Nine years ago tomorrow my Jullian easel arrived. I know the date because my daughter arrived the same day. I'd like to say I'm still using that easel, that I love my Jullian and wouldn't trade it for anything. Unfortunately none of that is true. (For the record I DO love my Jillian and wouldn't trade her.)
Down in my basement:
- Jullian full box easel
- Jullian half-box easel
- table top easel
- Open Box "M" 11x14
- Easy "L" easel
- Stanrite steel field easel
- Gloucester Easel
- two home made pochades
- Guerilla Box
- 6x8 Guerrilla Thumb box
- Guerilla Cigar Box
- One Utrecht Portable Sketch Easel
- Open Box "M" Palm Box
- Julian Thumb Box
- Plus a variety of different tripods, including a surveyor's tripod.
Do I own an art supply store? No. Does my wife think I'm totally nuts? Yes.
For many years I was on a quest for the perfect easel; one that worked hard in the studio, was very portable and could stand up to all kinds of abuse in the field. AND it had to have a reasonable footprint. After nine long years I've given up.
Three weeks ago I bought a studio easel: the David Sorg studio easel. I ordered it from his website and paid $790. That price is one reason I wasn't jumping up and down in excitement. It's a chunk of change, and I wanted to decrease odds it would end up in the basement. So before committing myself I called David Sorg to get some questions answered. I called him in the morning EST, and after dialing noticed the address was in Colorado. Oops. He answered the phone on the third ring.
Questions I wanted answered:
- what quality wood is used? Italian beech imported to China.
- will it fit in a room with 7.5' ceilings? Yes, but I won't get full use of the easel for larger paintings
- how long before delivery? Depends on Jerry's Artorama. They handle the shipping.
- footprint dimensions? 31 in. x 31 in
Mr. Sorg says under an agreement he has with Jerry's Artorama they handle shipping and inventory. The easel can be ordered from the Sorg website or Jerry's. If ordered from the Sorg website he includes some wax sticks to lubricate the grooves, a beefed-up top bracket knob, and detailed assembly instructions. I asked Mr. Sorg about competing easels. He says the "cadillac" of easels has always been considered the Hughes Easels, but he thinks his is a very close second. Apparently Mr. Sorg has taken all the best ideas from various studio easels and engineered them into his own. He also advised me to cut off the top of the center bracket when assembling the easel because of my low ceiling. We had a long pleasant conversation during which all my questions, and some questions I didn't know I had, were answered. It was apparent to me Mr. Sorg is very proud of his easel and stands behind it.
I was a little leery of having anything to do with Jerry's Artorama due to many past bad experiences. They were only handling delivery of inventory though, so I decided to go ahead. I ordered the easel from Mr. Sorg.
To my great surprise the easel arrived in five days. It probably would have been sooner, but the five days included a weekend. Also to my surprise it arrived on a semi-truck. The rig couldn't get near my driveway. Luckily I've a pick-up and I met the driver on a street corner near the house. The shipping container weighed 160 pounds. I unpacked it in the bed of my truck and carted the parts inside.
Assembly took half an hour, but only because I had Mr. Sorg's assembly instructions. If I'd used the instructions shipped with the easel from China it would have taken...days. The easel fit the space perfectly and I was getting paint on it within an hour.
Before I get into it's features a word about how I paint: standing up on New Traditions Boards, the largest so far 20x24. I'm six foot and I hold a rectangular palette in my left hand with a few brushes. I use OMS as a thinner and have Gamblin's neo-megalip in a cup on the palette. Even though I hold some brushes, I like to have a selection near at hand along with a large container for my OMS.
The easel shelf is at about mid thigh-height. There are two stainless steel containers on either side: one for brushes and one for OMS. The shelf is sturdy and handy for placing knives or a coffee cup. Above the shelf is another grooved shelf for brushes. I keep two stainless steel rulers there. Two grooved "wings" extend from the side of the larger shelf, another place for brushes or miscellaneous tools. A paper towel holder is under the shelf. Very handy. The entire easel is on beefy metal casters; the front two of which lock. They are also adjustable for leveling. The hardware is all-over solid. The wood is solid and nice quality.
The real beauty of this easel is its bracketing system. Top and bottom brackets are surfaced in a heavy grit sandpaper. The bottom bracket runs the width of the easel. The top is about ten inches. I can place a panel in the brackets and have the surface flush, ramrod straight with no jiggle, wiggle or after adjustments. There is no annoying shadow cast by the top bracket. I can paint over the entire surface of my picture at any time. What luxury!
If I had higher ceilings I know I'd be raving about the pulley system for adjusting the painting. With two fingers you can raise or lower your painting surface, without taking it out of either bracket. The pulley system still comes in handy with my low ceiling, but when lowering it I also lower the brush holders and OMS container. They can end up around my shins, so I'm stooping over to rinse/select brushes or grab some paper towels. A word on the paper towel holder: not the greatest. It works fine, but it's plastic and I have to struggle every time to place the roll. Then I use it without thinking. Very minor gripe.
The bottom bracket has two adjustment knobs. If I'm not careful my painting won't be level. For this I have a line level I use, keeping it handy on one of the "wings". A line level can be bought at Lowe's for, I'm guessing, fifty-cents. Definitely worth it. I place it on the bottom bracket, level, and tighten knobs. A few seconds.
So there you have it. Am I going to get all gushy about this easel? No. My highest praise is this: the easel allows me to do my job. It's solid, my surface doesn't move, there are no pesky shadows and I can work without worry. Once the painting surface is placed I can PAINT, in comfort, without interruptions from my easel. High praise indeed. Definitely worth the price.
Now if I can only get my kids to obey our House Rule: "No Talking to Daddy When He's Working Unless There is Bleeding or Something is Broken." Ya, like that'll ever happen.