October 24, 2008

Studio organization

Everyone loves to get a peek into an artist’s studio, and I definitely count myself among them. I love Cloth Paper Scissor’s Studio, which also introduces me to new artists, which I always find inspiring.

The studios that are very well organized and incorporate purpose-built (read: expensive) furniture are not very intriguing, because they strike me as not feasible for me (without winning the lottery), and I don’t aspire to that kind of studio. The ones that have mountains of supplies all on display, whether well organized or not, are too overwhelming and make me think that the artist is scattered, unprofessional and no good at their art. Then there are the tiny ones that have only basic supplies that make me think that the artist is just very young and can't afford proper supplies. However, I find that I am always intrigued by the studios that have mountains of stuff that is well organized and yet has enough on display that it is inspiring. These ones seem to reflect the kind of artist I want to be - professional, organized yet still creative, ample supplies to ensure there are no breaks in creative activity because something was missing. I know that all these judgements aren't fair, and some very successful artists work on the dining room table and keep their supplies in the china cabinet, but I know that for most of us, the space we call our own, whether for creative activities, relaxation or whatever, influences us as much as we influence the space.

One certainly doesn’t need a large space to be creative, and I have had my fair share of times when I painted in the dining room or sewed on the kitchen table while someone was eating at the other end. But it takes a really comfortable place – however you define comfortable – to make one feel relaxed enough to quell the left-brain voices sufficiently to let the right-brained creativity have free reign.

Ample supplies are also critical. When I was in university art courses, living on student loans, I could never afford enough supplies, and always had to be cautious about how much I used, lest I deplete my entire supply before the basic course requirements were completed. I certainly never had enough to dabble or play or do any extra projects other than what was required to pass the course. And that caution always showed through in the final result, and my professors always had negative comments that pointed out my ‘thriftiness’. Now, I try to not look at the price, or forget what I paid as soon as possible, so I am not tempted to be miserly with my supplies. I do get a little irritated at the constant advice that artists should get rid of the stash, implying that it is some kind of psychotic illness. Sure, some supplies decay as they age, and are no longer usable after a period of time. But lots of things can be repurposed to find new life in a totally different project. And if enough time passes, it will be back in style eventually.

I don’t have the incredible stashes that a lot of people do, but I have enough that storage is still a problem. But the problem isn’t room – it is being able to find what I am looking for, whether a particular item for a specific project, or just inspiration. I go through phases when I do nothing but encaustic painting, and then one day I will see a great art doll and be inspired to do some sculpting, and I want to have the supplies available right then, before the inspiration fizzles into the mist. I often put supplies that all seem like they ‘go together’ in zip-lock bags so that if I ever figure out how to put them together into a coherent assemblage, or run across an inspiring theme, I have everything in one place. Unfortunately, the thing that makes them all seem like they go together can dissipate just the same as the initial inspiration, so I end up resorting fairly frequently. Other times I will start a project with a very well defined concept, but no idea of how to develop the concept, so all the supplies also go into a zip-lock bag until a new idea or method reminds me of the project, and I get inspired all over again.

October 21, 2008


I recently purchased a copy of Semiprecious Salvage by Stephanie Lee, and found a number of great jewellery projects that don't require a lot of tools and expensive materials. I thought I would try the bracelet last night, since I already had a lot of the materials on hand. I had so much fun that I made four - three in brass and one in silver.

October 18, 2008

Tea time watercolor

Most of my creative time has been consumed by the assignments for the watercolour course I am taking, and since the course is introductory, the assignments are all quite ugly and not worth sharing. The mixing exercises are quite useful, because I have focused on using unmixed colors in the past, and haven't really learned a lot about mixing. I also prefer pure color to mixed and more dull colors, but knowing how to mix colors is still valuable learning. However, they really aren't worth sharing. The assignments in class are also quite unimaginative and uninspiring, which for some reason seems to be the norm. Perhaps there is some teaching theory for art that says that making students paint ugly broken crap is a good teaching approach.

I finally had a homework assignment that I thought was worth sharing. It was supposed to be a bunch of boxes and plain shapes using one color, but I couldn't stand the thought of painting more crap, so I added a few interesting elements that could create a story.