Whats in Your Studio?

When I told an artist I planned to interview him in his Philadelphia studio, he immediately started a three-day renovation of the space so it would be tidy, professional, and well organized. He repainted the walls and cement floor, organized the bookshelves, re-hung the paintings on the wall, cleaned the windows, tossed out bags of trash, boxed up props, and wiped down all the furniture. I told him it wasn’t necessary to do all that work, but he explained that I had given him an excuse to stop painting and spend time organizing a better work environment.

Most artists are like my friend in Philadelphia. They just don’t get around to organizing and cleaning their studios even though they recognize those activities can help them operate more efficiently and creatively in the space. The only time they really plan the work space is when they have the opportunity to build a new structure or convert a room previously used as a bedroom, garage, or recreation room.

My visit to Philadelphia was followed by studio interviews with an artist who worked in a converted root cellar, a woman painting on a piece of plywood laid on a spare bed, and a guy operating in an attic he shared with pigeons. I then went home and completed a painting in the basement space of my home, which is filled with cat boxes, cleaning supplies, back issues of American Artist, and wrapped dahlia bulbs. Not surprisingly, I started thinking about putting together a magazine that might help me and many other artists by featuring better storage units, color-corrected lighting, durable furniture, adequate ventilation, and better organization of work spaces.

I’m now in the process of putting together that special newsstand magazine, and I am soliciting information about artists who have taken the time to resolve some of the challenges we all face. If you have a good idea to pass along about storing wet paintings, keeping sheets of white paper clean, shelving still life props, buying a well-made easel, installing color-corrected lighting, evacuating solvent-laden air, hosting a model, providing space for students, or displaying finished paintings I would like to hear from you. If you have visited a studio that is worth bringing to the attention of other artists, I would also like to hear about those spaces.
I look forward to hearing about the studio you are currently using or the one you dream of occupying.

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Steven Doherty Blog
M. Stephen Doherty

About M. Stephen Doherty

I've been interested in art since I was a child,  and I was fortunate to be able to take Saturday art classes at the Cincinnati Art Museum from the time I was 9 years old until I finished high school. I majored in art at Knox College and graduated summa *** laude, Phi Beta Kappa (proving artists can use both sides of their brain!).  I then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from Cornell University; taught art in public schools, a community college, an adult education program, and a college; worked in the marketing department of a company that manufactured screen printing supplies; and was hired to be editor of American Artist in January, 1979.

Thomas S. Buecher introduced me to plein air painting and it immediately became a passion of mine because it got me outdoors and allowed me to continue learning when I traveled to judge art shows, attend conventions, give lectures, and interview artists. Over the years I've exhibited my paintings at Bryant Galleries in New Orleans, Trees Place Gallery on Cape Cod, and in a traveling exhibition titled From Sea to Shining Sea.

I've written 10 books on artists and art techniques and contibuted articles to magazines, websites, and exhibition catalogs. Now as I prepare for semi-retirement, I'm trying to hone my painting skills -- especially those related to painting portraits.

I've been very fortunate to have met thousands of talented artists who have enriched my life with their art, their friendship, and their advice. I am grateful to Jerry Hobbs and Susan Meyer who hired me in 1979, to the talented people who worked with me on the magazines, and to the artists and advertisers who supported American Artist, Watercolor, Workshop, and Drawing  magazines and the related websites.

I've also been blessed with a supportive, talented wife, Sara; a daughter, Clare, who works for an insurance agency; a son, Michael, who is a computer enginner in Austin; a son-in-law, Shawn, who can fix and carry anything; a granddaughter, Amanda, who has me wrapped around her finger; and my mother, Dotty, who has advised and encouraged me from the beginning.

40 thoughts on “Whats in Your Studio?

  1. I don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but I think a major part of what makes a studio work is its energy and how it makes you feel when you are working in the space. For me, It’s not just a matter of space and lighting, but a frame of mind. For example, I’m a really home body and my house and how it is decorated, arranged and lived in is all very important to me. The heart of the house is in the center, which includes the great room, kitchen, dining room and office, and is where I spend most of my time and where I feel most connected. At the front of the house is an extra bedroom I have used at various times as a workout room, as a craft room, as a studio and, yes, even as an extra bedroom. The problem was, I never felt good in the room because I felt separated from the rest of the house. I have a side jewelry business, and the feeling was so strong that I ended up putting all my supplies on a cart that I rolled into the kitchen whenever I needed to string some beads. Likewise, once I setup my art studio in the dining room, I was able to start painting. I know this sounds very new age, but it really did make a difference for me. I guess, metaphorically, I felt centered and in a place I felt free to create. I never used the dining room to eat in anyway.

