Thursday, October 23, 2008

At Work, Not Play

I went to an art supplies store, today, to look at some canvas. As I wandered around the shelves, I couldn't help but become irritated that half the shop was taken up with what I thought of as unnecessary, 'decorative' accessories – flimsy, unsturdy easels, elaborate brush holders and sets of drawers, dainty scrapbooks, and project-packs for hobbyists.
I like high quality tools and materials. But I don't need the 'right' table or a picture-perfect set-up in order to work. The contents of my studio are utilitarian and inexpensive. However, as I'm always curious about other artists' studios, I thought I would share a little of mine in the hope that readers might share a little of theirs.
Gorilla adjustable aluminium painting platform steps
are perfect for setting up studio work benches or tables. The height is adjustable and any large piece of timber can be used as the top. I use them to create tables when I am seated and benches when I prefer to working on my feet. They're inexpensive, and (most importantly, for me), easy to transport and move. I like studio space to be flexible: I want furniture that can be dismantled when extra floor space is needed.
Fairway quartz halogen 1000W floodlights
are inexpensive, adjustable and can be packed up easily. They provide a very bright, relatively clean light. Unfortunately, they get hot quickly but that can be used to dry paint at a temperature more like that of daytime than the night.
PH neutral glassine paper
is useful for wrapping works on paper – from pencil, charcoal, pastel, to acrylic. It's waterproof, smooth, protects the surface of the work well, and is relatively sturdy.
Cell-Aire foam
is also very useful for protecting the surface of enamel and oil paints, underneath a layer of bubble wrap, when they're packed . It doesn't mark the surface, like bubble wrap often does.
Heavy duty canvas drop-cloths
are a must-have. Lots of artists let paint fall on the floor of their studio – I don't. I lay these out underneath where I am working. If paint spills in small areas, it's absorbed, instead of becoming a slippery mess. Larger areas sit on the surface for a little while, so it's easier to clean up. I take them to the laundromat every now and then to be washed and dried. It's a nice texture to walk on, and I like the raw canvas smell. I also use them to line the floor of my van, or as extra padding, when I'm transporting works. Best of all, they create a sense of familiarity when working in new spaces.
Clear plastic stackable drawers
are another must-have. I keep everything that will fit in them: tubes of paint, pens, brushes, digital accessories, discs, files, tape, printed reference articles – everything! I label the front with posca pen on masking tape. I like to be able to see what's inside as well (there's nothing more frustrating than wasting time rifling through boxes looking for the right tool). As with everything I like, they can be transported easily – or moved around the studio – without having to repack the contents.


sue beyer said...

I have two big tables made out of solid-core doors, from the hardware, with some adjustable legs permanently attached. They were inexpensive but are really sturdy.

I got myself an aeron chair, which was a little expensive but comfortable to sit on for long periods of time. All of the other furniture in my studio are cast offs, second hand and even found on the side of the road :-)

Kate said...

I love auto trays - you know, the old style Granny ones!
Double decker, they fit stacks on, often have a draw and they're on wheels so can follow you anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I heard from a clerk at my local supply spot that they make most of their money off of "collectors." People who buy lots of various art supplies, obsess over everything being "archival," but rarely if ever use any of it.

I was once shown a beautiful home "studio" once that had never been used. There wasn't even paint dribbles on the easel and many brushes still had their coating on them!

I don't really understand why you'd spend so much money to collect the tools without using them. But I don't collect stamps either so maybe I'm missing something.

But I'm pretty sure that many stores and manufacturers realize that their biggest customers aren't actual artists (or students) but "collectors" who will never use their products anyway. So they ship and order lower quality materials.

I think most artists use a combination of some very high-end material alongside things they found in the garbage or made themselves. There are some things you need to spend good money on and many many others you can make or find for much less. Whatever works best.

Thanks for the post!

artcanyell said...

When I was at art school I purchased the best oils, watercolours, cameras, lights etc. doing the course nights I was working daytime and had money. After years of this and expending a fortune on the course and art projects, I stayed at my day job but have maintained my interest in art although not as a practitioner. There are others like Rosalie Gascoigne who used discarded woodplanks, boards and boxes including any commercial text etc probably not purchasing any materials except paint and nails etc.. more hardware shop stuff than expensive art material store. There is another guy who lived isolated on a remote island who painted as well on anything he could find, cartage materials, wooden planks etc, anything at all he had nearby, no luxuries like canvases and I can't remember his name now, but his work sells for as much as Gascoignes now. Its not the money for materials that matters. We can always find something to make art with if the talent and driving passion is there, that is all that matters.

artcanyell said...

Ian Fairweather was the impecunious artist who worked in extreme isolation with whatever he had. Here is some interesting info on him, his life and art:

Jodie said...

I hear you. I always giggle when I see $20 palettes, for example. I use ice-cube trays- $2 from Coles.

Red Shoe Artist said...

Ha, I live in an area where there are a lot of artists and they are listed on what is called 'The Artist's Trail' and I was approached to be listed on it. Before making any decisions I decided to take the Artist's Trail tour like a tourist and had to laugh at some of these open studios that look cleaner than a heart surgeons room. Chesterfield furniture, antique mahogany tables with ornate finishes, brush holders made of old english china.. not a spot of paint anywhere.. I asked the tour guide where the real studio was. Lol
My Studio resembles an op shop.. nothing in there but my paints,easels and brushes and a 1970s Playboy Pinball machine
Thanks for the post

Staci said...

Thanks for this post-always fascinating to peek under an artist's skirts, so to speak. I like your table solution a lot. I'm setting up a new space and was considering a table top on top of some file cabinets for storage, but I like the mobility of your setup! My space will have to transform from sewing to weaving to god knows what so that setup would be perfect! Thanks.