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Glimpses of Studio Life
A tour of a tiny but functional home studio
Reading time: About 7 minutes
I’ve always been good at managing to do my art in a small area out of necessity, just as I’m capable of practicing in pretty any situation I find myself. Only once in my life have I ever had a designated room as office/studio where I wrote and made art, and even then, it was about five feet by ten feet including the closet space where I stored most of my supplies. At the time I was doing large-scale paintings and a lot of sculpture projects.1 I had a whole system for switching between a paint project, a clay project, and a polymer clay project that kept the space tidy and organized.
Most of my life I’ve not had a studio at all, just a desk-space or table in a bedroom and a system for storing in-progress pieces versus materials I don’t need to access. When I lived in London my bedroom was also my studio. I’d often have an easel to navigate around while putting away laundry or making my bed. When I was teaching myself leather-crafting, my very full bookshelf would be hung with drying masks. I had two full drawers for storing supplies, which I kept organised by project and could pull out as needed.
My current situation is a blend of what I’ve had before. I don’t have a whole room but I do have a designated corner in a sunporch. It’s not a lot of space, similar to my bedroom/studio situations, but it fits my desk and a shelf for storage. It’s a space I can easily adjust to suit whatever project I’m focused on in any given moment. I’ve got almost all my supplies to hand and stored in such a way that I can pull out what I need and put it away when I’m done.
Contrary to the stereotype, I am not messy in my art space. Messes tend to hinder my ability to create. A physically clean space makes for a clear mind—when things are organized and have a place my brain stops tracking all the stuff I Need To Do and I can actually get on with what I Want To Do. It’s a bit like washing and putting away all the dishes after a meal. Next time I use the kitchen, I can do so without having to clean it first. I don’t want to have to tidy up a bunch of unrelated supplies before I sit down to an art project. It’s much easier to meet the muse when the space is blank and all I need do is gather my materials and go.
When not working in my studio corner, I am outside on the deck. If I could just be outside all the time, I would be. My dream is to live in a house where I can open entire walls to let in the breeze and enjoy the sun and smell of the garden from dawn til dusk. My Unicorn and I have set up the next best thing with an outdoor living room on the deck, which is where you will find me as long as the weather permits. We have a corner seating area, two tables, and even a nice chill out spot for the cat.
When it comes to writing outside it’s easy enough. I just grab my laptop, settle back on the cushions, and type away. When it comes to working on my embroidery it’s roughly the same—I grab the go bag where I keep the projects I’m actively working on, put on a podcast to listen to, and settle onto the seat to work.
For drawn and coloured projects it gets more complicated. I have a hand portable drawing board surface, which is great for holding Bristol board and sheets of paper. I just have to gather up the pencil crayons and pens I’m currently using for whatever my active project is, and again, I can sit outside and manage quite comfortable with my various table options.
But currently I’m also doing a rather large scale piece.2 The size of it definitely makes my little corner of the sun porch feel cramped, so being able to work on it outside is a blessing. I’ve got an outdoor folding table that’s the perfect height to lean the piece against. I set up meditation cushions in front of it and all my supplies on the low table next to it and voila! Instant outdoor studio space!
I often use making art as an analogy to meditation and dharma practice. I find it weird when people ask teachers how they’re supposed to practice at home, outside of the container of a retreat. To me that would be like taking art classes and you have all the supplies and tools and you’ve learned the skills but because you don’t have an art studio at home you decide you can never make art. Or you expect the art teacher, who has never seen where you live, to tell you how to make your living space workable for your art. If you want to practice, you will find a way to do it regardless of the setting or timing or situation.3 If you want to make art, you will find a way to do it whether you have an official studio or not.
If you’d like to know more about the current Large Scale piece I’m working on, I am sharing special posts about it with paid subscribers.
I also worked one part-time job and one full-time job at that time, and learned how important it was to prioritise my energy for things I loved doing rather than for the thing I had to do out of necessity to pay rent and bills. Pro-tip, if you have limited time to do the things that nourish you, do them first and best with your brightest energy.
It is a curse that I love going big with my art and never really have the room for the size of paper or canvas I’d like to work on. :P
I’ve always appreciated the instruction to practice as if your hair were on fire. There’s something about it that really gets to how much we overthink how and when and why we practice.