  2. I have a wall in my studio that I keep foam core sheets with drawings attached, the foam core sheets are attached to the wall with binder clips and nails so that i can lift them off to work on and rearrange them. I got the idea from Costa Vavagiakis, he has an amazing studio here in Brooklyn.

  3. Hello, Stephen.

    My studio is a very small room on the 2nd floor of our house. So, storage space is a bit of a problem for me. I put two layers of shelves into my closet in the studio and store my books, magazines and dry supplies there. I store oil paints and mediums under my easel in an open small box, so they occupy one spot. It makes it easy to clean around those. I also put the carpet leftovers upside down to cover some of my good carpet under the easel and around it. It really helps me to keep paint from falling on my good white carpet!
    I also have my “office” space, which is a black table with a laptop, scanner, colored pencil boxes and a layered shelf for the documents. I even use the space under my table, having books and magazines I often use underneath it. As you see, I have to be organized to deal with such limited space. But I like my big window and the amount of light I get coming into my room.

  4. In my studio, there is only one window (which I make sure is clean) and lots of walls where I just tape random scraps of whatever I find in my drawers onto. Tape is amazing in the fact that nothing is permanent and you have to keep moving things around until you like it. That’s when you find a more permanent situation. Shelves are key, I need a lot more than I have and things just end up piling and the floor becomes abandoned and so you can no longer walk on the actual floor. In my other studio I make sure I keep everything clean and open, there are so many windows and lights that it makes it easy to keep a light mood and remember to put things away.

  5. I don’t paint that often (I hope to remedy that in the near furture), but I have a few ideas to store wet pictures. If they are small you can get stackable COOKIE racks that fit 10″x 16″ for only $11.00 for a set of three. If you need larger and more capacity there are the Commercial baking racks (http://www.zesco.com/products.cfm?subCatID=740&PGroupID=010702DK05) for $545.00 but has 12 spaces 25″ x 26″ and is on wheels. For singular paintings, you can hang paintings on fishing line from a beam.
    Hope this helps.

  6. Funny you should ask… This has been my obsession for the past several months, as I’m in the process of building an art studio in our back yard behind our house. If you’re interested you can see the project from its conception on my blog at this link. http://www.jenniferyoung.com/blog/index.php?tag=building-an-art-studio

    Since this is a blog format what you’ll see is the most recent post first (which deals with my research on full spectrum lighting.) But scrolling back to prior pages will reveal all of the concerns I’ve been laboring over up to now from the “ideal” to the “real”.

    I’m at the point where I am getting down to the wire, doing finishing work, painting the walls, etc. and then I can move in and concern myself with furnishing and atmosphere. Can’t tell you how much I look forward to that!

  7. Great article – looking forward to read more stories…. I suffer from studio envy – but like most artist I am lucky to have some space set aside for my work.

    I found that garage sales and flea markets can sometime turn up some great accessories for the studio. I found a KOPYKAKE projector for $10 and drawing desk chair for $5

    My wet side of the studio has a sink (but no toilet)- the dry side is for my drawing table and dry media.

    … hope to read more

  8. We converted our 16’x16′ living room, at the front of the house, into my studio. We installed french doors on the two open doorways. We use the family room as our living room, and I have a good-sized, light-filled space that I can shut the cats out of.

  9. Have a husband so interested in your activity in the art world that he makes room for you to operate. Every time I would be gone for fwo weeks at a time he would have another room added on to our home with adequate windows. I now have a 3-room studio. He’s been gone for 6 years, but what a legacy!

  10. NEW STUDIO ADVICE…If you are wondering how and where to build a studio and you’re a homeowner, look at your existing buildings to see where you could put an addition. My studio is an addition to our existing carport. We cut down the cost and effort by extended the carport 24′ giving me a 480 sq.ft. studio.

