Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Old Drawing Table

I’ve updated quite a few things in my studio, but I hang onto a few old relics for sentimental reasons.

The drawing table dates back to my high school years. I took it to college at UC Berkeley. The wood is full of pinholes, and the wing nuts are always loose, a tightener crank busted off so I use a C-clamp, and it wobbles.

But I can’t bring myself to replace it. It’s like an old friend. All my dreams have flowed through it.

I’m not the only one who feels loyal to an old drawing table. The dark fantasy master Brom has kept his drawing table since he was fourteen (photo courtesy ImagineFX magazine).

What’s the oldest studio item that you keep on using? Do you use something that you inherited from a mentor or ancestor?

Please vote in the poll at left. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.


Unknown said...

I come from a family artists and have zillions of old art supplies but there is a particular Peacock blue fountain pen that once belonged to my great Grandmama I feel naked without. It has been used so much that when I loaned it to a left handed friend she couldn't use it because the nib was so worn down on the right side.

J. Bustamante said...

I haven't had a studio for long, but the one piece i will always keep with me is the glass door from an entertainment center that i use as a palette.
A few years ago, when i started painting, I was using a regular sheet of glass from a hardware store. One day my dad was helping me move out and back to college when he accidentally dropped the palette and it shattered. The next day he greets me with a 3 foot long glass door with the hinges still on. I made a stand for it that holds it up at about 35 degrees, and now i never run out of room to mix paints!

Unknown said...

I have a drawing table in my studio, but also an old kitchen table I work at for some things. It's the table from our family farmhouse. I like working on it, because I would sit there and draw in the kitchen when I was a kid.

Mike Lawrence said...

I recently bought a "new" (from the 1930's that my buddy helped me refinish) drafting table, but I can't bring myself to toss my old broken table that I got for Christmas when I was 13. The surface is scarred and warped and it is no longer adjustable in any way, but I can't help but hope that one of my children will become an artist and use the same surface I learned on.

2willowsart said...

When I was 19 and starting the Ontario College of Art, my mother got me a wooden painting box as a present to start my college career with. I still use the box thirty years later. It is crusted with paint, spilt medium, weeds and grass from plein air painting trips. It is even more special to me since she passed several years ago, it brings me fond melancholy remembrance of times gone by, and future creations.
Thanks Mom

Oscar Baechler said...

My dad got me a light table for tracing when I was like ten, which he found at good will. I then got to college for animation and they cost $50 :P

I don't do much tracing these days, but whenever I get it out I feel like I'm copying my old spiderman comics again.

BTW, as a side note, did you see Alice in Wonderland? More importantly, did you see the shot where they copied verbatim "Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish? It always tickles me when I realize other artists are looking at the same paintings.

Unknown said...

I never really had any big tools when I was younger - I just did my art wherever I could. But I still have a lot of supplies. Like an endless bottle of Sumi ink. It is only 2 oz. but I can't believe how long it has lasted. And Linoleum blocks, carving tools, clay, a chunk of stone. Just weird random supplies.
I also have all my old fountain pen stuff, but it is ALL rusted, so I had to buy new stuff when I started inking again. But they are all sitting in my art box with the unrusted new stuff.

jeffkunze said...

I have a box of old dentistry tools that belonged to my grandfather. I use them to sculpt from time to time, while trying not to think of all the mouths they've been in.

K. W. Broad said...

I've been using the same desk lamp for 17 years now. Found it at a garage sale when I was a kid and had it sitting on my dresser, which I was using for an art table at the time. I've gone through many desks still trying to find the perfect one that suits me, but this lamp has followed me and lit up my art area for years now. It's an old artdeco-ish brass-colored metal desk lamp.

I was recently considering replacing it for a lamp with more manueverability, but after reflecting on how long this one's been with me, I can't bring myself to part with it!

Howard Lyon said...

I have two.

