A Guided Tour of My Sort-of-New Art Studio
The word “turnkey” is, according to Collins Dictionary, rarely used. Except in my world. Hello, my name is Karen, and I’m a turnkeyaholic.
Context, especially physical environment, has been important to me as far back as age six. My version of playing school involved perusing the Sears Christmas catalogue, making lists of what I would purchase to design and stock a classroom. When I actually became a teacher, I happily spent a chunk of my salary each year to have my environment support my work. If you’re thinking couches, area rugs, and framed art prints in the classroom you’ve got the idea.
I believe that productive work environments are well-organized, well-stocked, inspiring places and that every tiny detail must be in place before I begin to use that space.
That’s the definition of a turnkey project: one where when the key to a business is turned over to the new owners, they can simply walk through the door and begin to work. That level of obsessive attention to every detail is a great skill set to have if you’re a contractor or an event planner. But for an individual, it can be a seductive form of perfectionistic procrastination. I am, both proudly and sadly, Olympic-calibre when it comes to clearing the decks and getting ready. The long history of my art studio is a perfect example.
It Wasn’t Always an Art Studio
My art studio is an octagonal-shaped building, located at one end of a deck overlooking my pond, about a dozen steps from the sliding patio door in the living room.
Here I am, where I ought to be. A writer must have a place where he or she feels this, a place to love and be irritated with.Louise Erdrich
The art studio was actually first built for me as my writing room. I wrote many books in there; the time and attention I put into creating a great writing space was easily justified.
Most of my books were written on a laptop so my writing room just needed comfortable furniture, as well as relevant books easily accessible. (Yes, the photo on the bookshelf is of Kris Kristofferson. Told you I’ve been a big fan for a long time!)
A nice view and a table where I could spread out post-it notes and reference materials made this the perfect spot for me.
It Becomes a Studio
When I had the opportunity to move my writing room/library into the house, I jumped at it. It was easier to get decent Internet service and I had more room for books. My little writing room became a ‘studio,’ a deliberately vague term because, to me, artists were special people, gifted from birth with talents I could only wistfully admire from afar.
I used my studio sporadically for many years. Occasionally, I’d go out there to write in my journal. For a while, it was a meditation space. I dabbled ever so briefly with painting or making collages, but most of the time it sat empty.
Getting Help from the Pros
One of my all-time favourite autumn activities is to tour the studios of local artists. I am inspired, and sometimes overwhelmed, by the spaces where the pros do their work.
When I see art that I love coming from a messy studio, I worry. Am I too tidy to just let go and be creative?
I love the idea of an inspiration wall. This one is from the studio of a woman who paints designs on pottery.
Last weekend I visited the art studio of my teacher, Rod Bergeron. I like studios with a view, easy access to books, and Rod’s practice of working out ideas in his sketchbooks.
It Becomes an Art Studio
My decision to live RAW NEWS and, therefore, to work/play at art, is a very big step for me. It means I have to stop reading and dreaming about art; stop talking about what I will do, and actually do it. For me, of course, that means a highly enjoyable preparatory period of making my art studio turnkey. So I visited the studios of pros, gawked at beautiful studio spaces on Pinterest, and made notes about how I could best set up my little space.
I’m done. I have no more excuses, no more stalling tactics in my repertoire. So let me take you on a tour of my art studio, a place where, as of November 1st, I have started spending time almost every day.
This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.Joseph Campbell
A Guided Photo Tour of My Art Studio
A likeness of George Bernard Shaw hangs by the door. I know he’s not a visual artist. But he was a writer, and he was made by my friend Bob (of the stone therapy post). Perhaps most important, he’s a tribute to the previous owner of my home whose father was actually a friend of Shaw’s.
On your immediate right as you enter, you’ll see a large whiteboard, my inspiration wall. The name “Profound Journey” came from this wall. Months before starting my blog, I’d grabbed a handful of magnetic words and tossed them on the board. One phrase — “profound journey please”–appealed to me so I left it there. When trying to think of a name for my blog, I turned my head, saw the phrase, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This really great cabinet is below the whiteboard. It came painted like this; I can’t imagine anything more perfect for an art studio. It holds all of my paints, pencil crayons, pastels, markers….
I like using flat art boards, but there’s no easy way to hang them. So I glued a piece of decorative molding to the wall. It works like a charm.
Under the ledge you’ll find a couple of huge floor cushions (yes, I occasionally nap on them); a really comfortable chair (I love the circle motif); a colourful throw that my mother made as a blanket for a baby but that I insisted on keeping; a trunk holding watercolour paper, mixed media pads and the like; a CD player and container of CDs that I almost never listen to because I like silence, and a few stuffed toys.
The dragon is Figment of your imagination from Disney. Tigger’s there as a symbol of exuberant commitment, and the duck is for that incessant quacking voice in my brain that tells me I can’t make art. Notice that the duck looks dead. That’s intentional.
There’s a window beside the comfortable chair (if you could look out it and down the hill, you’d see my labyrinth), then one of two multicoloured drawer units that I use to store collage materials sorted by theme.
There’s a chakra wind chime slightly obscuring an art print of the oldest tree in the United States – a tree I saw when visiting Fran K. and her husband on their first international school assignment in Charleston, South Carolina.
Moving along the wall – the window on the right is the one you saw on the left in the previous photo – we come to a little Chinese cabinet that holds candles, a meditation cushion I almost never use, and a singing bowl (ditto).
On the top are symbols that matter to me. Some are a bit difficult to see in the photo but they include: a storytelling doll from New Mexico; a scented candle; intricately detailed miniatures of an artist’s supplies; a jar of colourful gems; a sea turtle; a little wooden box, and a gorgeous blue heart-shaped bowl with a couple of crystals.
The tapestry knot image above is the Celtic symbol of death and rebirth. The black metal figures are ones I bought years ago because I loved their exuberant natures. The collage print that you can only see part of says “Explorer of Truth and Beauty”. Out the window to the left you can spot the dock area of my pond and the pedal boat we didn’t use even once this summer because we were busy or it was windy and rainy.
The next section of wall is taken up with a bookcase, my favourite ‘studio mugs’, a sign a friend gave me (“let go the anxiety of imperfection”) whose message has not yet taken hold but I live in hope, and Idea Girl. Idea Girl is my embodiment of ideas (see Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic).
We’re almost out of walls. This last large wall faces out to the deck so there are no windows. Here you’ll find some of my favourite quotes; a mat and supplies for precision cutting; a container of decorative Washi tapes, and an antique Chinese cabinet that holds large papers, clay, a brayer for printmaking, and anything that won’t fit anywhere else.
Even larger papers and canvases are stored behind the cabinet. To the left there’s another multicoloured paper storage unit, a stuffed monkey (for monkey mind – same idea as the duck) and then the door where we came in.
And finally, in the center of the octagon, a table that used to be covered in plastic shower curtains from the dollar store until I decided that getting paint on the white surface would actually be a sign of progress. And a colourful rug because getting paint on the grey carpet wouldn’t!
I know that I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated space for creative work and to surround myself with meaningful and personally inspiring objects. I feel the responsibility of not squandering this opportunity. It’s time for me to do what I’ve always said I wanted to do, and learn how to be creative in some visually artistic form. I’ll keep you posted.