    For studio workspace, I love my folding plastic banquet tables. The 6 ft. tables are very sturdy and easy to clean. Also I can fold them in half to 3′ for storage. I have extras that I use when I’m doing framing or having classes, then I can tuck them away when I don’t need them.

    My lighting is a combination of fluorescents and track lighting which seem to give a good balance of warm & cool.

    North light windows are great! As is cross-ventilating windows.

    Walls…I invested in a hanging system by Walker Display which utilizes picture molding. No nail holes and I can rearrange easily.

    Last bit of advice…spend as much as you can on insulation. My studio is better insulated than my house! Even a brand new studio won’t be appealing if you aren’t comfortable.

    Even on a tight budget, I have my dream studio!

  11. I have to chime in again to say thanks for this topic and please keep the great ideas coming, especially in terms of art/frame and art supply storage!!

    Along those lines, here’s a link to something my husband and I devised for me to use as a mini taboret and paint caddy:


    p.s. Lumppy, can you tell me where to find the stackable cookie trays?

  12. well, my studio is a fourth bedroom in my home. i’ve added some high shelves to keep solvents and dangerous items up off the floor for safety, i have a 2 year old. we took off the closet doors and added more shelves where i store supplies, canvas, etc. i’ve also got a credenza, work table, drawing table, bookshelf, and desk all crammed in there too. not to mention all the easels i use.

    while my studio is consistently messy, i do spend time organizing my materials and supplies so i can work efficiently. one of my best purchases to date was a craftsman tool chest, it was a birthday gift from my husband. i noticed in a photo of another artists studio of her small tool chest and thought what a great idea. i ended up buying a craftsman tool chest/work station and love it.

    it’s on wheels so i can move it around, has a MDF work surface that lifts to reveal sectioned storage, little storage areas around the edges that hold everything from erasers to paint tubes that i am using. it has this great ‘hole’ that is to hold a drill, a tapered drinking glass fits in it perfect to hold brushes. across the back are holes for screwdrivers and other tools that hold my small painting knives, scissors and such so they are right in reach. it’s got peg holes and hooks on the sides which i hang tape, tube wringers, blow dryer and towels. and it has a small outlet strip so i have attached a light to it to illuminate the work surface.

    the five varying depth drawers down the front have allowed me to organize all my paints and studio tools. no more bins piled full of paint tubes, everything is laid out in an organized manner.

    beats every artist taboret i’ve looked at hands down. i’ve even sat at it and used it to paint small works. i couldn’t live without it.

  13. My studio is usually a mess but it really does suit me well. I can be found hunkered down there and away from the world with all my tools handy. Neighbours pop in bring their own mug and have a chat, if I am not in ‘the throes’ as they call it. I don’t even see them if things are working well.
    It is an old kitchen in a downstairs apartment, no longer useable for that. It has a wonderful large window that opens at ground level and a west exposure, not great for painting light but great for warming my soul and resting my eyes. Beside that I have a large flat topped drafting table I made from an older one I salvaged, a small magazine stand from the fifties to pile the most needed items on and around and I have a large ‘A’ framed easel I also made and revamped to hold a number of paintings of various sizes along with rolled canvas, papers etc.
    I occassionally try to tidy it but then I cannot find a thing so mostly I sort through once in awhile reorganise files with due dates and off I go again.
    I took the cupboard doors along with the median off one set of below counter cabinets and that gives me three nice shelves for flat files.
    I have a formerly very battered,ferrel tom cat (now retired to indoor living) who is supervisor and general mouse and ant control. We both enjoy the visitors at the window which include many birds, neighbouring cats and the occassional rabbits, once a fox even.
    I have radio and music that I can pipe in from stations I find on the Computer and that feeds my soul. Revello is a great movement to use for painting ocean!!
    We have a wood furnace so my husband (I forget to feed it most times) tromps through with armloads of wood, dirty, snowy boots, out with the ash bucket and offers his comments (wanted or not) as he passes by. I am setting up another room where people can view my work and not really get too close to what is forming at that moment.
    I teach classes as well but for those now I usually end up moving upstairs to my kitchen proper where there is more room, a table that is expandable, the temperature is more moderate and tea to share.
    I am a scrounger and when I see something roadside waiting for garnage clean-up, I have been known to screech to a halt and scarf whatever caught my eye and bring it home and add it to my workroom, much to my husband’s dismay.
    I am not sure if this is what you are looking for but I am enjoying this thread. Thanks.

