Pretty much every artist that I know of is or has been, in search of an optimal work area. Personally, I’ve had studios in every environment conceivable from a 10’x15′ room to a corner in a bedroom. I’ve had no definable work space also. That is to say I worked at the kitchen table. I kept everything in a tackle box and stored my canvases behind a chair. Generally, its nice not to have to tear everything down and put it away between sessions. However if this is your only option don’t get dismayed. Press on. I pop back and forth between painting and other activities so I don’t always have set block of time to work in. Also I have found that there is an amazing amount of power to get things done in small increments of time. Since I’ve moved into the family room I’ve gotten an amazing amount of work done and I believe this is due to accessability. A work space that is far away from your base of operations creates an out of sight out of mind situation. That means you won’t get anything done because you get there often enough. In the environment I’m in its easy to just plop down and work for ten or fifteen minutes. Do this three of four times a day and I’ve painted for an hour or more. I have a very hectic life. Many times it is hard for me to sit and work undisturbed for 3 or 4 hours at a time. Also there are those who like to watch me work (some artists can tolerate this some can’t) and being in a semi-public area gives them a chance to observe what I’m doing.
The work area needs to be well lit no matter where it located. Overhead lights, desk lamp and as many windows as possible are highly recommended. I have a ceiling fan with 3 compact flourescent light bulbs, a desk lamp with a true lite light bulb, and double french doors near my desk. I tray to acheive near perfect and natural light as I can. The combination of flourescent light and incandescent light is pretty close to natural sunlight as far as the visible spectrum is concerned. Direct sunlight is a problem through the french doors in the afternoon because they face west. North facing windows and skylights are best. As you can see from my photo there is a magnifying glass in my desk lamp. This helps when needing to do close work and small detail. Another aspect of my work area is not just its placement in the surrounding environment but the placement of everything in that area. I like everything at my fingertips. Its an inconveinence to me to have to get up and go get stuff continually. My reference material, my pencils, brushes, paint, and file cabinet is all right where I can get to it with out alot of getting up and down. It is all wasted time and effort. I’ve worked as an illustrator and time is money. It is also a destroyer of creative energy. The less time you have to spend in preparation and periferal activities the more more time there is to create. As crazy as it sounds this has turned out to be a pretty good spot to work. Occasionally, there is to much distraction with the all the things going on around me but that is manageable and I’m getting alot done so the trade off is fair.
My tools are old school. Brushes, paint, linseed oil, turpentine, pencils,erasers are pretty much the extent of my needs. I know some folks like to scan their work and modify it on a computer but I stay with what I know. If it doesn’t look good on paper then it probably isn’t what I’m wanting to achieve and it needs to be fixed or I just trash it and start over. I’ve done this many times. No big deal.
As you can see here my pallet is a 18″x20″ sheet of glass taped tp the top of nightstand. I’ve been using glass as a pallet for oil painting since my college days. We were instructed to buy a 2’x2′ piece of glass and a2’x2′ piece of masonite. We painted the masonite a middle value of gray and then tape the glass to it. I’ve never gotten around to painting my table top but it would be an optimal situation as it give a truer chroma/hue reveal to my paints.
I have one jar with turpentine to clean brushes on and a jar of painting medium,(linseed oil and turpentine mixture in this case) but I’ve also used liquprin which speeds drying time. However, it creates a gloss effect to the paint which I absolutely abhor. Gloss creates glare and therfore a loss of image when light reflects off the surface. But glossy glazes can create a wonderful feeling of depth when layered correctly.( Oh yeah, this nightstand has nifty little drawer for storing things and a shelf for other odds and ends. Mine has colored pencils, pastels, and a hair dryer for expediting the paint drying process. A hair dryer is a handy time saving tool when you are up against a killer deadline.) Acrylics don’t stick to a glass pallet either so a smaller version works well for that also. An old fashioned enamel coated metal tray works very well for acrylics as well.
Another tool must that I recommend for travel purposes as well as studio storage space conservation is a multi-tiered tackle box. I’ve had one of these since college also. Some were larger and some were smaller but I pretty much always have had one. Unless you’ve been blessed with an abundant amount money for materials, don’t buy your tackle box at the art supply store. They are way over priced. Go to the local discount house who’s name begins with “w” or a “k” and avoid the budgetary distress syndrome. Check for sales at the craft and hobby stores also they run regular 30-50% off sale on art supplies. This when I purchase frames as well.