Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is in Your Studio?

I just responded to a request by Steve Doherty at American Artist for input on Artist Studios. Apparently he's going to produce a magazine article on the subject. I got the request via Twitter.

Yes, I tweet. I admit it. Not too much. But I am kind of getting the hang of it and can see where it could be useful. For example, I posed the question of how to deal with finishing a concrete floor and got several good suggestions. I tweeted about the pack rat living in my studio wall, and got one back from a follower wanting advice once I figured out how to get rid of my pack rat. So I tweeted her back with a suggestion.

Anyway, I took a lot of time answering the tweet from American Artist. Studio space; how you get it, how you keep it, how you manage it, is close to my heart. Here's my answer:

I got your tweet, and thought I'd put my 2 cents in. This is a great subject and one critical to every artist, as you know.

I've had many studios over the years. The worst was none at all, seconded by the top of a washer and dryer. I'm currently moving studios. So designing my new space is something at the forefront of my mind. The sooner it's done, the sooner I can get back to painting.

Most recently, I've been renting a studio space in an historic plaza in Ajo, Arizona. It's 350 sq. feet, with wonderful light. I've been thrilled, as it's the best I've had in years. However, it's been strictly temporary. At the whim of the landlord. The whole plaza is going to be renovated and there's no telling when I'll be booted out. In addition, there's barely any electricity (it's jerry rigged), and the bathroom is at the bottom of a very steep flight of stairs, when it's open. When it's closed, I'm SOL.

To digress a bit. I picked up a book by Eric Rudd a year or so ago. The Art Studio/Loft Manual was an eye opening read. I decided then and there, that the only way to have the security of a permanent studio space would be to own it. My husband and I started looking. We are working on a project about US Route 89, which runs from Mexico to Canada. (If you're interested, it's ). Anyway, our parameters for looking were anywhere on or close to US 89 from Utah south. (North is too cold).

What I wanted at first was a big warehouse we could convert to live/work space. We looked at a few places. Decided at this stage of the game, it would be too much to take on, too much time away from work, and too expensive. So then we looked at houses. North of Salt Lake, Salt Lake, the small towns going south of Salt Lake. Flagstaff, the Verde Valley. It's not so easy to find something workable in our price range. I wanted at least 500 sq. ft. for my studio. Jim needs space for his office (he's a landscape photographer).

We finally found it! A tiny 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom house in Oracle, AZ, north of Tucson, just off Hwy 77, which is historic Route 89. The house itself is quite quirky. has 4 garages! The largest is an end to end oversized 2 car garage, finished inside, with a 10' high ceiling. This is becoming my space. It's about 500 sq. ft., with an additional 100 sq. ft. room with a sink and enclosed toilet.

We had a handyman take out the garage door. Went to a recycled building supplies place and found 2 glass doors and a window. Finished the concrete floor with epoxy paint. Painted the walls. We're now constructing painting storage space. There is a 12' long set of cabinets left over from the previous owner. We're going to put a platform of plywood on it, with spacers every 2 feet. A bit hard to describe, since we're designing as we go. What I like is that the paintings will be up high and won't take up floor space. Did something similar in my Ajo studio and it worked out well.

The actual process of making a studio work is always challenging. This one is long, so I envision one half for printmaking, bookmaking, and mixed media. The other half will be for painting. I suspect there will be months of arranging and rearranging the space until it works well for me. But it's mine!

My blog has a few shots of the studio space under construction. Also if you scroll down further, you can see the Ajo studio before moving in, being used, and being dismantled.

Hope this is useful for you.
It was nice to go back in time and think about all of my various studio spaces. The best part is that my new studio will be the largest, most functional one yet. And, hopefully, my last!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy in My New Studio (Except for the Pack Rat)

Well, here I am, happy in my new (close to completed) studio. A storage rack for my paintings still needs to be built. Baseboard needs to be painted. I've decided to repaint the north wall a whiter white. The front door needs to be cased in and sealed.

The biggest challenge is going to be getting rid of the pack rat that is currently residing in a wall. He (or she) comes out and tromps around in the ceiling above the toilet. We know it's not a mouse because the droppings are rather large. Yuck. I'll be heading to our local hardware store to pick up some sort of humane trap. The question is what does one do with a captured pack rat?
This is what really freaks me out. I don't particularly want to have to actually see this fellow.

I've moved in a couple easels and a few tables. Now I need to watch the light to figure out where to locate my painting area.

I'm amazed at how quickly it's coming together!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Longer a Garage

Doesn't this look inviting? My new space is starting to take shape. This is a snapshot from the patio, with the new glass door to my studio.

And this was a garage door just yesterday. I don't know how Mike works so fast, but I'm glad he does. I'll be able to paint the wall and door some time tomorrow.

This is the patio door from inside the studio. I'll be painting it tomorrow, too.

This leaves the nasty job of cleaning a ton of mouse droppings from a ledge in the bathroom area. And then, applying epoxy paint to the floor, after scrubbing it clean.

With luck and a lot of work, I'll be up and running in my studio by Monday.