  14. Wow, just have to chime in as I sat at my computer and read this blog post while taking a break from straightening up my studio! A rare occurrence: I only do it when it becomes hard to move around in there.

    My studio is just a small room in my house intended as a bedroom but grabbed by me for a studio because of its North facing windows. Space is at a premium, I fitted the shallow built in closet with shelves to hold my still-life props and canvases line the walls six or seven deep. Frames have to live in the attic. I have several small tables of different heights crammed in the corner where the light is best, each covered with one or two different still-life set-ups. My easel is placed in the opposite corner, and because of this I am unable to step way back and get a good look at the work on the easel. To make up for this deficiency I have installed several mirrors in that corner so that I can turn my head and get a different perspective of the work in progress: I find that immensely helpful!

    Studio location is also an interesting topic: because I have three children, I find that having my studio here in the home is best…I can throw in a load of laundry and then head upstairs to paint, come down for a break and start defrosting a chicken for dinner etc. When the boys were teeny I would even be able to get in a little painting during nap times, because all I had to do was tiptoe across the hall to my special place! A room of one’s own is a beautiful thing for a painter mother. One thing, I do need to have two locks on my studio door! One of my sons has special needs and whenever I forget to double lock the door he breaks in and eats my edible still-life props! I am known for my paintings of pastries and candy and my son knows this and does not care how stale that doughnut is as long as it is covered with sugary icing! 😉 A rather unusual studio hazard I suspect.

  15. After working in a studio space of “clutter and constant re-organization” because mixed media, watercolor, jewelry, assemblage and altered books were part of my life, I found myself doing less and less art. The space was literally and figuratively always in a state of flux! I spent more time trying to find a space for things or looking for that tool for the texture I needed for a particulary background, that I just gave up. The spare 12×18 bedroom needed help as did I as an artist. I needed a space to work, think, create and teach.

    A year ago it happened with an organizational plan and design that created organized storage, true color lighting, office space, work stations for 3, speakers for music and even a gallery wall. I love coming in my studio now and being creative. I even have a pillow on the floor for my shitzu, Sabrina.

    I will be more than happy to send you some photos of what now works for me in my studio.

  16. HI Steve – great idea to devote some magazine space to this topic! After spending the summer painting in a garage, I appreciate the importance of a cozy and organized studio space. More than anything, my studio needs to feel like home – it needs to be a room that I would be comfortable hanging out in even when I’m not painting. Some of the things that work well for me:

    – Vertical file organizers/sorters to store wet panels. They’re cheap at the office supply store, and great way to let paintings dry without taking up too much space. (See my blog post here for a photo of them in my studio, down near the bottom – http://slpeterson.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-latest-studio.html)

    – Installed shelving on the walls to dsiplay larger wet paintings as they dry. I use the premade shelves that they sell everywhere for displaying photo frames.

    – Color corrected flourescent bulbs. I know that there are a lot of expensive lighting systems that are advertised to artists, but it’s easy and cheap to go to Home Depot and buy a generic fixture and bulbs. They sell a range of color temperatures, and I think I pay about $8 per bulb – I use 4200K bulbs, thought I know a lot of artists prefer 5000K.

    I painted the walls in my studio a grey-green color that displays paintings well, and doesn’t bounce distracting color onto my paintings while I’m working. I hang framed, finished paintings in the studio before they head out to galleries – keeps the place looking professional, and displays my work well when people stop by.

  17. I use what would have been the living room in our house as my studio – it’s right next to the front door. The key to making the space work for me is organizing everything in the built in cabinets and drawers. They’re all melamine with laminate tops so easy to keep clean. The small cart I had made on wheels rolls next to my drafting table when I’m working on larger paintings. But it’s the light and view that keeps me inspired on a daily basis, and I’m not stuck off in the back of the house by myself.

