If there’s a Will, there’s a Way

quick studio

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.
encaustic at annies
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.

fb studioThis 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!

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Thank Goodness For My Studio!

“Things I am thankful for…”  aaahh yes…the stereotypical “Thanksgiving” homework assignment you get every year until you reach high-school.  To be honest, I kept putting off this blog post because I felt like I was back in 5th grade trying to figure out what to write that would be different from everybody else’s paper.  Oh Jaya, still striving for that “A” are we?  Maybe it’s just me but I find that when the holidays come around people get a little bit wack-a-doo.  Perhaps my jaded attitude comes from working retail for 15 years and what I get to look forward to is counting how many times the radio plays “Last Christmas” by Wham.  FYI:  It begins playing the day after Thanksgiving until the morning after Christmas.  Ergo, the holidays are pretty low-key for me.  I get excited when Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s come around because it’s an extra day off to paint.  As this week passed I thought about today’s blog post and how I could really make it stand out.  I do some of my best brainstorming during my commute to work and I kept coming back to one thing:  I need more time to paint.  I love to paint.  I love painting in my studio.  I love my studio.  Thank goodness for my studio.  Huzzah!  Blog post!

studio_before
Before

I’ve always had some sort of art studio/room/allocated creative space but it’s never been extremely effective.  My so-called “studio” was actually the “catch-all” room in the house where I dumped my art supplies and anything else I didn’t want to look at for the next year.  I had to root around for brushes, paint color, or whatever tool I was looking for all the while wiping off whatever film of dust had accumulated.  Why on earth would I want to go in there?  I actually hated going into my studio.  This year I got fed up and finally decided I’d do something about it so I marched into my studio and began straightening.  And cleaning.  And throwing things away.  And organizing.  And labeling.  I could see the floor.  I made a deal with myself:  on my days off I’d spend an hour organizing the studio so it becomes an effective workspace.  My studio became a member’s only club: only the most inspiring implements of creativity allowed in here.  If it’s something I hadn’t used in a while I’d pack it up, label it, and get it out.  It wasn’t too long until my workspace was beginning to look ship-shape and I could find what I was looking for when I walked in the room.  Sheesh, I was actually able to walk into the room without tripping over boxes or canvases or knocking over frames – this was a feat unto itself!  Eventually I began painting the walls, hanging art and feathering my nest.  Not bad!  I might actually get some work done in here…

studio_after
After

As the months passed I grew obsessed with making my studio the best workspace it could possibly be.  ”What do I need to do to make the next time I sit down to create easy and welcoming?”  This is the question I ask myself when I stand in the doorway looking inside.  For example, sometimes I’ll leave paint or tools strewn about the place.  Before I get rolling on another project I’ll put those items back where they’re supposed to go and not in a box, not shoved off to the side.  I know that good studio space is like gold to an artist and not everybody has the perfect set-up of their dreams.  I’m fortunate to have a tiled room that I can dedicate to art and I try not to take that for granted.  This entails respecting the room by using it and keeping it functional.  For the first time in years I’ve spent entire days painting in my studio, relishing in the space I’ve created.  Sometimes my umbrella cockatoo, Angel, will sit on a chair and keep me company.  Usually my girls will roost on my area rug and I will work around them.  When I am in my studio I am focused and the hours pass quickly.

studio_workingI am learning that a studio is a work-in-progress, like a garden.  It is something to be nourished, loved and cared for.  It’s easy to let the weeds grow but you have to keep after them.  It also helps when you have a strong support system which is something else that mustn’t be taken for granted.  I know I do this sometimes, especially with my husband.  Thank you to my family for their continual encouragement in my artistic life, thank you for believing in me, thank you to my patient husband who lets me and my art supplies take over the house.  Thank you for letting me interrupt your movies or televised sporting event to show you some microscopic detail I changed that couldn’t wait until a commercial.  Thank you for being my cameraman, sherpa, fan club, punching bag, personal chef, and technical support.  This studio wouldn’t be the same without the strength of my family and especially my husband.  Ok, enough gooeyness, now pass me a turkey leg!

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So you think you want to start a painting?

Part 1

My cousin is getting married later this month and smart me thought, “I’ll make her a painting!” Nothing like a personal from-the-heart gift to celebrate that once in a lifetime union to your soul mate. It’s either that or a gravy boat. So I asked her what their favorite colors are. I got back fuchsia or a burnt red for her (that’ll work! I like red) and…black. Really?! It’s just like a boy to like BLACK. Couldn’t you be a little more creative? So here I go thinking to myself, maybe by “black” he really means “aqua” or a lovely “spring green”. Who’ll notice? No more fooling myself – I’ve got to work with red and black and NOT make it look like the apocalypse. The gravy boat’s not looking so bad now…

While writing this post I began thinking about artist’s processes. I realize that I am very methodical in how I prepare to paint. Whatever the subject matter, style, size, or medium I always start the same way. To embark on my red and black challenge I begin by organizing myself.

BLOG-2---materials

GATHER MATERIALS: I pick out a canvas. I have a plethora of unfinished paintings that I look through. I know I want an elongated canvas and I find a half-finished 10 x 30 with owls on a blue background. Remember when the owl craze started? I’m a little late to that party now so no problem, I gesso over the owls with my favorite Golden brand gesso. Next I look through my black & white collage papers (ok, now the juices are flowing – maybe black’s not SO bad…), I choose a limited paint selection, a few brushes, and some mixed media accents (water-soluble crayons, gold leaf, gel & pouring mediums).

PREPARE MY WORKSPACE: Set up my easel and supplies. I position my easel to the correct height and since I’m right handed I put my palette and water bucket on my right (I see so many artists struggle with their workspaces – they’ll reach over themselves to mix paint, the easel will be too low or too high. Make it easy on yourself and really look at how you have your space set up!)

TAKE CARE OF MYSELF: I eat a quick lunch, put the animals outside, get some laundry going (for some reason I feel more productive if I have some clothes in the wash), and finally use the restroom. This sets me up for the least amount of interruptions (at least the ones that are under my control).

Preparing to paint is also a creative process. Looking through your paints and tools should be inspiring. It should make you think about where you want to go with your piece, and perhaps a new possibility that you hadn’t thought of before. Workspace is equally important. Even if you only have a corner of a studio apartment – you can transform it into an inspiring area. Turn it into a place where you want to create, not only that, a place where you can create effectively and easily. Clear away anything that does not get your juices flowing. “Only creative stuff is allowed in this 3 foot square corner of the room.” When you sit down to paint, draw, write, sing, whittle, design cat outfits, do so without any excuse to stop. An innocent trip to the restroom can easily be sidetracked and you end up cleaning the entire bathroom. So take care of yourself first!

Part 2 “The Creative Process” to follow next week!

 

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