I have a wonderful old easel that I was given by a mentor, Don Seegmiller. It has many wonderful layers of oil paint, most of them his. It goes very well with two beautiful oil paintings he also gave me before I moved. The easel has a crank that uses a screw mechanism that hooks around little plastic rings that lifts it up and down. I don't think I have seen another one like it. He had it before I knew I was going to be any artist. It will be in my studio as long as I have one.

The second item is a taboret that my father, a wonderful woodworker, made for me just last year. I started the design based on your taboret. It is a gorgeous piece of furniture made out of maple and stained like walnut. It is new, but it will be in my studio the day I die. It will be a wonderful reminder of the support my parents have always given me.

Cindy said...

My dad built a drawing table for me back in 1982 when I was really getting into drawing and painting (I was about 14). So, that was 27 years ago and I still have it and still use it along with 2 other drawing tables. I will never get rid of that one.

jamie said...

I'm lucky to have inherited an antique drawing table from a succession of artists that date back a hundred years ago all the way to the original graphic artist for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper up here in the Interior of Alaska: it's a simple and solid wood & iron contraption that I resurfaced last summer, and it really connects you with a sense of history and tradition.
Now if I could only draw as good as any of them and live up to the legacy...

Anonymous said...

My compass is 18 years old.

Julie Baroh said...

I've had my drafting table, given to me as a college gift, since 1989 and still use it (it was hers when she went to art school so it's probably about 40+ years old). My water cup has been the same since 1992.... I've painted every one of my waterbased paintings from it since then. It has an interesting patina.

sfox said...

I still use my Hamilton oak drafting table. We found it at a used office furniture store in Berkeley, California around 1984. Bechtel Corp. had just moved all their draftsmen to computers and got rid of around 250 of these wonderful tables. They were stacked to the ceiling. I think we paid $150 for it.

Steve said...

My drawing/painting table is a trestle table we bought for our first house in 1978. I made drawers to hang under it.

I only use it once in a while, but I still have the metal-edged drawing board my parents gave me for Christmas the year I was in 7th grade (1962), along with a t-square and triangles (one of which I still have), to encourage my interest in becoming an architect. That never happened.

Last, but not least, there's the lapboard my grandfather made for my mother when she was 8 (1926). It spans the arm of a chair. In my first job out of college, I used it when drawing sleeping patients in the hospital where I worked. I still use it. I was annoyed with our daughter when, as an 8 year-old herself, she printed her name in ink into the old pine. Now I'm glad it's there.

By the way, Jim, I love that line, "All my dreams have flowed through it." Perfect.

Sara Light-Waller said...

A reducing glass and a hand-lettered sign reading, “Photography, c. 1906. Scientific Illustration, Department of General Biology.” Both were given to me by my teacher and mentor Donald Sayner when the University of Arizona's Scientific Illustration Department closed for good 20 years ago.

Jez said...

wow I wish I had a drawing table. I moved interstate about 8 years ago, with just my little car and some of my stuff, so my mum has all my ol' relics still. So the only thing I have, is myself LOL
and yes brom is a maasssssster

Ceili102 said...

Using Patton Campbell's Acetate

I sit here,

internalizing my stress.

The ringing in my ear is the

least of my


I slice through

this "acetate (heavy)"

which once belonged to a


Someone who is revered



I feel honored

I feel unworthy

but thinking about it

would he have even given it

a second thought?

This man, a great


--who passed a few days

after I celebrated

my birth--

left behind his beginnings

and his tools

for me?


he did not know.

I was just there,

right place, right time.

to see what a beginning

looks like.

and as I live my own


I can't help but wonder

how many times the man

cut his finger and

cursed this silly profession.

Rose Welty said...

I keep my uncle's paintbrushes. He sent them to me several months before his death. I've drawn them here . He also gave me several copies of American Artist from the 1960s, it would be hard to part with them. When I was a child he gave me watercolor lessons.

Tyler J said...

I still have and use my desk from my childhood. It has multiple cuts in it, a smiley face in silver paint and the leftover race car decal on it.

Oddly, it seems the desk was omitted from your poll (unless I missed it).

