Ode to a Maulstick

Without the proper tools, creating a work of art can be a frustrating challenge. One of the worst situations for me is when my left hand (I am a south paw), accidentally drags along the surface of my drawing. What usually follows are several minutes of erasing smudges and numerous inappropriate words. Luckily, there is a very easy and well known tool to help prevent this: the Maulstick. From the Dutch word “malen” – to paint.

The Maulstick is a thin pole about three feet long, with padding at one end. While the padded side rests on the edge of the drawing, the other end is held up by the non-drawing hand. This creates a convenient rest for the drawing hand and enables the artist to work slowly and precisely, without worrying about smudging or shaking fingers.

Artists have used this device since the 16th century and have even incorporated it in their self-portraits when drawing themselves with their arsenal of artistic tools.  To see a Maulstick in action, look up Adriaen van Ostade’s “Der Maler in seiner Werkstatt.” And if anyone would like to buy one for me since mine just broke…that would be nice too.

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