table easel and one of those funny posture seats where you kneel down and it keeps you in the right position. Some people with back problems swear by them.

10-09-2006, 01:57 PM
I'm taking a series of classes in painting from a live model and our instructor will not LET us sit. Our pastels are also placed behind us on a table so we have to walk back away from our painting to select the next color. I have a standing easel at home and have continued to use this method....I regularly step back away from my work at least 10 feet. It's astounding how different everything looks. Besides, most people do not look at a picture with their noses on the frame....they usually stand at least 5 feet away. The painting should "read" from that distance.
Only my opinion
Mary Johnson

eagle owl
10-09-2006, 02:35 PM
Katherine, that's a good idea. My friend has one that I can probably borrow to see if it helps. I'm not too hopeful that I'll be able to last as long as I can sitting though. It's a complicated nerve pain that's difficult to manage.

Mary, I nearly always have to work flat but put my painting on an easel in the diningroom every now and again so that I have to walk past it frequently. It's definitely a good idea to view paintings from across the room for a few days before putting final touches.


10-09-2006, 04:06 PM
It's interesting that this thread popped up, because I'm dealing with this issue just now myself, so I'm glad to see it, and to know that others struggle with these issues just as I do. Stand, or sit? Either one presents difficulties for me physically as I have both arthritis in my knees that can get aggrievated with standing too much, and a neuropathy in my neck that gets bothered if I spend too much time bending my neck, as I do when working on my table.

Other than that, I like standing at the easel in order to see the perspective of the painting more clearly and I find I make looser marks while standing. But I like working at a sitting position because when I work at my table, I can turn the paper or board every which way in order to see it better and to get the strokes of pastel on the surface with more control. I spent a lot of years doing drafting on a table, and the sitting position just feels more natural to me. A compromise has been to work at my easel while sitting down, adjusting it so the painting is still located more or less at eye level.

I've tried to modify my studio area to accomodate the arthritis by putting down a thick rag rug (I have wood floors) to stand on, but then that's a problem for those times when I decide I ought to sit down anyway, as the rag rug is difficult to roll my chair across. On the other hand, I don't want to remove the rag rug, because I'm kinda a klutz at times, and drop pastels on the floor, and find if they fall on the rug they're less inclined to break or shatter.

One other difficulty is related to the idea of moving back to see the painting at a distance, which I find I've been doing sort of automatically. The way my small studio area is set up now, I really don't have enough room to stand back, and so have either to remove the painting from the easel in order to see what it looks like from far away, or turn my easel around with the painting still on it to do so (I have a French easel which I set up on my desk like a table easel, but it's still a big hassle to turn it all the way around). Maybe this is one reason I find myself gravitating toward working on my desk and foregoing the easel. When the painting isn't taped down, I can move it anywhere easily to get a better view of it.

So, it's a neverending struggle to try to think of a way to accommodate all these different constraints. :lol: Eventually I presume I'll do so however; as I get more experience I am discovering what my preferences are and workarounds for the difficulties. I'm thinking of putting down a piece of carpet pad (that's right, just the pad without the carpet - it's an idea I read about a long time ago in the Pastel Journal) to catch wayward pastels and the dust as I work standing up. And because it's so light, it should be easy to move out of the way when I want to work sitting down.

Carol: that really must be frustrating. My issue with standing is different (arthritis), but I've found that as much padding as possible, both for the floor (rag rug) and my feet (cushy soles in my shoes), seems to help the most. Maybe some additional padding would help a bit for you too.

nana b
10-09-2006, 06:42 PM
Something I have found that saves time at the easel and standing up trying to figure out what needs to be corrected or modified is at the end of the day take your work with you into the living room where you will be able to see it from where you will be. And when your watching tv or reading a book or whatever, glance at your painting or drawing every once in a while and you wil be surprised what comes clear to you. I have a paper and pen beside me and I will jot down notes of what needs to be done. The next morning keep doing that if you see more. I have worked out a lot of problems like that.
The carpet pad would probably help more then anything else to stand on. And Dick Blick has the Safco Sit-Star Stools that the seat leans forward and you kind of lean on it instead of sit. Then standing would be alot easier because you're almost up anyway. It would be a lot easier on the bad knees and back too. I bought a regular swivel adjustable stool last year for my art and I think I'm going to have to get something else like the Safco. I believe it it is Saf-co that leans forward. I will have to check that out.

nana b

10-10-2006, 05:55 AM
Bad knees here. I can walk for hours but standing still hurts. I have a drafting table at home. At the cottage, and for plein airs or in the computer room (WDEs are done looking at the monitor) I have a piece of thick light foamcore with the pastel paper taped to it and I hold it at an angle in my lap or against a table. It's light enough that I hold it at arm's length frequently. I still have to get up and step away now and then.

10-10-2006, 03:15 PM
mine LOOK better when I sit. saying that, I stand since I got an expensive easel. make sense? of course not LOL