I always love to check out other artists' studios. Not only do I take comfort that my studio is not as messy as some, I also enjoy seeing how other artists work.
Some artists use a corner of a living area - a spare bedroom - the laundry - the garage - anywhere they can find space in their home. Some have a dedicated studio in their home, attached to their home or in a separate building (eg shed) beside their home. Others have commercially available studio spaces or may own a building (eg warehouse) elsewhere that is used for a studio. I have a small dedicated studio attached to my home.
There are studios that amaze me with their pristine cleanliness and tidiness - glistening surfaces - nothing out of place. How on earth are the artists both productive and so clean and tidy? Where do they find the time for clean and tidy? Maybe, I need to be better organised. I do like my studio to be reasonably clean and reasonably tidy (my idea of reasonable and your idea of reasonable might be very different) but pristine will never happen. In any case, I would not be inspired in a clinical, bland, minimalist space. I need stuff around me. Each to their own.
My favourite studios are the messy ones - the ones with crap all over the place - mountainous blobs of dried paint on overused palettes - old fully squeezed paint tubes laying around - dirty jam jars, jam tins and the like - canvases piled against walls - paint all over the floor - absolute chaos. These are the ones that reflect enthusiastic and passionate artists who have little time for anything but making art. (Of course, some of them could be just lazy and unproductive - but let me dream.) My studio never gets quite this bad. I need a slight degree of organisation to be able to progress with my artwork and I am easily frustrated if I can't find stuff. But, how I love the gorgeously, messy havens of other artists.
My all time, favourite, messy studio belonged to the late Margaret Olley. Olley's studio took over the whole living area of her home - kitchen included. The kitchen and dining area were only tidied to receive dinner guests. "As a young woman, I quickly discovered that it was easier to entertain people two nights running while the table was set up and the kitchen was on the go," Olley stated in 'The Artist's Lunch' by Alice McCormick and Sarah Rhodes (2008). Margaret Olley's home and studio has been replicated at the Margaret Olley Art Centre in the Tweed River Art Gallery.
Wendy Sharpe has a wonderful, messy, dedicated space in her Sydney studio - and such a huge space at that (ouch, my jealousy is showing!) Francis Bacon worked in a very messy, chaotic studio. The contents of Bacon's studio have been relocated from London and the studio replicated at the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Sculptor, Alexander Calder's studio is shed heaven.
I recently changed part of my studio around. Over time, some minor changes within my studio (okay, me trying to jam more easels and storage into my small, already crowded, studio space) meant that I couldn't back away from a painting to view it from a distance. I had to take it to an easel in the entertainment area (yes, there is an easel in the entertainment area - for photographing artwork) so that I could see it from a distance - either that or go outside and look at it through the windows like a peeping tom.
This was getting to be a pain in the proverbial so I decided a re-arrangement of the studio was necessary. Now, I only needed to re-arrange one corner of the studio - BUT - to do that I had to shift two, separate tables no more than 18 cm each, in one direction only, to make the new arrangement work. Was that going to be easy? No. of course not.
The table near the louvres needed to be shifted about 15 cm towards the lounge chair - including all the framed paintings that are stored under it - more about this soon. The table in the centre of the room needed to go about 18 cm towards the print area. However, it is not just a table. It is a work top covering an old, table desk and a chest of drawers with a painting storage space in between. The table has a slide out section on top where I store watercolour paper and there are 1 1/2 x 2 (inch) spacers at each end of the table to bring the height up to equal the height of the chest of drawers. Over the top of everything is a sturdy ply work top. No, definitely not an easy job to shift these two tables.
My studio as it was in 2013 - much tidier but still limited distance to view artwork on easels. I don't have any recent photos before the re-arrangement was done.
While the work top and slide with paper needed to be removed from the centre table (after shifting all the stuff on top - easels, materials etc), the paintings and other gear stored underneath didn't need to be removed. Thankfully, the chest of drawers slid relatively easily across the carpet. The paintings between the chest and the table were laid back against the table until the chest was moved and then they were slipped across and laid against the chest ready for the table to be moved. The slide of paper was relocated to the top of the chest while the table was pushed across. A couple of things underneath needed to be pushed aside a little to allow the table legs room to move. This shift was slightly more difficult than the chest -- but achieved with little fuss. The stuff underneath was slid across to match the new position. The slide with paper, the spacers and the work top were all quickly set back in position.
The side table, however, was a nightmare. All the framed paintings had to be moved elsewhere including some unused canvases stored between the table and the lounge chair. All heavy stuff was taken off the top (double top - a sturdy piece of ply over the bowed, original table top) and careful manoeuvring of the table began - careful because it is an old style folding table. It might have only needed to be shifted about 15 cm but it still managed to start to collapse before getting there. Quick work was needed to catch the stuff that was still on top of it before it all slid to the floor.
In such a confined space it was difficult to remove the ply top which was sitting at an awkward angle. Then, the table needed to be tipped on its side to realign the legs and because of the way it collapsed it needed to be tipped towards the centre of the room. This meant I had to climb over the lounge chair to access the underside of the table - and to get back out. The legs were not only collapsed but one end was coming adrift from the metal frame under the table top. Rough repairs - think Bush Mechanics - had been made previously (the last time the table collapsed when moved slightly) and these needed more attention. Finally the legs were patched up and extended properly. Standing the table back up was difficult - heavy table and legs prone to folding up - but it was conquered and the table safely moved into the desired place. The framed paintings were moved back underneath. As can be imagined, the studio became a little 'blue' during this episode. It would have been a good skit for one of those comedy shows on TV.
With the tables sorted it was time to re-arrange the gear in the targeted corner. Sundry, minor, storage trolleys (cheap wire and plastic drawers/baskets on wheels) were moved out of the way. The space was cleaned ready for the main task.
A sturdy easel that was backed up against the end of the table was shifted to have its back against the louvres and storage shelves were moved from the end of the metal, work bench to take the place of the easel. Two, old, telephone cabinets and their ply top were moved from behind my sewing area (originally used for a second, computer area - since disused) and placed under the front window where the storage trolleys had been.
With the main pieces now in place the other easels could be placed to allow easy viewing and the rest of the stuff could be organised for easy access - paint, brushes etc. It took all day to accomplish but it has been well worth it. Everything now works the way I want it to.
Check out this video of my studio - my first video, ever.
Until next time
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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Artist Diary 4
Artist Diary 3
Diary of a tired artist continued
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