Rethinking the Studio

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.

Lake Scene
This Lake Scene will have bare trees on either side.

Karri's Christmas Present

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.



  1. “The key word there isn’t so much messy as it is process.” Yes! This is a wonderful post, and you are certainly an artist. An artist in your creations, and an artist of the process. Good for you for step by step working with your new studio digs to find your groove, your fluid fluency of how you and the studio work together. Great stuff! I look forward to more and more.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks, Jordan! Right now the studio is undergoing more changes. My husband is painting all the walls, plus we’re going to cover one wall with corkboard. What a convenient place to tack up reference photos, thumbnail sketches, and inspiring little words and images! I’ve rejected the idea of putting down carpeting (my husband thought that would be a nice touch) so we might just paint the floor, too. I’ll probably get a few very inexpensive rugs to put down. I plan to do a little easel shopping too. Having two easels (plus my cheap portable) could make things much more convenient. And we’re getting the lighting situation figured out. I’ve been moving my workspace around, and I feel confident that we can re-design a better studio now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can relate! Even with my new studio… well, when it comes time to sit and doodle, where do I find myself? Back upstairs at the kitchen table. LOL. It just feels comfortable and familiar there. I’ll probably never get completely away from the kitchen table. 🙂

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  3. This was a great article you wrote. I felt like I was reading something I would have written myself, as this is exactly what I am doing in my studio space. Rethinking all the time. I’ve been in my space for almost 8 years now and every year or two I feel the need to rearrange things. Art is a learning process the same as arranging things in the studio.
    Thank you for sharing. Now I know I’m not the only one!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post. I’m sure my studio will be re-arranged often as I work on different projects. Everything has been moved out again right now LOL. My husband wanted to get started on painting, which is really nice. We’re going with white walls plus putting up corkboard on one wall. I’m thinking too of having my husband built a small shelf — there’s perfect place for it — where I could place objects for still life painting. Like art itself, an art studio is always a work in progress, isn’t it!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m excited for you to learn and grow in your space. The landscape looks great, by the way.
    I share many of the same struggles in my spare bedroom studio. There’s a lot of moving things around going on and random things often get dumped in there or tools get borrowed and misplaced.
    I find that I usually have an unsettled feeling when I complete a project and I try to use that time to straighten up and assess the layout of the room.
    My lighting situation is atrocious, so I understand that struggle. I hope you get it worked out soon. In the meantime, enjoy your space and embrace being an artist.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sounds like quite a lot of us creative types have that annoying voice in our heads saying ‘no you can’t’ or ‘oh no you are not’. We just have to keep drowning it out by saying ‘OH YES WE CAN’!
    Enjoy your new work space.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Judith. I have a studio which looks onto the street which I love. It’s not so big, but I manage to have a desk (for writing) a small table and an easel. The easel I use mostly for drawing or oil painting and tuck it beside my desk when not in use. I use the table for watercolours, and for sewing when that mood takes me over. True, there are a couple of boxes on the floor filled with art gear, but I still have reasonable space in the middle of the room. I didn’t plan this studio in my head beforehand, it just kind of morphed over time. I am sure that you will settle into your space, and have it working for you soon. Will you paint it, or decorate it with pictures etc? I’d love to see how it turns out. Vivienne

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    1. We’re painting the walls now, and once that’s all complete I will have one wall to use as my “gallery wall” where I’ll hang some of my favorite paintings. We’re also planning to cover part of a wall with corkboard, and I’m sure other art will go up there from time to time. I think the studio will always be “morphing” from one thing to another, especially since I’m working with different media now. It was fun to try planning it all out, but sometimes “art” and “planning” just don’t go together too well. Whatever I do, it will all be subject to change! I do like having my office space and the studio close together. That’s very convenient for me.


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