I believe that every artist deserves a space to create in. We need a dedicated area in which to work, and the freedom to walk away and leave things unfinished and waiting for our return. This might be an extra room in the home, or a desk just for you, strategically placed within a shared room. In my case, there was a little room off of the attic, that made a cozy studio space. I was happy to have it.
Over the years, I made a lot of changes in that space, and constantly struggled with arrangement and organization. Storage was an epic problem, since I enjoy several different mediums, and have a lot of art supplies. For a while, it looked like a train wreck, and I found myself almost avoiding the room because it was so messy. Finally, I took a good hard look at the potential I had been missing, and decided to devote time and a little money to making things work better. I emptied out the room, painted the walls, and started over. I got rid of the things I never used, and bought some decent modular storage units to hold the rest. My goal was to utilize every square inch of space as efficiently as possible. What a difference! It’s still a small space, but now it works for me rather than against me. I love being in my little studio and spend time there almost every day.
Here are some things I learned in the process, followed by some pics of my own studio. Maybe they will be of use to you, if you are setting up your own studio space.
1. Decide where you want your main work table to be. Avoid having your back to the door, or yourself facing a wall. Consider having the work table come out into the room, as long as there is good flow around it on 3 sides. It feels more open if you can look across the room as you work.
2. Have a secondary work area for things like paper cutters, and tasks that you do standing up. You can add more function by using 2 sturdy storage units to support a table board across them. Mine is a folding table top that spans over 2 large plastic drawer units. Not terribly expensive.
3. Think vertical for storage areas. One wall of storage space can hold a lot of materials.
Stacking modular components are wonderful for this. Also look into some of the wall systems (usually designed for workshops and garages) that allow you to snap on various storage baskets where you want them. These are great for use above and adjacent to work spaces, and fairly easy to install.
Be prepared to do a little DIY.
It’s a personal choice, but if you keep a consistent neutral color for all of your storage units, it will appear less visually cluttered, and more cohesive.
Assess what kind of storage you really need, make notes, take measurements and reference photos of the space you are filling. Much easier than guessing at the store.
4. Utilize the space under your work table for more storage units, like file cabinets or shelf units.
5. Get as much stuff up and off the floor as possible.
6. Allow for at least one or two strong focal points of displayed art work.
7. If you don’t use, or really value it, get rid of it, or store it elsewhere. It’s hard for artists to avoid clutter, especially in small spaces. The more organized you get, the less time you will have to spend looking for stuff.
8. Keep a good sized area of your work table open for projects, but have the things you use most within arm’s reach. Be selective about this. Time and use will tell you if you have it right.
9. Comfort items, such as TV or music should be considered as you plan. This is your space, so go for it. Think compact. Small TV, small speaker, and iPod will work great.
10. Your studio should invite you in, not drive you away.
And here are the pictures of my own little studio:
I spent the afternoon eco-printing Autumn leaves on watercolor paper. So pleased with the results! The method involves pressing the leaves between layers of bundled paper and steaming them in a kettle for several hours. The tannin from the leaves transfers and imprints onto the paper. My plan is to bind these pages into a book. This is one of three batches I made today. Art and Nature combined.
August was a wonderful month to be outside sketching. One of my favorite places to go is a little local park in the heart of our town. Some of my previous posts show sketches of historical homes that surround this park.
I realized that I had never sketched the bandshell structure, so that was my focus when our Tuesday Sketchers group met at the park last week.
The little red "caboose" below is a food vendor that participates in our Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, and was suggested for a sketching session, by a good friend. We enjoyed good coffee and live music that morning, as we sat and filled the pages of our sketchbooks.
These are a few of the acrylic paintings on canvas that I've completed over the last year.
I enjoy switching from one medium to another on a frequent basis, and have been on a roll lately with acrylics and oils, alternately. I seem to prefer oils for landscapes and plein air work, but gravitate to acrylics for larger, more illustrative work.
The top one recalls a chance encounter in the woods. I was hiking and a fox met me on the trail. We both sat within a few feet of each other for quite a while, just staring. It was wonderful to be able to look so closely at the beautiful fox in front of me. It's eyes were so compelling ! At last, the fox made a little sniffing sound, turned and calmly walked back down the trail. Apparently we had come to some sort of agreement. I turned around and returned respectfully back down the trail. The painting is called Messenger in the Woods.
The second painting was done later. I just couldn't stop thinking about foxes, so decided to paint another. I haven't given this one a title yet.
Here are three examples of my latest Art Journals with hand painted covers and bright embellished spines.
