OK, not everyone who does art has a fancy studio, but everyone who does art surely has a space, no matter how small, where they can spread out and create. Even if you have to pack it up daily or on occasion to allow for more room on the kitchen table, it is still your studio.
Now, I am not the most organized artist in the world, and I know there are some of you out there that are! You know the ones, with the cute little hand made labels on the numerous clear shoe boxes, all stacked up neatly on shelves filled to the ceiling, revealing all of the things you will ever need for any art project. Well, I am indeed envious of all of you who have the time to be so organized! I would love to be that way, but I always seem to find something else to do.
So, as I was looking around my small studio space, I started to notice a lot of things that I always have around. Things I keep out on or near my desk and completely within reach. They are conveniently located and in sight when I need them. Then, I wondered if these were the same kinds of things that most other artists keep around, as well.
So here is what I found…
1. Paint Palettes- I have paint, mainly watercolors, which I probably use more than any other paint. Acrylics and even oils, which I use on occasion. I can have as many as 2-3 different palettes out at the same time.
2. Pencils- I have pencils. I just love pencils. Sketching pencils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, carpenter pencils, any kind of pencils. And of course with pencils, you do need a sharpener, so I have a small one on my desk and an electric one on the shelf.
3. Brushes- I have brushes. I am a brush hound! I love brushes more than I do pencils. I still have brushes that I bought more than 20 years ago! And I still use them. I really believe in using a brush until the very end! The secret is to clean them thoroughly and re-shape them before you put them away. But it is very important to store your brushes to keep them safe from moths, mice, and the environment, like in a clear, plastic, shoe box! Another great tip is to mark them when they are new, with colored tape, paint, permanent marker, or even fingernail polish, to identify them from older brushes. Then, keep your older brushes for everything from painting trim to polishing your shoes! And don’t throw them away until you have to!
4. Erasers- Now, most of us would like for everyone to think that we get it right the first time and never make mistakes! However, erasers do more than just correct mistakes. They can lift excess graphite, remove masking fluid, store straight pins and blades safely, and they can be cut into shapes to make really cool stamps!
5. X-acto knives- Having a cutting instrument around when painting can be more useful than you think. Besides the usual cutting purpose, utility knives can be used to scrape dried acrylics from a glass palette, just by wetting the palette and allowing the paint to sit for a few minutes. They can also be used to scrape in textures and trees on a watercolor painting. Cutting out stencils can save a lot of time when painting the same thing over and over. Just be sure to keep these sharp tools out of the reach of children and store them wisely.
6. Easel- There are many types of easels available. Literally something for everyone. You should really assess your needs and match them with an easel that is within your budget and space allowance. A French style box easel is a good choice to use on a table top, small studio, or for plein air painting. It stores easily with all of your supplies inside!
7. Large work surface or table- If you don’t have room for a full sized drafting table, you can convert your kitchen table to a great painting or drawing surface with a table top easel. The Cheap Joe’s Table Top Easel Stand is perfect for small spaces. You can stretch your watercolor paper right on the surface and secure with tape or clips. Then, store your artwork away along with the easel.
8. Works In Progress- Every artist has unfinished works they may have started enthusiastically and then somehow were laid aside due to some distraction. I would say, in my case, I need more than just a few moments, here or there, to set aside to paint. To really get involved in a new project, I need time to prepare, research, and gather all of my thoughts and materials. Only then, will I be ready to put paint to paper. As life goes, sometimes, I don’t allow enough time, and the works eventually are forgotten about and give way to something new. However, I feel it is important to continue to be inspire and gather ideas throughout. Then, when the time is available, the footwork will have been done! Don’t discard these unfinished jewels, some may actually be diamonds in the rough!
9. Paper Towels- I think paper towels are one of the best inventions ever. There are some brands that are better than others. I love Viva paper towels, and I prefer the large white “select a size” rolls over any of the prints. I like the select a size rolls because I can pull off just what I need. They are very absorbent and can be used over and over if you allow them to dry over night. They really hold up well to a lot of use. I also like to fold up several sheets and pack them in my journal kit when I am out and about. A neat trick for forming soft clouds, is to wet a paper towel, tear it, bunch it up and place it on an area in the sky that you want to preserve for a cloud. Make sure the area is already wet. Then, simply wash your sky colors right up to the wet towel and remove it when you are finished. The towel will absorb most of the wetness and leave a soft edge between the cloud and sky color. You can also blot a color washed sky with a wet paper towel to pick up the cloud shapes.
10. Color Wheel/ Value Scale- Color wheels of any variety are a great source of information. Most give you instant reference for designing the colors in your painting and also value comparisons. A travel sized color wheel is small and portable as well as convenient for studio use. Robert Burridge has designed a unique color wheel to fit his painting process. He simplified his painting process by narrowing his palette to just four basic colors, in fact, its Goof Proof! His color wheel stems on the selection of a “dominant” color, its “compliment”, and two “spice” colors (which are found one color away from and to the left and right of the compliment). The use of only these four colors builds harmony in his paintings, as well as, excitement. Robert has simplified the task of choosing a workable palette from so many choices! For more information on Robert Burridge process visit robertburridge.com
11. Clothes with paint on them- After years of painting, I finally just gave up! I gave up trying to keep paint off of my clothes. Now, I have a place in my closet dedicated to “painting clothes” aka. clothes with paint already on them! Smocks and aprons are always a good idea when you remember to wear them, however, I never seem to think of it until I have done the inevitable!
