What’s wrong with my unfinished interpretation of Antonio Canova’s sculpture of Cupid and Psyche?
You may have thought “nothing” or you may have a laundry list of critiques, but specifically look at the shape of Cupid’s head as he leans over Psyche. Does it perhaps look a bit too egg-like with the eye on the right seemingly a little too stretched and off kilter.
This is not the first time I’ve been working on a painting only to step back and think, “wait a minute, something is just not right here.”
That was until I realized it was how I was creating my work that was ultimately throwing off the result.
In the studio I have a low table next to the sofabed which I use as my painting table. While sometimes I might hold the canvas upright while I’m working on it, most of the time I was letting it lie flat on the surface of the table.
Now see how the painting looks when it’s lying flat. Doesn’t that look a lot less warped? Well, essentially, that was my perspective on the canvas while I was working on it with it. Without realizing it, I’d been altering the shapes in the painting to make them look “normal” to my viewing angle. Unfortunately once the painting was upright or hanging on a wall, everything starts to look skewed.
As soon as I had this rather face-palm moment, I couldn’t believe no one had ever mentioned this problem to me before. Granted, I have no formal education in painting aside from a couple high school art classes, but still it seemed like one of those obvious things that I thought I would’ve been warned about at some point.
Thankfully the solution that would help me avoid this problem in the future was also pretty obvious—I needed to be working on the canvas at the same relative angle as people would ultimately be viewing it. This meant I needed to get myself an easel.
There are admittedly a huge number of options out there when it comes to easels from the extremely cheap and flimsy to the kind that will blow your food budget for a month. For myself I wanted something light that wasn’t going to take up a lot of room in the studio either when I was working or when I needed to store it. I chose the Cascadia Deluxe Table Easel which only set me back about $34. It folds flat if you need to transport it somewhere and has an adjustable clamp as well as braces up the side to ensure the canvas doesn’t flop around when you’re working on it.
My little baby easel has ended up being a great investment and, as evidenced by this unfinished painting for my 100 Faces Project, I’m no longer having issues with skewing my own work. I only hope that this blog post will help you avoid making the same mistakes I did.