View Full Version : What do you rest your arms on?

05-27-2008, 07:02 PM
Hi everyone, where do I find something to rest my arms on so I don't smudge my pastel. Ive seen in some interesting demos,,what looks like a stick with a rolly ball on the end to move around with the arm? Any ideas of what the heck Im asking? Thanks.

05-27-2008, 07:08 PM
Its called a mahl stick. Here is a link to Dick Blick...



05-27-2008, 07:23 PM
Mostly on the pastel on the paper.... LOL

If working with the paper lying on the table, I often put a piece of smoothe paper over the painted parts.

The mahl-stick works fine as a ruler too, when you want straight lines.

05-27-2008, 10:05 PM
i got a cheap cane at a thrift store to use as a mahl stick, and also have a dowel rod with a square of leather on the end, kept there by a rubber band. couldn't see paying big bucks for a stick.

05-27-2008, 11:39 PM
:) Well I don't use anything, I stand at a easel and get real dusty,
Giggle Giggle

Donna A
05-28-2008, 01:10 AM
I'm with Chewie! Dowel stick from the hardware store. But I don't even use anything on the tip. I lean mine against the top of the painting's support so that I don't come in contact at all with the painting surface.

For those who might be working on a table top on a small painting, you can do something that the commercial artists have done for ever---use a 'bridge.' You can buy fancy ones, but many decades ago I used an 18" wooden ruler I had laying around the studio and cut an also-laying-around art gum eraser in half and taped one half to each end of the ruler for a foot. It will span image areas as wide as 16"---and you can vary the height of the feet to be closer or farther from the painting surface when you are cutting the material for the feet. These days, I'd used one, two or more layers of foamcore board taped together for the feet. For a fast, temporary bridge, you could even stick a couple of bits of kneaded eraser to the base of a stiff ruler. The eraser will pull off and all bits can be returned to normal uses when you are done.

As far as your mahl stick goes---you just want to make sure it's lightweight and easy to handle, smooth enough to slide your hand along, and a length that works for the size(s) of your paintings. Start with longer---then shorten as eventually seems appropriate! (By the way---mahl(en) in German means to paint, so is a painting stick.) Enjoy your hand rest, however you achieve it! Take good care! Donna ;-}

05-28-2008, 01:15 AM

When I took lithography classes at KCAI, we used old barrel spokes that were curved and would hold our hands over the stone surface. You could probably just get a length of dowel, and then cushion one end with some wool and cover with a chamois - I bet that would work and be an inexpensive solution for a ready made mahl stick. Hope this helps.

Donna A
05-28-2008, 03:40 AM
The barrel staves are a great idea for a 'bridge', Paula!

As far as covering the end of the mahl stick for use with a pastel painting---the reason I don't use anything and, instead, rest the rod against the upper edge of my foamcore support holding my pastel paper or board, is because anything used to cover the tip would pick up pastel---and, as we work, would transfer pigment continually as the mahl stick would be moved. The mahl stick was developed at least as early as the "Old Masters era" (and probably before) and for use on oil paintings (and possibly earlier on frescos.) The oil paintings were so often worked very, very slowly---with many dry areas---and the cushioning on the tip was meant for wall-sized paintings where it was often impossible to reach the edge (to lean the mahl stick against) when working in the middle areas of the painting---and thus the mahl stick tip was covered with cushy ball-formed end to protect the painting surface, which would have been typically dry when in contact with the mahl stick.

Many artists of the last 50-100 years or so paint so very differently now---with some large paintings so quickly and spontaneously done that it's hard for many to think in some of the terms that were common far earlier, tho there are artists who continue to paint with the gradual process of building up a painting over weeks, months, even years.

For anyone who does have a mahl stick with the nicely-padded tip, do try to steer clear of letting that padding touch your pastel painting surface. It is so likely to disturb the pigment and possible ruin areas you've considered finished. When you are working on a large oil painting and building up glazes---and waiting days in between layers of either opaque or transparent paint, definitely let the cushioned tip rest against any areas of the painting that are dry. And be sure you can keep track of which area is which. Same for any areas in acrylics, gouache, watercolor, etc. that are dry.

We just have to be sure we use our mahl sticks in ways---and with 'touching points' that are appropriate to the particular painting and medium. Donna ;-}

05-28-2008, 12:16 PM
Wow thanks so much for the tips. As a very very beginner,,Im a messy cook! dust and stuff everywhere. I haven't found how to organize better. As a watercolorist, Im organized and know where all my tools should be. But as a pastel beginner,,eeekkk...but its fun,,,its like learning to eat...food all over the face. Thanks again. I love this place!

05-31-2008, 01:57 AM
I have a mahl stick, but usually just rest my painting arm on my other arm which I hold in front of the painting as needed, no cost, instantly available. If I', working flat I use an acrylic bridge, because I can see through it.

05-31-2008, 04:19 AM
I ordered an acrylic bridge from Dick Blick. It arrived today and I was looking forward to trying it out, but discovered when I unpacked it one of the little end pieces was broken off. I have it sitting in the studio overnight drying after attempting a super-glue repair! Hope that will hold it. It appealed to me a bit more than a mahl stick since I work flat a lot.

05-31-2008, 05:01 PM

You could probably just get a length of dowel, and then cushion one end with some wool and cover with a chamois - I bet that would work and be an inexpensive solution for a ready made mahl stick. Hope this helps.

i actually took an old sheepskin coat, cut a square and put it leather-side out on the end. works super, and i do not put it on the painting, but on the support holding the paper. even if it slips, it will only smudge with the padding, not gauge or scrape.

05-31-2008, 08:30 PM
A piece of plastic pipe with rubber cane tip on the ends. Someone here suggested it.