  18. My studio is housed in two connected 20 ft. diameter geotensic domes manufactured by Shelter Systems. They are light on the land, can be heated or air conditioned, and put up in less than an hour. Mine have been in continuous use since 2003. The translucent skin lets light flood the interior of the structures, and I have become addicted to it. I can’t imagine working in a hard box now. I use one of the “yurt domes” for painting, the other for sculpture

  19. I use a spare room in our house as my studio. It faces northeast and has a wall with three long, narrow windows.

    I spent some time working on getting the lighting right. I put compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs in the ceiling fan, using “flood light” style shielded bulbs to direct the light downward — less glare all over. I picked CFL bulbs that have a color temperature of about 5000k. That gives out a cool bluish light — resembling daylight — rather than an amber light. I also use an Ott-Lite lamp that clamps onto the easel and has a flexible neck.

    Things I like in the studio — art books on hand in the bookshelves and my paintings on the walls. The furniture is mostly second-hand and shabby, and overall I have a feeling the place is too cluttered. I’m planning to get rid of the overstuffed loveseat that blocks part of the windows. I also need a table to have beside my easel. Right now, I’m using a low coffee table to rest my supplies on. You can see a photo at my blog – http://miriampaintings.blogspot.com

  20. Great! My studio? Three meters X one meter table centered in the middle of the room with light coming from three directions that I can control – on the one side against the wall in containers and boxes drawings and various art equipment. Against the other walls – surrounded by 30 plus paintings – some in completed stage and some glaring at me accusingly. The table is a holy mess and I have knack of quickly clearing it up before starting a work or continuing with something standing on my table easel. Sometimes I feel like painting and at other times I paint myself into the feeling. I paint…

  21. I have just rented a Studio for myself, (7′ by 30′) and need lots of help and suggestions, especially with lighting.
    I am looking forward to your magizine.

  22. The studio I built took 3 years to complete. And when I say we built it, I mean we did all the work, not hire out contractors but poured the cement, framed & drove the nails, electrical, dry wall and finish work included. Plans were drawn up before hand and changed along the way. The bottom half of the building is a garage and brew house. I needed a place to store the Model “A” and brew beer. Being the former head brewer and owner of a Brewery, my friends are certain that I need a place to continue practicing “the brewers art”. But the 2nd floor is where I paint, draw and work on glass. It is a personal space where I practice my art.

    My studio is accessed through an outside stairway to a small deck, which leads you through a set of French doors as you enter. The floor right inside the door is large 16 x 16 tile that simulates stone. A place for wet, muddy or snowy shoes that seen to be the norm here in Iowa. The walls are an off white I mixed together as the regular white was too bright and the off white was too dull. The floors are ¾ inch oak that we set, sanded & sealed as I didn’t think the simulated oak flooring would stand up to studio wear & tear. And besides it looks so phony. There is no plastic feeling up here.

    There are 3 skylights on the north steeply pitched ceiling, which provide the soft northern light I paint by. The middle one is vented so that I’m able to remove any fumes from solvents if needed. There is also a large opening west window so that a natural draft can either go from west to east or up through the middle sky light as a chimney would. I don’t like to use the artificial light as the feeling I get from the north light is very soothing and allows me to forget about the outside world and get into the zone.

    Inside along the wall I have picked up large shelf units at the local Goodwill Store. These are custom built over size units that hold large sheets of matt board along with all my paper supplies. I store my still life props in an old dresser in which I removed the drawers and replaced them with shelves. The props for the most part also come from Goodwill. These used items take me to the place in the set up I’m painting. Some from the past, some from far away places I can only dream about.

    When I paint at night I use a reflector with a day light compact florescent bulb. This simulates the north light far better than any bulb I’ve ever purchased. The ceiling of the studio has 4 outlets on the ceiling with dedicated switches so at the flip of a switch the light can be changed.

    There is a Diaz that rolls under the stained glass bench, which allows the models to work up off the floor. I built my easel from scrap oak left over from the construction of the brewery. Most of the furniture in the studio I made or modified for studio use. Not bad for a 16 x 28 room above the garage/brew house.

    For me to paint it has to feel right. There are other objects from my past that I fiddle with before setting down and putting the brush to canvass. Some days I get upset as I wasted time with them when I should have been working on a painting. But those objects will always be around to distract me, never leaving this space of my own.

    I have photos of the construction and as it is being used. If you would like to see them, let me know.

