A few weeks ago, I finally began setting up my new art studio following our move. It was exciting, yet also challenging. As I wrote in a previous post, the task required making deliberate choices, trying to logically figure out what should go where — and why.
My husband was also eager to come in and install new lighting for the studio. But where should those lights go? How many? What type?
Somehow, the studio came together. I had new lights. I had shelves with neatly-arranged art supplies. I had everything an artist could ask for, all close at hand. Everything, that is, except the right attitude.
Having “an art studio” as opposed to having an easel and paints in the corner of our kitchen required an entirely new mindset. I wasn’t expecting it all to feel so different.
At first, it was simply intimidating. I loved looking at my art studio, but I was afraid to touch anything, afraid to actually get out my paints, afraid to pick up a brush. When I finally forced myself to attempt painting, the result was a sorry sight, indeed.
“Yikes! I’m no artist. What in the world am I doing with an art studio?” It was much like the feeling I had the first time I walked down an aisle of art supplies to buy a sketchbook. “I don’t belong here,” I thought. And that’s how I felt when I walked into my studio.
Never mind all the reassurances I’ve gained that, yes, I really am an artist. I didn’t feel like an artist. I felt like an impostor, and at times I wondered if that feeling would ever go away.
But finally, I took a deep breath, and decided to play in my studio. I started with watercolor doodles, easy little fun-to-do projects, and I began to enjoy my time. But I still had misgivings about being in the studio.
Even though my husband is at work and I’m home alone each day, it still felt awkward to come downstairs to the studio. I felt cut-off from who I was, once again confronting that feeling that I wasn’t really supposed to be leaving the house — figuratively speaking — to go downstairs and be an artist, or at least, to pretend to be an artist.
Here is where I had to make the first major attitude adjustment. I had to begin seeing myself not as a happy housewife who happened to do a little painting as a hobby, but as a legitimate artist who also happens to be a happy housewife. In other words, I had to give myself permission to spend time in the studio.
Yes. The studio. Soon I found myself loving those words, loving to think them, to say them. “I’m going down to the studio now,” I tell my husband after dinner. “If you need anything, I’ll be in the studio.”
Being in the studio has meant doing a lot of art over the last few weeks. Most of it is still playful art. I’m doing lots of watercolor exercises, doodling with paints and pens, making practice brushstrokes on sheets of newsprint. I’m having fun.
I’m also doing a few oil paintings. I have one on my easel that I’m finishing up as a gift — a lake scene — and I have my Persistence painting waiting to be finished. I have a canvas ready for another perspective lesson with Arnold Fletcher, and I’ve gotten around to once-again attempting that winter scene I gave up on shortly before we moved.
Now, having worked and played in the studio for a time, I’m having to look back at the choices and decisions I made before, and I’m finding that lots of things will need to be changed.
I won’t show any pictures of the studio as it looks today. It’s too frightening! Yes, it is a mess, and that’s been another attitude adjustment I’ve had to make. At first, I tried keeping everything neat and organized, but art is a messy process. The key word there isn’t so much messy as it is process. Art takes time. It’s inconvenient, I’ve learned, to try putting everything away as I move from one project to the next. How much easier to clean-up what I must, and leave as much as possible ready and waiting for the next part of the process!
This is why I have an art studio, I remind myself. It’s supposed to be messy. It’s supposed to reflect the process of creating art. So I smile now at seeing paints and brushes and works-in-progress sitting here and there. I shrug at all the paint rags and old T-shirts I have hanging around the studio. And I wince a bit when I look at a nearby table I’ve taken over. It was intended to be a sewing table. Instead, it’s a place to keep watercolor paper close at hand, a place where I can put different sets of watercolors that I’m not using, a place for my indispensable paper-cutter, scissors, and corner punch.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve also come to see that our lighting arrangement isn’t working. Not only do I get a terrible glare on the canvas when painting, I’m also painting in my own shadow. Not good.
As for my organizational skills… well, things were nice at the beginning, but I’m having to make a lot of changes there, too.
What happened? How did I make so many mistakes in planning my new studio? I think, for me, the only way to really know what works and what doesn’t is by trying it out. While I thought the studio was set-up for comfort, convenience, and efficiency, I find now that lots of things have migrated to other places.
One thing that’s caused these changes is the fact that I’m no longer working only in oils. Instead, I’m switching back and forth between oils and watercolors, plus also doing projects with ink, colored pencils, and pastels. I hadn’t really anticipated working with different media, and each media requires a slight shift in studio arrangement, so I’m continually moving supplies around from one area to another.
In coming weeks, my husband and I will be working more in the studio, correcting the lighting problems, adding more table space, and finding easier ways for me to go from one project to another.
I’ve come to the conclusion now that it’s probably not possible to properly set-up a studio just by thinking about how it should be. Until we’re actually in the studio, working, playing, drawing, painting, making messes and cleaning them up, we really can’t know what goes where or why. We might think we know how to do it, but chances are good that we’ll soon have to come back and re-think many of those decisions.