Creative Space

Before I get into it, let me first say this:  Please accept my apologies for another terribly delayed post. Life’s thrown me some pretty curvy curveballs (some good, some… whatever), and week after week every time I think I’ll have that day or those few hours to catch up, something else goes foom, and I can’t even manage to get word out to say that I’m not going to have any words! 

Not only that but it seems I’m even later than I realized or thought. Somewhere in the kerfuffle my brain fooled itself, “it’s only been a month, that’s late, but it’s not THAT late. It’s odd that I came out of the residency with numerous ideas for topics, and they’d just come flopping out, I only had to clear some time to do so. Easy, right?

Not so much.

I’m working on it. I appreciate your patience. Things have been kinda exciting and wobbly ever since I got back from the residency. The big news is I got an art exhibit lined up at a gallery, the reception is this weekend. ((insert link, you’re all invited)) But I spent several weeks up to my eyeballs in mounting & matting & framing supplies, getting everything ready. Which is part of what brings me to today’s topic: Creative Space.

Last post I went into needing your time & space away from people, getting them to leave you alone with your thoughts and such. What we could call The Buffer Zone, maybe. Here I want to get into the actual space and environment you need for what you do. I’m going to spread this across a few posts, and, because it’s the freshest on my mind, I’m going to get into the art angle first. I’ll get into the writing space angle in another post.

Art takes up a lot of space in my life. I need space to store my supplies, space to make the art, space to prepare it for sale, and space to store the finished product until sale.

To further complicate things, I love and am proficient in many kinds of paint & image making. I do watercolors, Chinese brush painting, acrylics, oils, and inks frequently, and have medium-to-large professional sets of each, with loads of brushes and many accompanying accessories as well. Virtually every artist keeps a range of pencils, erasers & charcoal around for sketching, and I am no exception. Of course I have other essentials like rulers, t-squares, a dozen or more (no joke) different kinds of tape, X-acto knives, mat cutters, razors, box cutters, spare blades of many types, triangles, stencils and lettering guides.

I also keep color pencils, watercolor pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolor pastels, pen nibs, calligraphy pens and more around, often incorporating them into other paintings. I make art on illustration board, watercolor paper, rice paper, bristol board, plate bristol, multimedia paper, Yupo, Yes! canvas, canvas, hardwood, drawing paper, sketch paper, some of that small & portable and some pretty large and good grief have I forgotten anything?

Oh, I do some of that small, and some pretty large. I want some of it portable, and some of it has to stay put and take up large amounts of space for extended periods of time.

Tools for wet-mounting rice paper. Spray fixes for pastels, spray varnishes – both retouch and final finish types – for acrylic and/or oils, spray adhesive in both permanent and repositionable flavors. Mat board. 40″ mat cutter. Foam core. Frame fitting tool. Glass cleaners. Boxes and carts with compartments to hold hundreds of little things; framer’s points, screw eyes, hanging wire, and many other picture framing & hanging widgets that I don’t know their names are.

Then all the office supplies your average self-employed person might have on hand. And your average tool box, mostly used for the framing. And a bunch of computer tools because so much money gets spent on all the other stuff that I do my own computer repairs now.

Oh, yes, the computers, too! I edit video and do graphic design and illustration on the computer as well, with big files and need of lots of RAM. So I have a tower, and a graphics tablet, and because I paint a lot of things around ±11×17”, I have a 12×17” scanner. And a printer because everyone has a printer. And backup drives. I don’t get rid of my old computers, so I have two active towers, and two in storage that some day will make interesting nerdy furniture. Probably.

Did I mention I tried to get into sewing? Never mind, that’s technically hobby.

Anyway, this takes up a lot of real estate. I have a somewhat effective system that occasionally gets out of control and needs a day or two of concentrated cleaning to reset. A big drawing table with shelves and tables around it for most of the physical art stuff, plus an awesome Boby cart. Then a big desk & printer cart handles the computer and peripherals pretty well. Then sometimes I want to write there, so I have a space to shoehorn my laptop. I’m not a very neat person and I often eat at the computer, so there’s often dishes & clutter to brush aside for this.


I got a lot of it well-organized when I started to pack for the residency. I did not take EVERYTHING, but I definitely took more of it than not. Probably. Hey, it was about 2 hours’s drive away, I could bring things back & forth with relative ease. But most came with me on the main drive down. I did do 2-3 smaller carloads for the move-out.

Panorama of the studio, partly filled with my stuff. Panorama-style shot, so the distortion makes it appear bigger than it actually is.
Panorama of the studio, partly filled with my stuff. Panorama-style shot, so the distortion makes it appear bigger than it actually is.

This fabulous space allowed me to have several different kinds of project going at once, without having to put things away & scrub the workspace between them. I had a table constantly ready for Chinese brush painting. I had a drawing table ready for watercolors or acrylics with minimal transition fuss. I had that corner all oils, with a decent buffer zone so oils did not invade the other spaces, because that is what oils do, and is a factor in why I hadn’t oil painted in at least eight if not ten years before the residency.

The bathroom had a counter where I could do the marbling, and the copious floor space meant I could let marbled rice paper dry all over the place with minimal risk of me stepping on any of it and no risk at all of a cat barfing on it.

That bathroom space was also nearly ideal for wet-mounting, once I made sure to scrub up all the ink.

photo 3
This space was also ideal for wet-mounting… but only AFTER an awful lot of scrubbing first.

I had a writing station in the cottage, and a tower hooked up in the living room, mostly for internet TV watching at night, but for Photoshop & Final Cut needs.

Some of the space had to serve dual-purpose, but it was so much better than having to clean and move almost everything when switching from one kind of project to another, or from painting to mounting or matting or framing. Perfectly ideal would involve shelves, another drawing table or two, and two or three more big tables for dedicated mounting, matting & framing, preferably in another room. And maybe another room for the oils. And another sink & counter, no TWO sinks & counters, so one could be for marbling, the other for wet-mounting, and then the third would be just for normal human bathroom use.

Because damn, that ink can get everywhere.

photo 1
Damn, that ink can get EVERYWHERE.

In short, this residency was like winning the art space lottery, but not the sort of sum that gets you millionaire status for the rest of your life. The one that lets you get ahead, pay off your student loans & mortgage, and maybe have a nice vacation & get a nice car, too, maybe.

Alas, it only lasted a month.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve had a hard time getting the Most Frequently Used Stuff back to where it belongs, and keeping things enough in order that I can work easily. If that weren’t hard enough, painting that big oil painting made me fall in love with oil painting again, which would never work on my drawing table, nor with cats around. Don’t forget I got booked for that art exhibit, which meant I had to mat & frame a LOT of art, much of which needed mounting & scanning as well.

I’ll tell you all about that next time.

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  1. Well, at least you don’t make robots, which means shelves and bins of parts. As well as a bunch of 2D art materials, plus airbrushes and compressors. Why, if it weren’t for books, art stuff would totally take over the house! 🙂

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