A space to create...
One of the best things I’ve ever done was relocating with my family back to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire where I grew up. It is here that I get all my inspiration from this amazing natural paradise. With this continuous visual stimulus surrounding me, I started to think about how I could produce artwork to reflect this and about achieving a dedicated space to produce this, as yet, undecided art work.
This first blog is about how I created this studio at home and may hopefully encourage others to find their own creative space. If you would like to give yourself more opportunity to make art, then having a place in do this is one of the most important considerations and I would strongly recommend you look into the possibilities for yourself so you too can reap the rewards.
Requirements & reminiscing:
Many people’s idea of an artist’s studio consists of a huge white airy room with tall ceilings, large windows and lots of space for canvases stacked against the walls. Mine isn’t this. It is a modest internal garage conversion which consists of an 18’ x 8’ space divided into a utility room with sink and storage and practical work room. It works perfectly for me.
Most practising artists know that in reality, one can work in a number of environments such as a spare bedroom, a shed in the garden or the kitchen table. I’ve done all of these. A common problem is that you can be easily distracted in most of these places. However, if you want to create and feel the satisfaction of being part of and producing something, you’ll adapt to any space to fulfil that desire.
In my early twenties when I worked as a commercial illustrator, I remember creating a studio space in my bedroom with all my work and materials spread out and a mattress leaning against a wall! It was 80% studio and the rest sleeping space and I was very happy with that set up. But having a totally dedicated working space where I can shut myself off from the world and seriously produce my artwork has significantly transformed my life and I would urge everyone to consider how they could also create a more permanent [and rent free]studio workspace in their own home to create art.
Conversion and appearance:
Having gained planning permission, the adjoining internal wall was knocked through first to access the garage space. Big thank you to friends Kev, Ash, & Glen for their specialist skills and equipment. I knew I would need storage, a large work bench and some method to entertain myself whilst working. An audio system for my ye olde CD collection, a record player and DVD player for movies. I still wanted my new studio to look good so I opted for a vintage, scruffy ‘salvaged’ look by using two old repurposed drawers placed 10 feet apart and used scaffolding planks on top as a work surface. The wall behind is covered with reclaimed palette wood and wall mounted storage along its length. White walls, a comfy leather arm chair, wooden floors, good lighting inc. day light bulbs [with a north facing window which is beneficial as it has a more consistent unchanging light]complete the look and unusual curiosities and items of inspiration that I’ve picked up during my travels are dotted around the room and are slowly getting covered in paint. I’ve also rigged up a set of washing lines across the opposite wall to peg up inspirational images, notes to myself, pictures of my artwork or pictures of sci-fi 70’s actors!
Now when I’m sat working on a painting, I have all my tools, materials and references easily to hand. There are numerous glass jars and aluminium tins filled with assorted brushes, pencils, pens etc. and trays of paints, inks, painting mediums and more. It sounds quite organised but at times it is chaos! Originally planned as a workspace for me, it later became the ‘bedroom’ for our crazy ‘spaghetti and fireworks brains’ Welsh Springer who now sleeps in ‘my/his’ armchair enduring a variety of either strange or rather loud music whilst I work on my paintings. And so does my neighbour if the window is open.
At first whenever I spilt any paint or made any mess, I would clean it up immediately in an attempt to keep my new studio pristine. I’m not sure when it happened but the moment I didn’t worry too much about the mess meant I had even more freedom in a space to work where I could be as experimental and messy as I wanted without fussing about the consequences what landed on the floor or furniture. It’s a bit like my current old car aka ‘the mobile shed’. I love the fact I don’t care about its cosmetic appearance and I throw anything and everything inside it without worrying about dirt and scratches. It’s quite liberating. Same goes for the studio.
Storage of paintings when complete.
Storage can be a big problem. Luckily I’ve managed to sell most work which cuts down on the amount of space I need to store them. I now place them on a long shelf on top of storage units, stacked in small rows with a wooden baton to stop them falling off. Again, it seems very simple but finding a good storage for completed work makes a world of difference and eliminates clutter and potential damage to your work.
It’s great working from home but I do have another job teaching art and design at a local arts centre in the Forest of Dean and over the last couple of decades I’ve taught A levels at a college in Swindon. Having to choose between getting up in the dark, driving for an hour and a half to Swindon or sitting at my drawing board looking out towards the trees with a fresh coffee having run the dog through the woods is an easy choice to make not to mention that’s 3 hours of painting I’ve gained. Walking downstairs to my studio is the quickest commute I’ve had in 10 years. Another obvious point is that I can choose to work at any time in the day be it very early morning, or late at night.
One last important point about my studio and the another reason I love it so much, is the location. It’s just one minutes walk into the woods where I can easily get out for more inspiration or reference. I see the forest in all weather and at any time of day and it’s a privilege to be able to live and work so close to it.
Having a dedicated workspace has totally changed the way I work. It’s probably my favourite room in the house!
Go on, try it for yourself.