To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Creating an Art Studio Where There’s No Room For One

How many times have you heard people comment that they’d love to practice their art if they just had a place to work. But even a tiny dedicated space which won’t be disturbed (much) for other reasons can make a fine work spot if you really want it to.

Many artists have fantastic studios -- huge, lots of storage and workspace, marvelous lighting, a place for everything.  I had a pretty nice one myself not so long ago. But when I built my earthbag house in the jungle in Belize, an art studio didn’t seem important – my whole house could be my studio, I thought. '

But when I started “being an artist again” last November, I began yearning for a specific place to leave projects out, where they wouldn’t be in the way.

The only place I could find to set up even a tiny space permanently was my loft, and it was already in use storing empty suitcases, Christmas ornaments, off-season clothes, and similar odds and ends.  But it would have to do, so I set to work.

MAKING ROOM:  The first problem is that it’s L.I.T.T.L.E.  One wall is 7’ long, the other is 5’, and the remaining wall, 18” high, curves out over the living room leaving a floor space looking like one fourth of an elongated pie.  A 22” wide staircase eats up nearly two feet of floor space along the 5’ wall.  Like I said, little.

But, ever hopeful, I started shifting things around. Since I didn’t want to see my junk poking up above the 18” wall from the living room below, I couldn’t just pile things up to the ceiling.  But by stuffing all the Christmas ornaments into an empty suitcase and consolidating some other boxes, I was able to open up a space about 3’x4’.

SEATING:  On the veranda I had a canvas camp chair that was threatening to rip and/or collapse if someone large or squirmy were to sit down hard in it. With care, I can get a few months more life out of it, and it’s very comfortable – a lot better than a stump, a rock, or the cross-legged pose I assume while out sketching in nature.  It fits perfectly into the cleared space. We're on our way.

WORKSPACE: a flattened cardboard box makes a sturdy table top over a poly tub holding off-season clothes. Some 1/8” thick wall paneling cut into lapboards and table tops makes sturdy surfaces to draw or set things on. One 12”x18” piece of paneling makes a good lap board to work on – it’s lightweight, maneuverable, and fits within the arms of the chair.

LIGHTING:  a translucent skylight directly above offers perfect diffused light in the daytime, and while I haven't used the studio yet on a hot day, there is a screened roof vent near the skylight so heat should go right up and out – but that remains to be seen.

At night, the spotlight that was formerly trained on my lion door (which is now under the loft) shines right onto the lap board on my lap. I may add a gooseneck lamp to shine on sketch subjects at night.

TOOLS & SUPPLIES:  My art supplies are in a tiered artist’s toolbox which remains open and serves as storage and shelves for watercolor pencils, ballpoint pens, water brush, rag, water can, scissors, and a few other things I use for sketch/journaling.

SOUND SYSTEM: a 3”x 3” Bluetooth speaker picks up a signal from the wifi below to play music I select from the internet, a splendid bit of hedonism to my mind.

It looks more or less like this, drawn on a 1” grid so each little box is 1 square foot. The black outlines are the junk, under all little table top boards and the art box.  I’d estimate the whole loft is about 25 square feet, while actual bare floor space is about 12 square feet.  I may put up some shelves at some point, which would expand the space considerably.

Someday I may find another place for the junk, but until then, this works fine.  I know, because I sketch/journaled the tapir bone page there last week.  I’ll detail that in the next blog entry.

 It has some good points, for sure. No one is going to be casually walking through, I can duck and hide if I don’t want company, and I can’t possibly complain that it is too big to keep tidy.  But best of all, I've been using it, and my only complaint is that I can't get to the door downstairs very quickly when company comes.  I'd say that's a pretty minor complaint.

So if you've been thinking you don't have enough space to set up your studio, I hope this has given you some inspiration.

And just in case you are telling yourself "Well, pooh on you, I don't even have THAT much space!" take a look at the "desk" where I did about half the illustrations for my first book, America's Horses & Ponies, when I had only a bed to sit on.  At night, I'd hoist it up to the ceiling so I could sleep underneath it.  In the sketch below, I show it both lowered and raised. Where there's a will, there's usually a way.....


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