  23. Way too many kids…LOL…I’m an art teacher….what I wish wasn’t in my studio….tables…If I had my way all the tables and chairs would go and be replaced by horses and easels.
    When kids use the table they work only with their hands, not their whole arm, their work ends up looking stiff….every hear anyone say they can’t even draw a straight line, bet they wouldn’t have that problem if they weren’t sitting with their arm glued to the table.

  24. I don’t have the luxury of a separate room as a studio. But, we do have a room we use for our piano, our violins etc. We usually refer to this room as “The Music Room” Since most of the music making takes place at one end of the room and we have a futon, used as a guest bed from time to time, in the other end. I sqeezed in an old desk that I use for my watercolor painting. For my pastel painting, I have made use of the walk way in the room and the futon. Old sheets are covering the futon to keep it clean and then trays of pastels go on foamcore boards on the futon. That gave me just a little room for two plastic chest of drawers for other materials. On top of this is a French Easel, folded up as a table top easel (still available to take with me outdoors.) A couple daylight type lamps and my “studio” was complete. What is a studio? The space you HAVE, used in as CREATIVE a way as you can!

  25. My studio is a converted guest bedroom that has north facing windows. My husband and I removed the closet doors and built two shelves from across the top for prop storage and smaller nature and art related books. Then we installed shelving down the left and right sides of the closet that is out of view for storage of canvases and art papers, etc. One of the things I find most handy for storing papers and small drawings is a rolling six drawer scrapbooking bin – the shelves are individual 12″x12″ storage boxes that come out. I purchased it for half price using a coupon at our local craft store. Along the back wall of the closet I placed four metal file rolling carts that I picked up for free at work. They were originally intended to hold hanging files and have a shelf on the bottom and a lid that closes. With the lids open on two of them I can storage smaller canvases and sketchbooks, etc. Above the rolling file bins I mounted a large bulletin board. I use this to pin up inspirational things or sometimes a drawing or two. I have two drafting tables and a wood computer hutch and two floor to ceiling metal locking storage cabinets. I keep my photographic equipment and art reference books in one and all my paints and supplies in the other. My larger drafting table is situated in front of a large window facing north. I have a folding table that stores behind my computer hutch. I have several easels and the folding table comes in handy when I need to use my tabletop easel. I have two nice file cabinets for paperwork etc. that also have drawers specifically designed to hold CDS. I keep my reference photos stored on CDs in these. I use Ott natural lighting for when I am working at night or late evening. I have one lamp that clamps onto my drafting table and another that is free standing. I also use a large clamp mounted lamp that has a magnifier light – I use this for painting miniatures or when I need to do close detail work. I have various art storage containers for various supplies in addition to the above mentioned cabinets. My studio is also used for my music – I play guitar and didgeridoo so I keep my musical instruments in there too. I sometimes take a break from painting and play guitar for awhile. I have always had to “make do” with using the kitchen table for art and never had a room specifically dedicated to art, so this room is my favorite room in the house. I am surrounded by art and nature in my studio and anything else that contributes to my creative work.

  26. Stephen:

    Tried to send you photos of the cart I mentioned, but got “invalid domain” error. Is there another email address or way to get these photos to you other than snail mail?


  27. I have two adjoining store fronts on Main St. which house my frameshop, and my studio which is in my retail gallery and open to the public. My oil painting easel is set up near the front windows which offer great light and is viewed by the public as they walk by. I also have drapes across the front windows which I can pull to ensure some privacy as needed when I don’t care to be in the public eye. In the rear of my studio/gallery I have a model room which doubles as my photography studio where I shoot my art, and paint/draw from life. I also have a watercolor studio in an upper loft which doubles as a storage area. In the rear of the adjoining building I have a custom frame shop which is open to the public and serves to frame my own art. The front of this building is a print gallery and has art supplies which is handy.

    This arrangement has been a long time in coming however. I started out like most everybody else in a spare room and or basement. I have even had an old travel trailer converted to a studio when I was on the road at one time.

    Being in a retail/public environement wasn’t originally by design however but grew as a natural extension of my having some framing equipment and a desire to show/sell my art. Adding the art supplies is handy for myself and students when I teach classes in my studio/gallery. At times it all seems a bit much but it is comfortable and the retail revenue is nice when art sales are slow.