After searching around for brightly colored and patterned spine cloth, I finally decided to make my own. and found that it is not hard to do. The process involves bonding fabric to tissue using a product called Heat and Bond Ultra, which is a very strong heat reactive adhesive. This makes a strong and durable spine cloth, and allows me to choose my own fabrics to use. So now, the possibilities are endless.
The spines are also embellished with long strings of waxed linen and beads.
If you choose to embellish the spines of your journals, be sure do so in a way that allows the beads to move out of the way when working in the book.
The beaded tassels on these journals can be flipped up and out of the way when working in the books.
These books are all 6x8 inches and have 3 signatures of heavy weight paper for mixed media. Just right for painting, drawing, writing, and collage work.
The covers were hand painted with acrylic paint using masks and stencils that I cut myself.
They should make great Art Journals !
I've started to explore mixed media on canvas and find the larger format pretty exciting.
The years of working mostly in my journals has helped me evolve to this different format.
In this work, much of the background is made from cut and applied papers, some of which are from old book pages. All are applied with matte medium, and layers of thin paint give them the color variations.
The Raven is purely acrylic paint.
After finishing this piece, I'm ready to continue more work on canvas, in addition to the work in my journals. It's good to set new challenges !
I was recently asked to be featured on the Elusive Musewebsite which is run by artist Thomas LaBadia.
If you are not already familiar with this wonderful site, please spend some time discovering the rich offerings there. It's a resource for inspiration and collaboration for artists, and such an honor to be asked to do this. Thomas made everything so easy for me, and did a beautiful job of selecting and posting my work.
I recently purchased the new eBrush by Craftwell to use in my journal, and I am so glad I did.
It works great for creating backgrounds, so I have had fun with that!
On the above page, I used a variety of stencils and Spectrum Noir markers with the eBrush, then applied an altered image that I purchased from Mischief Circus. When I work with purchased or found images, I use Adobe Photoshop to alter and resize them. Then the images are saved onto a flashdrive which I take up to the local Copyworks to have laser printed on good quality paper. Working with laser prints is far superior to working with inkjet prints if you intend to use any wet mediums on the pages. Laser images are water resistant, whereas inkjet prints tend to bleed color into wet mediums.
Above is another example of pages with eBrushed backgrounds. Here I cut my own masks out of card stock and worked in color layers. Both of the above page spreads are ready for detail work and writing.
And here is a finished page spread. Again, the backgrounds were done with the eBrush and markers. Collage elements were added and then the writing and some detail work with Prismacolor pencils.
It's nice having the backgrounds all ready to work on, especially when I want to take my journaling with me, and don't want to carry a lot of art supplies. I can take a few pens and my journal and enjoy working almost anywhere. And with so many ways to create backgrounds, the possibilities are endless !
Like many others who have discovered the joys of Gelli printing, I have accumulated a large collection of beautiful printed papers. Lately I'm using them in combination with bookbinding to create unique covers and end papers.
I'm printing with acrylic on paper that is heavy and durable enough to make good book covers, and bonding them to book board. Above is a recent example, and you can find more on my Etsy Shop.
The end papers are also Gelli printed using coordinating colors. When you generate your own decorative papers, your artwork takes on a new level of originality. In addition, the whole process of Gelli printing is so much fun !
Enjoy and explore different ways of using your prints.
After a few very unproductive and troubling months, I decided to join a group of local artists that meets once a week at the Hearst Center for the Arts. Not knowing what to expect, I focused on monoprinting backgrounds for future collage work. Soon, most of the other artists were introducing themselves and new friendships were beginning. They were all so welcoming that I felt right at home, and started this piece. Sharing studio space and creative energies can be like magic, and was apparently just what I needed to recharge my spirit. I was back to working in my studio several times over the next week. So nice to feel that excitement as the work progressed.
I returned to the group again this week, and finished the piece.
The lesson I learned is to seek out the company of other artists, and enjoy the sense of community in a shared studio space. The exchange of ideas, inspiration and general support is a wonderful thing.
Monoprinted background, collage, paint and colored pencil.
There are two things in my life that have been constant, no matter what: art and the need for unstructured time to play. I am a compulsive maker-of-things who believes that every day must have some time set aside to feed the creative spirit. This would include making art, looking at art, reading about art, experimenting/playing with materials, learning new skills, and general studio art-play. To support my habit and spread the joy, I was an art educator for 38 years. I'm now retired from public education, but still enjoy teaching occasional workshops locally. I will try to share some of my adventures in both art and play here in this space.