A few weeks ago I began working on a blog post about art and carpentry. The ability to build things with one’s own two hands is an invaluable skill for artists of all sorts. I’ve seen many a canvas being stretched throughout my years spent in art studios. And just the other day I sat on the sidelines and watched as a sculpture class at the New York Academy of Art constructed the armatures they would use for their molded creations of yours truly. They drilled, hammered, took measurements, and cut wires while I, model-in-waiting, enjoyed observing the process. Probably the reason I have so much respect for carpentry, handmade construction, and woodwork is that I’m not very adept at it myself. I genuinely like tools, even though I don’t know how to work most of them and staple guns scare me. I don’t mind roaming around Home Depot and looking at stuff, even though I almost never buy anything. And love the feeling of unfinished wood, even though I have a fear of splinters. I’m a contradiction, my friends. I really dig carpentry but, alas, I’m a delicate girly girl at heart. Now MEN who can build things with their hands? Yeah I’m totally good with that
Anyway, the blog post I started wasn’t developing the way I had hoped. It still sits in my blog Dashboard as a subpar unfinished draft. I just couldn’t get it to click. Something was missing. Then, the answer to my problem appeared right before my eyes – literally – during my visit to the “Hopper Drawings” exhibit at the Whitney Museum. On display there was an impressive H-frame painting easel which was built by hand by the artist himself in 1924. Edward Hopper used this easel in his studio at 3 Washington Square North until the day he died, in 1967. The painting displayed on the easel is Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, which depicts a street scene of Seventh Avenue.
I wasn’t surprised that crowds gathered around this display, many of whom were admiring Hopper’s carpentry skills as much as his painting skills. The wall text did not indicate what kind of wood Hooper used. But the easel had that sturdy, wonderfully weathered, timeworn look that I love in old objects. This baby had been used. And used and used . . .
Things that are custom made are valued more dearly I think. I’ve known several artists who make their own supplies, sometimes because it’s just cheaper than purchasing from an art supply store and sometimes because they have their own personal preferences. With his easel, Hopper was able to construct it to his own specifications. You’ll notice in Hopper’s paintings that he had a proclivity for the horizontal, meaning his compositions tend to read in a horizontal fashion. His iconic Nighthawks, for example, has a detectable horizontal “line” running across it. So naturally he constructed an easel geared toward wide-set canvases.
Speaking of Nighthawks, there he is. Star of the show:
Blogging note: the next post will be all the information for the Museworthy Art Show. See you in a couple of days