Good post, some of these were really fun to read.

Tyler J said...

Let me amend that last part:

ALL of these were fun to read, some touching, some funny but all insightful.

Thanks for sharing.

David Teter said...

I have the same table as yours in photo,(same base slightly different top) my first one. And my Dad's old wobbly wood table. Can't part with them either. I have various drafting tools from the 50's, including some sweeps(monkey tails and such) that my Dad made from scratch. Also, I have my Moms old art box that was originally a piece of luggage meant for cosmetics I think. When my Mom gave it to me it still had some charcoal, brushes and oil paints in it. I still have a tube or two of the oil paints. I have vowed for years to toss out that ugly "art Box" but it always wins... maybe Antiques Roadshow some day.

Michael said...

I inherited my grandmother's oil paint set. I still have a few tubes from that collection like a tube of Grumbacher's Finest Cobalt Violet oil paint (not the Pre-Tested). A little off topic but the carryover from this is the odor of the paint. That still takes me back.

Anil P said...

I could never draw even as I admired those who could, so never had a drawing table.

My writing table since I was maybe seven years old is still there. It's more than just a table now.

China Blue Rockett said...

I actually have this awesome drawing table from my parents; not sure whose exactly it was, but we've had it since I can remember. I guess one of my parents must've had it when THEY went to art school. So useful.

Old for me in memory, but fairly new in use (well, proper drawing use, anyway).

Shannon Crissey said...

All my grandmas old calligraphy pens and nibs. I think I have to live a few decades before my handwriting is as graceful as hers though. Thankfully most of the nibs are still in good condition, just a few have gotten so dinged up I just hang them on sketchbooks as charms.

(You all make me wish I had a drawing desk to grow with!)

Erik Bongers said...

This drawing table I build myself, before I was 18.
It's at barstool's high, as that is the kind of chair I use when drawing/painting.

Markus Bühler said...

Several years ago I worked a lot with metal, mainly old arms and armour-related things. It is very hard to get good hammers for this, because they need often very special forms. One of my very best hammers was a big hammer with a bowl on the one side. It was originally from the tool set of an american tank from which my grandfather "lent" it shortly after WWII. Sadly I had during the last years nearly no more time for forging.

Unknown said...

mMy ruler. It's not just a ruler ... it's my ruler with the original 10 layers of masking tape on the back from 25 yrs. ago, to lift the edge off the paper for drawing ink lines, etc.

Then there's my enamel butchers tray (the kind that warps in the middle for the "blood" to flow to the outside edge of the pan). I was my palette for watercolors, gouache, etc. Would be hard to find a replacement now-a-days. Love it.

There are other things that will never leave the studio. The wooden posable figure handed down to me, that most artists have but no one really uses except to put funny costumes on and pose in silly positions on the desk.

Certain treasured ceramic mugs that, after 30 yrs. aren't going anywhere (Coop Artist Materials/Atlanta Airbrush mug, American Artist Magazine mug, etc.)! They hold my brushes and sort my color pencils.

Confession time folks! Am I the only one who, as a starving art student went out and bought the best, fanciest watercolor paper money could by ..... and now, (25 yrs. later) am still waiting for just the right project to use it for! It will still be sitting in the drawer 25 yrs. from now for a project worthy of it that won't be a flop! ;-)

[sigh] I really do need to clean up my studio. ;-)

Unknown said...

Oops. My watercolor paper studio item doesn't fit the original question, because, even though it's old and sits around as a constant reminder, it's not "being used". :/

Grayhouse said...

I have a pencil case that I have had since I was in elementary school. It's got holes in it, the zipper is barely holding on for dear life and there are faded words scrawled on the side of it from when I was a kid saying things like "hands off!" and "don't touch!"

I still kind of feel that way...

Joe Hox said...

I love how we artists fixate on a certain thing. For me, I've got a drafting table that was left behind by a coal mine that was on my dad's land but went bankrupt when I was twelve. I painted over some of the old grease and coal stains about ten years ago.

