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.