I remember my first studio art class freshman year of college – the sort with easels.  We students stood besmocked,  holding pieces of charcoal, looking over either our left or right shoulders – depending on our handedness – at a posing fellow-classmate for our gesture drawings.   We all looked like “real” artists, gazing at our model and glancing now and then at our easels as we made sweeping motions with our arms.

“Use your whole arm!” said our teacher.  “Make those figures take up the whole paper.  The whole paper!  They can go off the page if you need to!  Loosen up that arm.”  I could have gesture-drawn all day.  I love the feel of charcoal on newsprint.  And I felt one with the artist community, knowing that Howard Pyle and NC Wyeth and Bouguereau and Rembrandt and all the Renaissance greats had probably stood in their studios using great sweeping strokes, wearing spattered smocks and funny flat cloth caps.

I have a table-easel now.  I generally use it on the floor, and I sit on the ground to draw from it.  I don’t look like a Renaissance great.  And at the moment I’m working on a pastel where the carefully blended sky will be in danger from the pastel crumbling down from leaves and branches if I work on it upright.  I realised it needed to be flat, so I’m not using my easel at all.

What do you think my art professor would think if she could see me now?

All my weight is on my elbow, and my left hand is gripping my right tricep to fully support that arm.   It seemed like a natural enough position at the time, but partway through the absurdity of it hit me.

Loosen up that arm. Use your whole arm.

I had to laugh.  Do all artists stand at their easels in their smocks, using free and easy strokes, or do some of them end up stretched out on their bedroom floors, in odd contorted positions, clutching their arms to steady their shaking hands?

Confessions, anyone?