Soon after I began learning to draw and paint, my husband and I found ourselves using “art” as both a noun and a verb. “What are you going to art today?” he might ask early in the morning. My art wasn’t too specific in the early days. I might use graphite, I might grab soft pastels, I might get out that beautiful set of colored pencils that set me off on this unexpected journey.
Once I realized that I actually could learn to draw and could possibly go on to learn to use different media, I wanted to try it all. I bought lots of art supplies, and my husband happily agreed that “an artist can never have too many art supplies.” He also reminded me that any workman is only as good as his tools, and he encouraged me to buy whatever I needed to make my new life as an artist more rewarding and more satisfying.
The only problem with his “get what you need” philosophy was the question of where to put it all. Especially in a fairly small home, finding convenient places to keep art supplies is not easy.
An even bigger concern, though, is where I use those supplies. Like it or not — and, frankly, no, I don’t like it — the only suitable place for painting in our home is the kitchen. I have north light there, and I have room enough for my easel. About a year ago I purchased a small chest of drawers where I can store a few painting supplies, but even so, the area around my impromptu little studio is always a mess. I hate it!
Having a good place to work — or play — is one of the most important things for an artist, regardless of whether we’re beginners just learning, hobby artists developing our skills, or professionals involved with creating, exhibiting, and marketing our art.
Martin Kinnear of the Norfolk Painting School lists this as a top priority, saying,
“Give yourself a space that you can inhabit with your work. If you can, find a private space where you can put a lock on the door and study in peace. I’ve always had a studio and never regretted investing in using it.”
Oh, how nice it would be to have a studio where I could lock the door, a place where I didn’t have to go through the bother of getting supplies out each morning and putting them away again each afternoon. How I would love a quiet little studio where I could paint in peace — even when my husband is home watching his action movies!
But it’s not likely to happen. From time to time my husband does mention buying a bigger home and moving, but, seriously, no, it’s not going to happen.
From time to time I also see little spaces for rent around town, and I’m tempted by the thought of having my own little studio and gallery, a place where I could share my love of art with others, sell a few art supplies, and… all right, who am I kidding? Trying to turn art into a full-time business isn’t in my plans. And what fun would it be to have a studio miles away from home where I’d have to actually get dressed to go paint instead of lounging around in my flannel pants and T-shirts while I “art” about.
So, I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that my art studio is going to be in the corner of the kitchen, and I’d better learn to live with it. It’s not easy, though, and I’m always looking for ideas on how to improve my art space.
Amy Maricle from Mindful Art Studio believes that even the smallest home has room for an art studio, but to be honest, I didn’t find her 12 Ways to Make an Art Studio At Home tips too helpful.
Spacewise also offers a DIY Guide to Designing a Home Art Studio, but looking at the lovely photos that accompany the article made me laugh a bit. This “designer approach” to studio creation implies that art is an activity that can be neatly organized and fashionably arranged. Maybe for some artists that’s true. Not for me.
For me, art is messy. I not only have to deal with paints, brushes, varnishes, gesso, and oils, but also canvases in various sizes.
And what of all the finished paintings — and practice pieces — that come off my easel? What am I supposed to do with them?
Of course, some are framed and on our walls, but others are sitting around here, there, and everywhere!
My Modern Met cuts to the chase with a listing of what’s really important in setting up a home studio: space (with privacy), light (natural and artificial) and proper furniture (work tables, supply chests, canvas racks). All true, but not helpful when you simply don’t have the space you need.
Ingrid Christensen takes another approach, and while still mentioning the need for proper lighting and storage, adds the suggestion that a home studio should be inspiring. Paint the walls, she implores.
Changing the wall color is a cheap and dramatic way to alter both the studio and your work. Since the walls reflect onto and visually surround your canvases, you may unconsciously echo the studio walls in your work. With this in mind, you may want to choose a wall color that will guide and enhance your work. Warm colors will lead to warmer palettes, and cool walls can inspire cool ones. Light-colored walls may encourage more colorful art, while dark walls may bring about Rembrandt-esque drama. White is a versatile choice because it doesn’t skew work toward a particular color palette. — Ingrid Christensen —
Sorry, Ingrid. Not practical. Honestly, the color of the walls is the last thing I’m concerned about when it comes to my little corner-of-the-kitchen art studio.
Of course, resigning myself to where I most literally am as an artist — in the kitchen — doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways in which I can improve my studio set-up. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful.
- PURGE. Yes, I have too much of everything. I’m cutting down now on the brushes I’m using. I can get rid of the old oil-based paints I previously used now that I’ve made the transition to water-solubles. I can clean my area, throw out old, unused supplies, paint rags that will never come clean again, and miscellaneous bits and pieces of art junk that have accumulated over the past year.
- ORGANIZE. Art can be challenging to organize, but I can do better. I can find a single place for the different oil-painting books I have instead of having them scattered about in different areas. I can also set up a “finished painting” area in our guest room, so that once paintings come off my easel, they have a place to go. No more paintings sitting all over the kitchen!
- INSPIRE. While I won’t be painting the kitchen walls, I will be putting more of my art work up on display. My husband tells me often that all our walls should be filled with paintings. So, indeed, I’ll be taking all my framed paintings and finding a place for them, either near my art table or in other rooms of our home. Seeing my own artwork on the wall is inspiring.
- BE THANKFUL. Probably the most important step I can take in learning to live with my less-than-perfect art studio is to appreciate what I have and be grateful. I’m grateful that I’ve discovered the joy that art can bring into my life and into the lives of others. I’m truly grateful to have a loving husband who supports my art and who doesn’t complain about having a mess of paints and brushes in the corner of the kitchen. I’m grateful for our family and the support they’ve shown. I’m grateful for the many art friends I’ve made who have encouraged me and advised me.
- DREAM. I’ve declared 2020 to be my year for IMAGINATION, and that includes dreaming. I can dream about maybe someday having a studio that’s bigger, that’s got better lighting, that has a lock on the door. I can play around with ideas for maybe improving the lighting in the guest room and turning it into a home studio. There are possibilities there.
- ENJOY. For now, though, the kitchen is where I am, and it’s where I’ll most likely be for a good, long time. So, I’ll make the most of it, enjoy the time I spend at the easel, and make the best art I can. And, hey, it’s always handy to be in the kitchen where I can grab a snack. Being in the kitchen helps make clean-up easy, too.
So, where do you art? Do you have a studio that’s separate from your living area? Or, are you, like me, making-do in a corner of a room? Basement? Attic? Converted closet? What tips and tricks have you learned for making the most of your space?