Monday, November 1, 2010

What's In A Studio?

     I just paid 15 bucks for a magazine!  My wife/bookkeeper/money managing, keep my ass out of trouble, art pard gave me a sideways look.  Fifteen bucks?!?  Really?!?
     The magazine addressed THE STUDIO, and here’s the way I see it.  By looking at other artist’s workspaces, I think we generally fall into one of two categories.  The Spartan, organized type…. And the more Mark Kohler types.  Some are show pads, while others are strictly working environs. 
     Seeing how others work starts my wheels turning.  I realize a couple of important things about other working artists: 1) they surround themselves with good art (their own and other artists) and 2) many have their book collection incorporated into their workspace.  Inspirational items abound; drawing easels, still life items and art materials are scattered throughout the space.   Common furnishings seem to include favorite chairs, antique taborets, and battle-scarred worktables.
     I’ve worked at this craft for 16 full-time years and just got a “designated” studio two years ago.  When Pam and I lived in Sabinal, TX, we made due for 7 years in a 10 x 12 extra bedroom, but it was a studio.  Don’t ever slight your work environment.  If great art is produced there, who cares if it is from a spare bedroom or the corner of your living room? 
     I think, with our artist egos, we are guilty of wanting to project a perfect image for our collector base.  The most stressful time for us can be when they want to visit our workspace.  If a collector is looking for a tearoom with biscotti, chocolate truffles and 20 foot, north-facing glass panels with electronic window treatments, then they will be sorely disappointed.
     Most collectors aren’t that shallow.  They are interested in you.  So allow them in and get to know them.  They might just become some of your closest friends.
     My studio appearance runs in cycles; from spotless to a certifiable wreck.   I work in a frenzy for several paintings, and then I reach a point where I can’t function without stopping to clean and reorganize.
     I want my workspace to be inviting to others, but 99.9 percent of the time, it’s just me and Pam pushing against the grindstone.
     So what does this all mean?  Build the workspace that allows you to do spectacular paintings.  Make it functional first, then start laying on the icing.  No matter where you are in your artistic journey, you must make your workspace “special”.  Make it fit your needs and your personality.
     I have a collector, and good friend, in Houston whose passion is quilting.  I affectionately call her “the sewing nut”.  She invested heavily in her workspace because she enjoys her craft and the process.  I’m completely blown away by the functionality and ergonomics of the room.  She left nothing unplanned or to chance.  It shows in her final product…. Her quilts are beautiful!
     So, if you’re bored with your surroundings, check out the “Studios” issue of American Artist magazine, on the newsstands now.  It will be a great inspiration.  And with great inspiration, comes great art.  And that $15 will be well spent.   


  1. I have taken over a small enclosed porch which offers very little usable space but it my space non the less. Natural lighting is terrible due to a larger covered porch addition. So my question to you and others is favorite lighting sources and options to work with when natural lighting is of little help.

    David McMullen

  2. Thanks for the nice words. Keep it up - you just might get your own quilt!

  3. David,

    This is pretty easy to solve. This is what I would do: I would go to Home Depot and purchase 2 of the inexpensive fluorescent tube holders (some people call them shop lights). Then purchase a box of fluorescent tubes. It will tell you where they fall on the Kelvin scale, and you want them closest to the daylight end of the spectrum --- I think that's about 5500. They will simulate natural light.

    And then i would buy a swing-arm light for my table. They're cheap at Target or Ikea (60 watt incandescent bulbs) This will give you a cold light (fluorescents) and a warm light (table light) on your painting, which will let you see your paper about as perfect as possible.

    I've heard that the Ott fluorescent bulbs are good, but they are more expensive and I think they're too cool. I'll try to address this issue in my post tomorrow. It will be a good topic.