By the way, you can go to the last blog post to see some before snapshots.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moving Out, Moving On

It seems like just yesterday that I was hauling boxes and boxes of art materials upstairs into my new studio space. It was quite a leap for me, having never had a studio that wasn't a former bedroom or dining room in our living space.

Now, here I am packed up, ready to move on.

Here's Jim, moving fast. He is always my hero, but particularly today, when he hauled numerous heavy boxes, not to mention heavier furniture down the stairs for me.

Our new home has an oversize, end to end garage with a high ceiling. It came equipped with a lube pit. Didn't need a 6' deep hole in my studio, so Jim covered it with cement board. It's quite sturdy, and I don't feel the least bit like I'm going to fall in.

This new (actually it's used) glass door will be replacing the solid door (hopefully tomorrow).

Here is the garage door opening. Mike, our intrepid worker, has removed the ugly garage door and is getting ready to install a big window and glass door.

More photos tomorrow, when he's finished his part of turning the garage into my own almost 600 square foot studio space. Then it will be up to me to seal the floor, finish painting the interior, and most importantly, get to work!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stairway to an Indeterminate Destination

I seem to have produced several new paintings with stairways in them. Now that I think about it, is this because of the stairway I must traverse in order to get to my studio?

See my last blog post to enjoy a view of that set of stairs.

The Evil Stairway to My Studio

I posted this photo when I was moving into my studio last October. It was quite the challenge getting my stuff up these stairs, especially in the 100 degree plus heat. By the way, the stairs are a lot steeper and narrower than they look in this photo.

Since then, I've been faithfully hauling myself up and down on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. Once up, I'm in my beautiful studio, and quickly immersed in my work. It's been worth the climb.

One of the prices I've paid for being an artist is a lot of foot pain. I know, not exactly a romantic image to present to the public. What many people don't realize is that making art often involves hard physical labor. Somehow, I always end up working, standing on a concrete floor.

Yesterday, I finally broke down and saw one of the excellent doctors at the clinic here in Ajo. He told me that I have a torn ACL in my foot. Hence, the more recent, more excruciating pain in the feet than usual. The cure? Stay off my feet. Most expecially, don't climb stairs. Apply heat to the area. How long will this last? Well, a lot longer if I'm not careful.

So those stairs loom ahead, and my work sits, potentially out of reach. Will I lay down with my feet up? Well, no. I'm heading to my studio now. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Serenade to My Perfect Apron

I know this may sound peculiar, but I'm really picky about aprons. I've tried all kinds. Some are too stiff and heavy. Some are too lightweight. Some don't have pockets. Some don't have pockets in convenient places, or in useful sizes.

All the aprons I've ever had until this one have a strap that goes around the neck. I didn't realize that this was annoying until I purchased the apron you see here. Its straps crisscross behind your back. No rubbing against the neck, no weight on the neck if you have something heavy in a pocket.

As you can see, I have a habit of swiping my brush against the apron. One that is too narrow means that I miss and end up with paint on my pants. This one is nice and long, so if I brush against wet paint, it goes on the apron, not my clothes. Yet it's not so long that I trip over it.

Now, you must be wondering where I got this fabulous item. Well, I stumbled on it at the shop in the printmaking studio at Crown Point Press . If I could afford it, I'd order a lifetime supply!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pulling the Threads Together

What you see are a few of my personal paintings: about the experience of having a very premature baby, about my parents, about my mother when she was young.

It took me years of mulling over ideas before I figured out how create a visual way to express what you see before you. None of these are for sale, and they are very different than my usual work. Yet they are part of what I do.

Yesterday, I read a blog by Ed Winkleman, reviewing the artwork of Julie Evans. One of his comments really struck me. Here it is "The thought that went through my mind as I viewed Julie' show...was how sometimes an artist's accomplishments simply cannot be rushed. It can take just the right combination of life experiences, exposure to other ideas, and simply being in the right place at the right time for things to click. None of which may make sense to even the artist (or be particularly pleasant) at the time, but which definitely results in an eventual accomplishment that enriches our

This is so true. It makes me wonder about all the stories of artists out there who have strings of random experiences and fascinating lives they have pieced together with the ultimate goal being the creation of a meaningful body of work. Seems to me this would be a great book. Or maybe a good theme for a blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is it Dinging and Tweeting at Me Again?

I was innocently sitting at the dinner table with my husband eating pizza (no time to cook). Ding went my email. Tweet went my twitter. Jim grabbed me by the arm, and said don't.

Yes, apparently I'm suffering from an addiction. It's pretty ironic, since I've resisted the whole internet thing for years. Several weeks ago, I got a laptop and somehow that provided a breakthrough into computer land for me.

No, it doesn't mean I know what I'm doing. Far from it. But I know enough to have lots of annoying questions and lots of frustration with you name it, anything more sophisticated than straight typing on the keyboard.

Discovering a plethora of interesting artist blogs is like opening up a new world. I don't want to miss anything!

This afternoon, Jim sent me to my studio. I must have been looking pretty glassy eyed. I felt great after I spent some productive time painting. This is what it's really all about. I need to remember this.

And I need to figure out how to turn off the dings and tweets and get back in control!