  28. I have had a home based illustration business since 1992 where I set up one of the bedrooms (a 10′ x 12′ room) into a studio. My work surface is made from high grade, 3/4″ plywood that has been varnished and is 30″ deep which runs along three walls; there is shelving that runs under this work surface for storage. My two Macs, scanners, printers, are all networked; current client files are stored in acrylic baskets screwed to the wall and a four-drawer file cabinet for current year’s clients is also in the studio. Wall cabinets were installed on two walls for storing computer related items with track lighting installed underneath them. The closet doors were removed and shelves installed for storing art supplies, and my art table resides there along with a flexible artist lamp. I stripped my childhood chest of drawers, painted a Tuscan mural on it and this is where my oil and acrylic paints, brushes and mediums are stored. My artwork is hung on whatever wall space is left. As you might imagine, it can get a bit cramped if I’m working on illustration projects and painting projects simultaneously but, this is my sanctuary and my most favorite place on the planet. A six foot bookcase holds art related reference books and magazines. My studio has a very large south facing window with blinds for adjusting the light where I watch nature come and go in my back yard. A large, heavy duty aluminum easel is also set up but if I’m creating paintings larger than 36″ x 48″, I take these projects to the dining/family room for as long as I need to work there; propping the canvas on empty boxes and protecting the tile floor with old sheets. Having no children helps with having the flexibility as to where I need to paint. Cleaning up the studio happens about once a month depending on how many client projects I have because I need to be organized! One of the best things I did for my business was to hire a CPA as I guess I’m too right-brained and was never any good in math. QuickBooks is a must for anyone in business.

  29. Hi Steve. My husband & I are both oil painters, and for 29 years we painted together in a space that was way too small for two painters, and impossible to use for teaching. Last year, we finally built a studio where I can teach. It is a small barn-like structure with north facing skylights, so the light is perfect! Everything is the studio is moveable, so that I can rearrange set-ups easily. My husband made 2 adjustable still life tables that are on wheels, one with a slide-in, changeable backdrop. He built a “shadow box” wall unit, for doing portrait/figure painting, which is also on wheels. The model stand is on wheels, too. He built storage shelves along one side, which holds some still life props, casts and pigments. The entire studio is painted a warm, neutral gray, and I try to keep the walls clear so that I have plain backgrounds (no distractions). The space allows me to set up 4-5 still life set-ups for students to choose from, when I teach. I am new to your forum, so I am not sure about how to upload photos, but if you go to my blog: http://www.brushwork.blogspot.com, and scroll down to the October 9, 2008 post, you can see photos of the studio space and set up. Thanks.

  30. When my wife and I looked for our first home last spring, I wanted something with extra living space that I can convert into my own art studio/office. Today we have that home. My studio occupies a second living room space in the basement. I find it not too big, and not too small, but just right. I divided the room into two halves. One side of the room is the creative side with two floor easels, a drawing table, small antique cabinet for storage, antique table for pastels. The other side is my office space with a desk and three bookshelves.

  31. Hi,
    I got your tweet, and thought I’d put my 2 cents in. This is a great subject and one critical to every artist, as you know.

    I’ve had many studios over the years. The worst was none at all, seconded by the top of a washer and dryer. I’m currently moving studios. So designing my new space is something at the forefront of my mind. The sooner it’s done, the sooner I can get back to painting.

    Most recently, I’ve been renting a studio space in an historic plaza in Ajo, Arizona. It’s 350 sq. feet, with wonderful light. I’ve been thrilled, as it’s the best I’ve had in years. However, it’s been strictly temporary. At the whim of the landlord. The whole plaza is going to be renovated and there’s no telling when I’ll be booted out. In addition, there’s barely any electricity (it’s jerry rigged), and the bathroom is at the bottom of a very steep flight of stairs, when it’s open. When it’s closed, I’m SOL.

    To digress a bit. I picked up a book by Eric Rudd a year or so ago. The Art Studio/Loft Manual was an eye opening read. I decided then and there, that the only way to have the security of a permanent studio space would be to own it. My husband and I started looking. We are working on a project about US Route 89, which runs from Mexico to Canada. (If you’re interested, it’s ). Anyway, our parameters for looking were anywhere on or close to US 89 from Utah south. (North is too cold).