12. Paper/ Sketch Pads- I keep notebooks lying all over the house. I found out early that I never knew when a great idea would present itself and I could never find anything to write on. Oh, I tried to have just one notebook, but I, again, would forget where I put it when I needed it. Now, I have small and large notebooks, sketchbooks, pads of paper, and sheets of paper kept here and there. I think just the act of writing something down helps me to remember an idea in my head. I do try to keep the sketchbooks and pads in check by bringing them all together on occasion so I can revisit my notes and ideas.
13. Swivel Chair- Stationary chairs will just not do for painting. I like to move when I paint. Either from side to side or when I need to reach for something. An office swivel chair on rollers is the perfect companion for my painting area!
14. Swing Arm Lamp- Good lighting is an important tool when painting. Where any kind of light or lamp can do, a swing arm lamp gets the light just where you need it. With two sources of light being produced from the Jumbo Combo lamp, fluorescent and incandescent, this product gives you choices of just what kind of light, where you need it, and how much. It clamps directly onto you work space and even has an extra outlet built right in!
15. Camera- There are several reasonably priced digital cameras that are great choices for capturing inspiration for your paintings. The camera on your smart phone is also efficient and convenient. However, it is best to recommend that you view your camera as part of your studio and an investment in creating art. Taking pictures of your art for a portfolio, website, and archives is another great use for your camera. These images can be printed out and used to create cards, calendars, and prints of your art. Another good reason to invest in a high quality camera!
16. Art Instructional Material- Magazines, Books, DVDs- I keep magazines from 20 years ago. Well, pages from them at least, and I file them away for future reference. Ideas don’t go out of style, and they can be reinvented for any period and time. Styles come and go and come around again. So if a design is successful, it will continue for a long time or perhaps, forever. The Palette Magazine is a great source for updated techniques and painting methods with new information in each issue. I think it is important to keep up with art trends and techniques and where art has been and where it is going. There really aren’t many new and unique or original ideas anymore, just reinvented old ones! We are all influence by those we come in contact with. Those who impress upon us and influence us. Create art which is you, the you that is made up by the influence of many others!
17. Computer, printer, Ipad- It wasn’t always common practice for artists to have a computer in the studio. However, more than ever before, digital products are actually becoming viable tools of the trade. Artists can use photo software to manipulate images and design a painting before ever getting their brushes wet. With the new Ipad technology, artists are even foregoing paint and brushes for digital programs to draw and painting directly to a printable image. I pondered on the thought if this type of art production was even art at all and finally decided, Yes, of course it is! It takes the same artistic abilities and knowledge to produce art on an Ipad as it does on a canvas, even more, when you consider the computer program itself. The possibilities seem endless. It is a completely new and different medium for creating art. I think, personally, it is a really neat idea, although, I do not like the idea of being confined to such a small format. I wonder what a 16×20 Ipad would cost if they actually do ever make one! Although, it becomes very convenient to sketch in the field, contemplate ideas and transfer information, I don’t think it will ever completely replace art materials and making art by hand. At least, not for me!
18. Water Containers- Access to clean water during painting is important. You might not always have running water accessible at your painting area. A disposal bucket and gallons of clean water are a good way to keep rinse water at hand. I save yogurt quart containers with lids, small single cups without lids, any plastic packaging that I can use to keep water in. I will take several small containers with me when plein air painting to keep clean water on hand as I need it.
19. Portfolio- Portfolios are great for transporting your artwork, but also as storage for unfinished art as well. They will store nicely in a closet or under a bed until you need the contents. If you are using them for storage of paper or unfinished works, there is really no reason to spend a fortune for your portfolio. A simple inexpensive one will do nicely for this purpose to keep your paper flat and free from dust and sunlight. If you are transporting your artwork frequently, I would recommend investing in a durable and well made portfolio that will last.
20. Storage- Storage doesn’t have to be expensive. You can cut down a cereal box and cover it with wrapping paper and use it to store magazines! Discarded boxes are great storage, as are baskets. I really do love storage on wheels, though. It makes it easy to keep things next to your painting area when you need it and store it away when you don’t.
Speaking of storage, storage becomes the most important consideration when you have little space to begin with. A multipurpose storage unit is ideal for small studio spaces like a taboret (thats French for “storage cart”) that doubles as a workspace as well as a storage unit. I love the Joe Miller Signature Taboret. It keeps all of my painting stuff in one place and has a work surface large enough to accommodate a nice sized table easel. This fine looking piece of art furniture comes complete with castors, it rolls away when I am done! Now, that’s Great Storage!
This seems like a lot of stuff for such a “little studio”. But, I think everything here is completely necessary when I paint. I really do need all of this stuff. The more convenient you make your painting area, the more likely you are to spend time there!
Take a look around at your studio space, and see if it is convenient and practical for you to create art. Time is your most valuable art tool. It can also be the most unavailable unless you make it the most important investment in you!
Keep your brushes wet and your studio OPEN!