The perfect artist studio
As a painter, I’ve been through so many studio incarnations but I’ve never really been in a position to create the perfect space. I’m not sure if that really exists, so much of a space is dependant on my work at the time (the work is the only thing that has had more incarnations than studios). Of late, I must admit that I’m getting closer. It’s still a compromise, there’s always a little niggle here or there so I’m always fine tuning what’s important for me to be creative. My environment needs to inspire, if I don’t want to be there – then that’s a problem. It needs to be practical and this is probably the hardest part. My needs change with my work. When I’m scumbling and pushing paint on a large canvas I need a sturdy, upright solution to hold my ground steady. If I’m working in a more fluid way I need a flat surface which requires a lot of space and is open to getting really messy.
Storage is the real achilles heel. Just when you hit your stride and the ideas are flowing and translating really well… I run out of room. That brings distraction and flow goes out the window or onto the floor and usually ends up with a foot print on it. With all that said read on for my tips on laying out a productive artist studio.
Do we really need it to be productive or is it just another convenient excuse not to start?
7 tips for setting up an artist studio
- Floor space or wall space? – BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT YOUR ARTS PRACTICE! Decide what you REALLY NEED to start/continue producing work depending on your situation. We all want the idyllic studio but until you are making some money from your art can we afford it? l’ve often bypassed my expensive easel in favour of a block of wood nailed to the wall or a decent bit of floor space.
- Can your space be fluid? – Right now I have my best easel attached to the wall on roller door runners. I can move it from side to side or completely out of the way. My main painting table has some ad-hoc wheels screwed to the legs – it moves more than I do (maybe that’s not a good thing).
- Use protection – whether you own your space or you are renting it, no matter if your studio is the kitchen table for the day, a spare room or a corner of your lounge, taking the time to protect your surfaces and surrounding areas will serve you well in the long run – and save time cleaning up. Reusing things like big plastic bags to line a wall or floor space if fantastic. Become a bit of a hoarder whenever you hear of someone getting something big delivered, mattress, fridge or TV wrapping is your best friend! To get started you can buy some large garbage bags, cut the bottom seam off and slice up one of the sides and you’ve got yourself some large waterproof sheets. If it’s a more permanent set up, it’s worth keeping a look out at DIY stores for some cheap vinyl flooring. Often they will have the end of 2-3 metre wide rolls going out cheap.
- Equipment – if you are setting up a space you will already have some artist materials in boxes or containers. Think about any furniture you have that you can use for storing it all, it needs to be accessible otherwise you may as well throw out materials you can’t easily access. I look for items that can be moved around without help or better still on wheels. I’m always buying wheels from DIY stores and screwing them to the bottoms of old drawer units. Opportunity shops are a great cheap way to kit your space out. An old coffee table with a glass top (glass is your friend!) or a cheap fold-up trestle table will work a treat. Collecting a few cardboard boxes, newspapers, even old towels can be handy along with any waterproof containers like yogurt tubs, ice cream containers or fruit cups.
- Don’t buy genre specific – Yes, I use good quality paints and brushes. But I also use plenty of shit quality ones. You don’t need to spend money on quality brands. Some of your paint may not even be artists paint. Why prep a canvas with Matisse white and quality brushes? Why use brushes at all? Consider using rollers.
- Good lighting – goes without saying, super important. Natural light is great if you can get it but that’s generally reserved for artists beyond worrying about space. The main thing is to try and position your light source so you won’t cast a shadow over your work space. Fluorescent lighting is the way to go, it’s soft and powerful. A cheaper alternative is a cheap lamp with the shade removed, invest in the strongest power saving LED ‘frosted’ globe for softer light. What ever your final setup, try to match your light temperatures if you have more than one light source otherwise your colours will be inconsistent.
- Setting your space up – I’ve learnt that no matter how well thought out the layout of your space is, big or small, don’t waste too much time agonising over having it perfect because I can guarantee it will not stay like that. The sooner you stop fluffing about and start cracking on with your work, the quicker your space will evolve organically.