Monday, June 22, 2009

The In-The-Home Studio Nook

In my recent efforts to produce more, (and always,of course, better) art, I've had to face that one of my obstacles is poor studio practices. My studio used to be a whole room, where I had plenty of space to leave things a mess in one area and just do a clean up every once in a while. I did myself no favors working that way.

My studio right now, is now a nook in my dining room, and just like those of us who have had large kitchens and small kitchens, the same kind of meals can come out of both if you organize and run things right. I've been thinking about how I have gotten so much more efficient because I now run things right in my tiny, but productive studio nook!

The worst thing is when you are all ready to make art, go to your studio area and get so discouraged by the looks of it that you just turn right around. We are here on earth to make art, not watch t.v. (and of course, there's some other reasons we are here, but making art is what we all have in common, right? :D )

Here are my suggestions for a small, but efficient studio, learned from experience:

1. Don't "borrow" equipment from the studio. It's just not that expensive to buy another pair of scissors. I have had to search high and the bathroom because I cut my bangs? In the kitchen where I was cutting string? Same with rulers, tape, packing tape, razor blades, etc.

2. Don't stash non art stuff in your studio. Organize your "other life" in other places. You shouldn't have to root through drawers past the bills, family photos, notecards, etc. to find your art stuff.

3. Remember the 80/20 rule! I read somewhere long ago that we use 20 percent of our spices 80 percent of the time. So naturally, put those 20 percent in the front, accessible. Don't have to get past the peppermint oil to get to the parsley. Same with your art supplies. Okay, if you're reading this, you're an artist, and I KNOW that means that we buy...overbuy...all the time. That's a good thing! It makes us more creative. But even if you have a large space, 80 percent of your time is going to be at your art nook within your studio - your easel or table, so keep the stuff you need the most there within reach.

Those with a nook, like me, see if you can find another place to stash all those media you're going to learn to use someday. Is there a cabinet you can clean out in the basement for the stuff you are not actively using? Big tubs in the garage? I store my large sheets of paper under my bed in a cardboard sandwich and hang my large paper ripping straight edge on a nail behind the basement door. Don't put away in an attic that's not easy to get into, or behind or under things so you can't get to it. Just not in the prime real estate of your art nook.

4. Keep "jobs" together. I keep all the tools I need to rip paper for printmaking together in one spot. I keep all my printmaking supplies and equipment together in one box. I keep all my art marketing materials together in one box. I keep all my mailing and matting things together. All of these activities take place on my dining room table, right behind my easel. I just have to go retrieve them from their "other spot" in one trip, do the work, and back into the box for one trip back. In a small spot, I think it also helps to gang up jobs as much as possible to make for easier clean up. I often have more than one commission going at a time, and I prep as many as I have at the same time.

5. A place for everything...and everything in its place. Yeah, yeah. It saves soooo much time. Blindfolded, you should be able to put your hand on anything you need.

6. A large enough trash can within reach. Since I'm right around the corner, literally, from the kitchen, that's easy. When I had a whole room, that made a difference.

7. Clean up every time. You wouldn't cook and eat a meal and not clean up for a week would you? (Don't answer that!). Seriously, if you ever have had that life experience, you know how it is...there's less and less counterspace, less and less sink space, less and less correct tools for the job, you avoid it forever and when you finally get to it, it's a HUGE job, you're scraping what should have rinsed off. Same in your studio. You can get away with it in a larger one. In a nook, no way. And the bright side is it will save you money. No thrown out brushes, dried up paint, etc. And if you are literally using a part of another room, leaving your art debris around just makes the rest of the room look messy.

8. Keep a nice dog bed in your studio. Now, this is the most important part. Nothing like a little company of the very best kind!! If you don't know me, I am pet portrait artist, Robin Zebley, and my website is

How do you keep your studio, large or small, organized? I'd love to hear your ideas!


DJ said...

Robin, I love how you dispel the myth that more is better...Thanks for the motivation to clean out my own work space.
Love & Laughter...

Ghislaine Bruno said...

High Robin !
I've found a way to keep my studio quite clean and organised. I vacuum it if necesary, have two trash bins, one for paper and one for other stuff, I declutter betwenn each work and the first wednesday of the month is my major cleaning day. On that day I declutter and reorganise all my stuff, wipe off the dust, vacuum even in the corners and under the furniture and... clean the windows !
I also use some of your tips such as having doubles dedicated to the studio, and keeping all things related to the same activity together.
Have a nice day.

Robin said...

Hi DJ! Good for you! The only thing I DON'T do is clean up as I go. I think that would so totally ruin my flow! (I don't do it very well in the kitchen, either!)

Ghislaine, you sound so organized, and of course the windows have to be clean!!

thanks for checking in, DJ and Ghislaine!

Anyone else have a tip?

Dawn Melka said...

Hi Robin what a great write up. My husband thinks that everything we no longer want in the house should go out into the studio , my new studio is separate from the house, I had to explain to him that this was my space and there are donation drop off centers everywhere, also a dump!!! He finally got it. I am heading out there later and I think after reading this I will spend the first few minutes everyday getting a little more organized, or at least try! . Thanks!

Robin said...

Hi, Dawn! You are so right to protect that studio! Hope you got lost of work done today.