Studio tools for the emerging artist 1: Get your painting space!

art studio Ans taylorI want to start with a little series about studio tools I value. This gives me a chance to introduce my happy little art working space, and maybe share some useful tips with you. Even if what works for me might not exactly fit your situation, I hope you will get something out of it to try yourself. 

While we were moving with the military from Germany to the US, across some states and then over to Japan for a couple years, I tried to paint on rare occasions at wherever ‘home’ was. While my job as a tattoo artist travelled easily (and thankfully I was drawing every day at work), oil paints were not admitted in military luggage. So watercolors and acrylics seemed the way to go, which turned out to be quite fortunate. I had my tall easel with the current painting standing in a room corner – when I heard a thump and saw the tiny Japanese kitten, that had just recently joined our family from the streets of Tokyo, happily climbing up the front of the painted canvas (note to self: textured paint paste screams ‘free-climbing wall’ to adventurous cats). 

Now imagine it would have been slow drying oil paint instead of acrylics…

So what did I learn from this – and from countless pen-wrestling matches with our two rescued monsters? If I ever wanted to take up my love affair with oil paints again, or do lasting artwork without continuous interruptions by someone trying to catch my brush, I needed my own space with at least a door or two (two are better) between me and friendly interruptions. To include never-ending household chores and other useful errands threatening to eat up your creative time!

There’s nothing like having your own little space that allows you to 

  • Have all your paints and art tools together in one spot, where you have a good overview of your options and supplies and don’t have to search them when inspiration hits,
  • Allows you to keep your current work and tools lying out and not having to waste time and energy to put everything away and drag it back out the next day 
  • Keeps you away from distractions and everyday tasks (because they never end).
  • Signal clearly you are at work and shouldn’t be disturbed.

still life setup inspirationI’m a lucky pumpkin, since here in our new permanent home in Prescott, I happen to have exactly that type of space. Our house came with a little ‘drawback’: a long room on the hillside lower level that had no connection to the rest of the home, and an extra entrance via a narrow path to the rocky ‘garden’. 

We smartly decided with the addition of a bathroom it would be the perfect separate guest room for visitors from overseas, coming to see the Grand Canyon. And put together a sweet little temporary home, with shower and guest bed, some country style antiques, mini fridge and all the fixings. Real darlin’! And as soon as the first guests left… that empty room seemed a great space to keep my easel in. 

And all my paints. And canvases. And an extra work table. And more art supplies. And a new easel. And a lot more bulk canvas. Oh, and all those paintings….

I first slowly, then rapidly exploded all over it (Sorry. Currently no guest space available in these parts!).

Now, nothing makes me happier than running down to my devoted painting space, with three windows looking out to pines, hummingbirds and critters. I have everything I need to spend a full day immersed in art without interruptions: reference books and a few art magazines, paper towels, water, a water cooker for tea or ramen, dark chocolate and squirrel food. Not to forget plenty of podcasts and audio books to listen to during seven hours of painting! 

I’m the first to realize that not every home accommodates for such a lucky arrangement (I’m also pretty lucky to have an awesome and supportive husband who puts up not only with my bird and critters on the deck, but also with my at explosion downstairs). How often do you really use that extra guestroom/ laundry room/ office space? Here in Arizona some houses feature a ‘casita’, a one room guest house, which make great art retreats as well. Maybe a shed and a space heater will work (plant some trees for shade over it). A well lighted garage serves for some. Or maybe even a room divider for your own private corner can do the job (you can use the divider to hang some canvases, too!). Maybe you can rent a studio, or join a studio community. Ask a friend to share a space.

At best, you want some door or division between you and mundane tasks or your favorite distractions, and some windows but no direct sunlight. But the important point is to find a designated space just for your art. Some place where all your work tools are just waiting for you to drop in and start playing. A little hideaway that makes you happy, and where you love going to.

Find an old, comfy arm chair for breaks. Arrange your favorite clutter aka still life inspirations. Have water or a beverage nearby so you don’t run away every few minutes. Be set up. 

arizona pines, view from art studioIt’s certainly a rather obvious piece of advice, but if you don’t have your art space yet, go get it! You will be amazed at how big of a difference it makes! Not only can you work more concentrated and your productivity increases automatically. While you would think twice if you’d really want to drag out all your supplies just for those last 45 minutes or collapse onto the couch instead – there you go, you can drop into your creative haven and paint just a moment and leave it again for the next time. Make use of your free time slots :) 

It will also increase your self esteem. Maybe you see yourself as a stay at home Mom that occasionally gets the paints out. Well, now you got a studio space – which makes you an artist, right? ;) (remember perception is 90% of reality!). Seriously, taking the first step to show that you are committed to your gift will change the way you perceive your artistic exploits yourself. And that will encourage you to pursue your passion with the zeal that makes you happy. 

My little stolen studio is the biggest blessing for my art :) I will write about some items that make my work there better in my next post, and I hope you’ll be around to give me some feedback about your favorite tools!