Tracy Flynn Art said...

I have the drawing table my folks gave me for Christmas one year, I believe I was around 15 or so, and have kept that as well as an old desk lamp that was my moms. It doesn't work now, but is still screwed to the top of my table, along with its replacement, one from the 30's or 40's maybe, hers was from I believe the 50's.

If I could find more of those lamps I would buy them up.....they are the best.

Tracy Flynn Art said...

oh yeah.......I also have two very old stemware glasses that I have been using to hold the water for my inks and watercolours. One my mom got out of a laundery soap box, don't know the year, but the stem is slightly bent, and the other I have no idea where I got it just that it seems to have always been there by my side.

Tracy Flynn Art said...

ooooooo and there is the box my dad made to hold a palette and paints, and brushes and such for me when I went off to school.

I will stop now because if I keep remembering, I will keep adding more......but those are the basics.....and will always be there for me

Eugen Caitaz said...

Hi James Gurney! I totally agree with you! If you live very much time with something, you cannot just throw it.

P.S. James! if you want you can found yourself in my last post! :)

Allison Stein said...

My dad, an artist, died in 1978. I used his drawing table for several years. It, too, was splattered in paint and ink and full of pinholes, and its surface had been scored by many an X-acto blade... but it got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way. It is one of my greatest regrets. I wish I still had it.

Unknown said...

I was 18 and visiting my High School Art Teacher, just one year after I'd graduated. I noticed that an Easel was missing and asked her what had happened to the one that I'd painted, the one with the purple box.

The screws were stripped and it had been thrown into the dumpster by a few muscular kids who had volunteered. I used a crescent wrench to take it apart and fit it into the hatchback of my 1987 Nissan 200sx.

It still works great, and I've routinely got a painting on it. It's been with me ten years.

frostfyre said...

I have a sketch box of cake watercolors that has been with me for 12 odd years... along with it a pair of compact kolinsky sable brushes. The brushes still get a lot of use, the sketch box, not quite as much... It's run out of a few pigments, and I need to devote some time to letting some tube colors dry in the wells! My wife got them for me as a gift.

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

I missed the poll but it looks like artists tend to be slightly attached to their aged supplies. I have an old drawing board that I bought in high school that is still with me. The clips have long broken off and there are marks and paint in all the corners. It's probably, dare I say, 40 years old. Have a copy of Loomis's Fun with a Pencil that I was given 50+ years ago. Both will go in my coffin.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone, for all these wonderful recollections. And sorry I forgot to put "drawing table" and "easel" in the poll list. They probably would have gotten high marks.

Manda Tarr said...

Hi James! I too hold onto an old no-name brand drafting/craft table. I saved up money from mowing the neighbor's lawn when I was 13 and got it right before entering High School... I'm now graduating College with an art degree. It's been on two cross country road trips (taking up my entire car), and seen probably a million art projects; is covered in paint, x-acto blade marks, gesso and glue, but I'll never get rid of it.

I also hold onto a piece of cardboard that I did my first acrylic painting on. It holds a lot of memories as well... I did a portrait of my now husband on that cardboard... and it to has traveled the country.... It's splattered in many different color palettes of paint from many different projects!

Ben Hatke said...

Ah, I have a big old wooden drawing board that my parents gave me when I graduated college. It's had all kinds of damage done to it, but I still use it.

But my oldest item is my painting pallet that belonged to my great aunt. She gave it to me when I was twelve and it really is in bad shape. That's the item that I keep telling myself I'm going to retire but I just never seem to replace it...

Frank said...

I got my first drafting table when I was 10 for my birthday, and kept it up through college. I gave it to my little sister when I graduated Art Center though, at the age of 25.

Other than that, the thing I hold onto is my first copy (now unreadable due to broken spine) of "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way," which I was given at the age of 8 by my dad's former girlfriend, Nancy.


OfficeAnything said...

I really love your drafting table. The style of your space has a really antique and retro feel that never goes out of style. Looks like an awesome place to inspire and drive creativity.