Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mahl Stick

The mahl stick is a rod with a padded or cork tip held in the non-painting hand.


The brush hand rests on the the mahl stick to give it control and to keep it from touching the wet paint.


My plein air mahl sticks are made from metal or wooden dowel rods. But in the studio I use a 26 inch section of a wooden yardstick instead of a dowel. It is sanded and finished with tung oil.


On the underside of the tip is a wooden spacer. This holds the stick at a constant height of about ¾ inch above the paint surface. The inside of the tip is hooked so that the mahl stick can hang vertically onto the top of the drawing board when not in use.


The yardstick markings make it handy for measuring and for ruling lines in the pencil stage. Wood-burned into the top surface is the classic maxim from Ovid: “ARS EST CELARE ARTEM” (it is art to conceal art); in other words, "true art conceals the means by which it is achieved." You might find another maxim that fits you better at this link or this link.


From time to time I use an acrylic bridge. This also stands about ¾ inch off the drawing surface on two legs. This is especially good for inking with a dip pen or Rapidograph.

Tomorrow: Color—from Mask to Palette

8 comments:

Adam Paquette said...

Great post Mr G, I have 'Quo Animo' inscribed into the wood of my easel, reminding me to check my intention and reconnect to the expression behind the painting if i get too lost in the technique or the details.

Also stoked that you enjoyed Briggsy's hue value chroma website. My childhood inspiration and my first true art teacher combining forces! The sharing of great wisdom freely amongst the people... surely there is a maxim for that? ;)

Michael Chesley Johnson, PSA, PSNM said...

What a great blog this is! I can't believe you've packed it with such good stuff. I am now a confirmed reader.

James Gurney said...

Thank you, Michael, and I love both your backpack painter blog and your plein air blog, especially the concept of the "mother color."

Joe Kresoja said...

James, I've heard a good place to get a Mahl stick on the cheap is Good will or salvation army.I've seen buckets of them there. Buckets of old canes that is. Enjoy reading your blog.

Michael said...

Yes! I made a makeshift version for my graphic design classes when I was using rapidographs. It was made from a long ruler and many, many layers of masking tape.

James Gurney said...

Adam, I appreciate "Quo Animo." Good idea to keep in mind.

Michael and Joe, thanks for the tips. Never thought of canes. They'd feel great in the hand.

Michael Chesley Johnson, PSA, PSNM said...

Thanks for the kind comment, James.

sasadangelo said...

Hi James,
I wrote an article about my mahl stick.
http://en.disegnoepittura.it/how-to-build-your-own-mahl-stick/
It cost less than 10 Euro.