You can paint anywhere no matter the space. If there is a will, there is a way.
Recently my husband and I made a big move up north toward Sacramento and let me tell you that moving can be a bear. During this time I’ve been working on a piece that I need to submit to the Triton Museum of Art and the deadline is fast approaching. My studio is packed in haphazardly labeled boxes scattered around the house and I have no idea where I put my blowtorch. After a preliminary unpack I was able to gather what I needed to complete this painting. Let me tell you how much of a relief it was to be using a limited color palette!
Our new house has a delightful little cinderblock porch with an overhang that I was able to set up underneath. I gathered a few tables, found my extension cords and set up an impromptu encaustic studio. One thing I failed to mention about our new home is that it is close to a water nature preserve, two ponds and levy, so I quickly became familiar that the mosquito population quintuples around 4 pm (note to self: pick up Deet and Citronella candles at the store).
It is easy to want to just cannonball into a painting but you need to have a space set up where you can successfully paint–and by successfully I do not mean painting a beautiful painting. What I mean is that you don’t have to go digging around for what you’re looking for to make the next brush stroke. This can be a frustrating and time-consuming activity that is not at all creative.
I was impatient to begin working so I had my extension cords crossed everywhere, my fuses were blowing and I was beginning to feel the pressure of needing to complete this piece. When my husband walked outside and saw how frustrated I was he said, “Why not just take a couple minutes and get yourself set up?” What a novel idea! If only I’d practice what I preach. I did just that and rearranged my cords, drew power from another room, and cleared my head a little bit by refilling my water. I also grabbed an additional table and organized my tools. When I came back to my painting I was stepping into a much more “successful” creative space. I set up a couple of my dining room chairs as an easel to raise the height of my painting and it worked out perfectly. After these minor adjustments which only took a few minutes I was able to get much farther on my painting than if I had just kept fighting through my inconvenient slap-dash studio space.
How can I stress the importance of having an effective area to create? If you work at your dining room table then clear it off! Put the piles of mail somewhere else, clear away those dirty plates, and put down your painting tablecloth so you are inspired. If you live in a studio apartment you can make a small corner of your room your workspace. If you like working large then work it out! Is there a spot outside where you can set up a large painting and drop off? I’m sure you can find something if you want to paint badly enough. I needed to complete another piece to submit to a show so I hauled my traveling encaustic studio to a friend’s house and set up outside next to her roaring air conditioner. Not the most ideal working space but I finished the piece and that’s all that matters!
I teach classes at a variety of venues and every classroom is different. I need to adapt to each space to make it a successful teaching and learning environment for my students and me. When I do private lessons at someone’s home very frequently do we spend a few minutes organizing their studio space: if they are right-handed we move the majority of their supplies to the right side of their easel or worktable, we will select a limited amount of brushes to work with from the overflowing brush bin. We will put away the miscellaneous paint colors that we will not be using and only have the color palette that we will be working from in front of us. Simplify your space and only pull out the tools which the current project requires. This will streamline your creativity and is as equally important as learning new techniques.
This is the way I do it, it is not the only way. If you have ever seen photos of Francis Bacon’s studio you might say to yourself, “How on earth did he ever get anything done?!” Well he did! He created a plethora of amazing, inspirational, and edgy work. His version of a successful studio is on the opposite end of the spectrum. On a side note Francis Bacon is one of my favorite artists of all time but I could never work in his studio. The photo on the left was taken by Carlos Freire of Francis Bacon in his studio, 7 Reece Mews, London. Everyone is different and everyone works in different environments. This photo is a perfect preamble to my next point: Having an effective studio space and having a “pretty” studio space are two different things however they are not mutually exclusive. Let me help you prioritize: It is more important to have an effective studio space than one that looks good in Better Homes & Gardens. Get yourself a working environment first, then you can break out the wicker baskets. Your studio is ever changing. You have permission to change it whenever you want to make it a more creative space for you.
I look forward to settling into our new home and fine-tuning my studio 2.0. It’s a huge change and it gives me the opportunity to exponentially grow in my art career so I am thankful. If I can move a 3 bedroom house, an art studio, 2 horses, a cockatoo and 2 house chickens then I have faith that I can find my blowtorch and finish this painting. Piece of cake!