    What I wanted at first was a big warehouse we could convert to live/work space. We looked at a few places. Decided at this stage of the game, it would be too much to take on, too much time away from work, and too expensive.  So then we looked at houses. North of Salt Lake, Salt Lake, the small towns going south of Salt Lake. Flagstaff, the Verde Valley. It’s not so easy to find something workable in our price range. I wanted at least 500 sq. ft. for my studio. Jim needs space for his office (he’s a landscape photographer).

    We finally found it! A tiny 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom house in Oracle, AZ, north of Tucson, just off Hwy 77, which is historic Route 89. The house itself is quite quirky. But…it has 4 garages! The largest is an end to end oversized 2 car garage, finished inside, with a 10′ high ceiling. This is becoming my space. It’s about 500 sq. ft., with an additional 100 sq. ft. room with a sink and enclosed toilet.

    We had a handyman take out the garage door. Went to a recycled building supplies place and found 2 glass doors and a window. Finished the concrete floor with epoxy paint. Painted the walls. We’re now constructing painting storage space. There is a 12′ long set of cabinets left over from the previous owner. We’re going to put a platform of plywood on it, with spacers every 2 feet. A bit hard to describe, since we’re designing as we go. What I like is that the paintings will be up high and won’t take up floor space. Did something similar in my Ajo studio and it worked out well.

    The actual process of making a studio work is always challenging. This one is long, so I envision one half for printmaking, bookmaking, and mixed media. The other half will be for painting. I suspect there will be months of arranging and rearranging the space until it works well for me. But it’s mine!

    My blog has a few shots of the studio space under construction. Also if you scroll down further, you can see the Ajo studio before moving in, being used, and being dismantled.

    Hope this is useful for you.

    Barbara Cowlin

    Visit my blog  “At last…making art full-time”
    Online gallery: http://barbaracowlin.visualserver.com/
    Buy my paintings: http://bcowlin.boundlessgallery.com

  32. My most prized possession in my studio is my Rembrandt Graphic Arts Elephant press. It’s a dream come true to actually own a piece of machinery of that caliber.

    My husband had the roof raised over the garage & back porch to create my studio space. It has a high ceiling and large windows on all three sides. It’s light, airy and spacious and provides me with plenty of room to pursue my printmaking passion. Now that I’m retired, I plan on spending as much time as I can in that great space.

    It is so important to have a dedicated space in which to seek your creative muse. Robert Motherwell once said, “I feel most real to myself in the studio.” and I wholeheartedly agree. You are no longer a daughter, wife, mother or teacher but an artist responding to life.

  33. When I had a painting studio in a room about 7′ x 9′, with a door and fairly high double window, I found a great solution to managing the canvasses I produced.

    On three walls I put up shelving using pairs of 6-foot long vertical metal tracks, 2 – 3 feet apart horizontally, depending on the wall space and size of work I planned to store. The supports were set in about 5″ on each side from the planned size of the shelf. Then I had a carpenter rip some boards to produce shelves 5″ deep, cut to lengths that would provide boards that extended 4-5″ beyond each side of the matching supports. Half round moulding or similar was attached to one side of the boards, to keep the work from sliding off. The carpenter also made small depressions under each board near the moulding to accomodate the tips of the 5″ metal brackets that supported the shelves. My shelves were polyurethaned, but could be painted or left as is.

    I found that I could easily store 50 or more canvasses 1″ or so thick of different sizes up[ to 30 x 40, with 3 canvases per shelf and two to three
    shelves horizontally on each section. It’s a simple matter to adjust the shelving, and very easy
    to access any canvas or change which canvasses face out (or in). And the work is protected by being off the floor and not handled frequently.

    I now have another studio but find these shelves terrific for holding VSH and DVD tapes and miscellaneous small items.

  34. I just submitted a post regarding shelving for an 8′ x 9′ painting space. n.b.’s 09 comment about setting up her easel diagonally to maximize viewing distance resonated. I found that using a reducing glass (a reverse magnifying glass, available in art supply stores) iin addition meant that I didn’t have to drag the work out to a larger space to properly see the overall composition and impact of the piece.