A Time and A Place for Making Art

January 17, 2013

Making art is a habit you cultivate. It’s a good habit and very important for artists.

But you need a proper space that’s dedicated and a place that makes you feel inclined to work.

I’ve had studios in my home and outside my home. Sometimes it’s more convenient to work from your home. Sometimes it’s better to separate yourself from home and work in a space dedicated to just making art.

My current studio is a dedicated space with worktables, sink, bookshelves, storage cabinets, my easel, printing press and flat files in one room with overhead fluorescent lights, and an east-facing window. I’ve been in the studio, located in New Rochelle, NY at Media Loft for 5 years and I’ve improved my studio space over the years. Media Loft is a great space for artists. We organize open studio events and have a first floor lobby gallery.

Nikkal studio worktable view

Nikkal studio worktable view

The image above is my worktable covered with papers, paints and tools. When I’m working it gets messy.

Notice the paint jars in the center of the table. I bought the jars in a retail stores that sells everything you need for storage. I needed to store paints that I custom mixed. Notice the painted canvas sitting in front. It was a clean piece of canvas and I’m using it as a blotter for excess paint from my palette knife. I swipe the paint onto the canvas and I think this work surface will become a collage element in a future work.

My table gets cluttered with painted papers as I work, and then I clean it up and organize the materials to make room to continue or start over on a new project. When people visit for open studio events, the space gets cleaned up totally, and people think I work that way. You can see that I don’t.

See the painting and collages on the wall behind the worktable. I just had a hanging art system installed in the studio and hung my art as if my studio is a gallery. It looks good when people visit. I also want to look at the painting and collages on the walls. The hanging art is there to inspire me to continue to work on the Metro Series. I am exploring color and want to see the colors I’ve used in front of me.  The Metro Series is about geometry. It’s constructed abstraction. Geometry is my reality.

Every artist needs a dedicated space – no matter how small.

It’s easy to get to work when you have a dedicated space where ongoing projects can be left in progress. It means you can leave at the end of the day and return the next day and everything is set out ready for work as soon as you arrive.

But, many artists work in improvised spaces. They make the space work for them.

In a recent class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, a gifted student who’s an artist brought up the subject of her studio space problem.

She is trying to decide the best place to work.  She can set up a workspace in her home basement or in her kitchen. The basement is bigger, but is also a shared space for family and TV.

The kitchen would be a happier place – she said it felt right even though it was the kitchen.

I asked if she could find a way to store all her art materials, glue and collage tools in the kitchen.

Antique Wood Flat Files

Antique Wood Flat Files

I don’t know whether the kitchen is vintage or modern, but, no matter what the style, there are new or vintage pieces that could be used for storage (or maybe there is a piece of furniture somewhere in the house that could move into the kitchen).

I found the above image online. I asked for images of  antique wood flat file cabinets. I got a huge number of images, including old metal flat files (probably less expensive than new).

Similar pieces can be found at ebay or etsy.com or go scout at a neighborhood antique shop, a tag sale or country auction. Maybe you already own something like this. It’s a beautiful piece to store your beautiful papers.

metal storage boxes

Metal Storage Boxes

The image above is suitable for an office or contemporary styled room. It’s readily available if you look for metal storage files or boxes.

If there isn’t floor space, is there a place to set a portable writing desk or stack storage boxes on top?

Vintage Storage Bin

Vintage Storage Bin

The image above appeals to me. It’s vintage and could hold postcards and small booklets for projects in progress. I would leave it on top of a cabinet or counter in the kitchen as a constant reminder of your creative time.

I’ve seen portable desks (writing desks) with storage compartments. Everything is tucked away and safe.

Storage Boxes

Storage Boxes

The image above shows 2 storage boxes to store collage papers, scissors, pencils, pens, etc. The boxes come in so many sizes and range in prices and are available online and in retail stores. They look fine stacked and could be stashed in a cupboard, on top of a cabinet or counter. I would keep glue in an upright position inside a cabinet.

Taking Out and Putting Back Can be a Good Thing

There’s a benefit to taking out materials every time you begin to work on a project because you handle all the media and see things anew. When you return the materials to the storage container, you organize again, preparing for the next time you will work. You can write notes on what your next steps will be so you are ready to begin when you return.

I suggested to my student that she could organize her materials (papers) and place them into extra-large plastic zipper bags, sorted by project. Depending on how the kitchen is organized, the bags could be placed in a kitchen drawer, or into a freestanding stack of drawers on wheels, or into a crate.

I have stored papers in plastic page separators organized into 3-ring binders. I sorted the papers by color, texture, pattern and image.  I place the binders on a shelf with art books (for reference) next to my stack of magazines that are a resource for more collage papers. My favorite magazines are ArtForum and Art News.

Check out ebay or etsy.com (storage and organization) for vintage storage pieces if that’s your taste. Or go online and locate sources for new types of storage – boxes, containers, flat files, storage drawers, etc.

It seems like everyone is into storage solutions today.

What solutions have you created? Please share how you’ve organized your personal art project space. Thanks for sharing.

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2 Responses to “A Time and A Place for Making Art”

  1. roberta Says:

    Great post. I have always had a studio in my house. Whether it is an unheated glassed in porch or a second bedroom. Once it was the dining room and we ate in the living room.

    I cannot be without a place to leave my messes.

  2. nikkal Says:

    Hi Roberta, Thanks for your comments. Good for you that you can always find a place to leave your “messes.” It will inspire everyone around you when they see your work in process.


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