Monday, July 12, 2010

My Studio

hi there!

today i wanted to show you my studio - first, so you can get an idea of where i paint (so when i tell you i tripped over the easel yet again, you'll know where i landed!), & second so that i can share my experience with you, in case it proves helpful!

here is a basic view of the studio area:

it took me nearly the whole two years i've been painting to come up with this configuration - & it really works! it's so much easier to start - & to finish! - a painting project with all this room to move in, work area to spread out on, & supplies in one place!

at first, i wanted to locate my studio where there's north light - what it seems everyone says is the best. but unfortunately, the only window in my house with north light was in a small dark corner of the living room. i could hardly see, even in bright sunlight. so that didn't last long!

then i set up in a corner of my bedroom. two windows - one south & one west - gave lotsa light, except during the 6 months of winter. or when it was foggy. or...

this was taken on a particularly bright day, too! and that was about all the room i had to move around in. the easel i was using then - a mabef (in the lower right of the photo) - was somehow too unsturdy for me - maybe i attack the canvas too energetically!

finally, i moved into the present space in what i call the front room (which, yes, is located at the back of the house!). i have lots of room, storage areas, & work surfaces. (the windows, btw, face west) Here's my work area set-up:

i have a new mabef - it's a french-style box easel that folds up like a suitcase for doing plein air paintings, & is much sturdier for me than the old one - i love it! it also holds all my paints

which frees up a lot of tabletop room. i have them sorted by opaques on one side, transparents on the other. oh - that little vial of green to the right of the big tube of titanium white? that's chromium green oxide. m. graham, that i know of, doesn't make that color. but you can purchase the powder (my son got it for sharpening his straight-edge razor!), then mix it with walnut oil to make your own color! that was fun!

btw, you don't actually need all those colors! i'm kinda obsessive/compulsive, & would dearly love to own every color they have! & i really enjoy experimenting with different combinations of a basic palette (prussian blue, alizarin crimson, & cad yellow -or- cad red light, cad yellow light, & cerulean blue, etc) depending on what i'm painting. (& a giant thank you here to my dear cousin & to a special friend in illinois, who both sent me amazon gift certificates, & my amazing partner - all of whom made it possible for me to have the easels & my wonderful paints!)

the furniture is important. you need lots of space for storage! canvases, both prepared (which i'll talk about in a later post) & new; other tools (circular saw, drill, metal hole punch etc - another post!); papers & sketches; still life objects & materials; painting supplies (extra oil, gesso, etc) all take up a lot of room, but you need them handy & organized. if you look under the table my palette & brushes are on, you'll see two two-drawer filing cabinets, which hold quite a bit! i also have a chest of drawers & a dresser (not in the photos but right there) for things that are larger & have to lay flat. my largest canvases (16x20 - and i can't wait to paint one that big!) are stored between the filing cabinets. in the first studio pic, you can see two more tables for work surfaces - plus i use under them for storage - still life shadow boxes under the low one, and boxes with smaller wooden supports of different sizes on the shelves of the tv stand.

here's a close-up of the active work area:

my palette is a large (12"x16") piece of 1/4" thick glass with rounded corners; a local glass shop cut it for me - and it was only $9something! - very easy to clean, even if you don't clean up until the paints have dried. there's the palette knife next to it for mixing colors, and at the bottom right you can just see the pliers i use to open stuck paint lids, and the level for adjusting the easel if i have to raise or lower it. oh - that thing holding the brushes? my homemade wet brush holder - a really helpful thing to have! you can buy 'em, but i'll describe how i made this one in a later post. the ball jar holds oil for cleaning the brushes - i'll talk about that later, too! everything is on a piece of plexi-glass-type stuff, to protect the tabletop.

you'll also notice i use a chair. with my health, i can't stand up to paint, so a chair is a must. i just recently got a 'rolly-boy' (otherwise known as a wheeled office chair!) that works great! i can move it up close, then roll way back to see what the painting looks like from further away. this morning i was even rolling around the whole area, going from one table to another as i prepared some canvases! (ok, ok, that was just for fun - but it was!)

take a look at this photo:

there - between the easel & the table - it's a digital picture frame: essentially a small monitor, and it's really helpful. the blue couch painting is from a manip i did on the computer using my graphics program (i use gimp, btw - free & i find it easy & intuitive to use). i just upload the manip to the frame & then use it as a reference while i'm painting. very handy!

another thing that really helps is a drying rack or two:

mine are on a wall in the dining room right near my studio. it's just a piece of molding (formed wood lengths you can buy at a hardware store or millyard, if you have them where you live) cut to length (they can do that for you at the store). it's mounted on the wall with small metal brackets, and makes a good place to keep wet paintings safe & out of the way.

there are two lamps, in addition to the overhead lights. the lamp on the tv stand is a combo of both florescent & incandescent, which gives a balanced light, which i use for still lifes if there isn't enough daylight to do what i want. the overheads are both, too, for balanced room light for painting. the tall black floor lamp is just incandescent to light the table.

this doesn't have to cost much - really! most of what you see is repurposed furniture from the rest of the house. my partner made the low table & the frame table, and the tv stand got freed up when our electricity surged & the tv started smoking! most of the other items come from thrift stores & yard sales, as do most of my frames. and frankly, you don't even need an easel when you're first starting. so that leaves paint . . . which i'll be addressing in a new post, soon! posts after that'll cover the other things i've mentioned, plus paintings from the past & ones i'm currently working on.

until next time - take care!



  1. I like your studio set up! That's funny - I picked up a digital picture frame to use it for the same purpose but mine was really bad on the color, so I find myself dragging all my supplies to my actual monitor when I'm painting from a photo reference. I have a very similar molding rack for my paintings, too. Very useful!

  2. thank you! i only realized as i did this post how much i've reconfigured the whole house to get this studio space. the frame is an offbrand(?) - sunpak - but luckily the colors are fairly close - don't know where you could get one - my son got it at a yardsale. for a while, i had a tv hooked up to the computer, but that's the one that went up in smoke!


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