A studio practice
Today, an inside look into my studio and studio practice. These questions are adapted from Lisa Call.
Is your studio at home or elsewhere? How big is it?
Right now my studio is in the garage at home, but from August at least part of my studio will be moving. I am starting an MFA program at the University of Houston and, as part of that, I get a studio space on campus.
My studio area is just under half a double garage. When we moved into this house we finished out the garage, added a window, great lighting, an a/c unit and a sink. It’s a bright space and it looks out onto the garden, which I love. The other half of the garage is filled with bikes, tools and a work area for everyone else in the family.
Typically, how many hours a week do you work in the studio?
During the school year I aim to work from 8:30a.m. to 3p.m. Monday through Friday. This doesn’t happen every day – sometimes I run errands, visit exhibitions or meet with my critique group.
Do you listen to music while you work?
Sometimes. I go back and forth between total silence and different types of music. Some weeks I will listen to a playlist of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, or Arvo Pärt, another week I might be listening to Radiohead or Aphex Twin.
Do you watch television while you work?
Do you answer the telephone while you are in your studio?
Yes. I take my cellphone into the studio for a couple of reasons:
- I’m the main contact if anything happens to the kids whilst at school
- It’s my alarm to let me know that it’s nearly 3pm!
- It’s my music source (if I’m listening to anything)
However, my phone rarely rings because most people know to contact me by email or text message!
I have email and internet on the phone but I never think to look at it.
How often do you take breaks?
Truly, whenever I have to – usually because I start to get the shakes from thirst or low blood sugar. I take water into the studio with me but rarely remember to turn around and drink it!
Is your studio tidy or messy?
Ha! Messy AND tidy. My painting table and easel area are generally tidy and I prefer them this way so I can find the paint colors and brushes I want. However, the rest of the area can get pretty crazy. At the moment there are several light boxes cluttering up one of the desks and most of the floor, plus a number of hand tools from attaching hanging hardware to finished paintings.
When I am color-mixing I have to take frequent breaks for my eyes to rest and readjust. I can also only work for 1-2 hours on color mixes before my eyes get too tired – I find myself mixing and remixing a color and continually questioning it. When this happens I will switch to painting with whatever colors I am certain about.
Because of the need for a steady hand and smooth lines (those edges in my paintings are painted by hand, not taped) my shoulders will get very tense. Regular exercise and stretching helps with this.
Recently I improved my computer set-up to prevent issues I was getting with back and leg stiffness. I’m pretty small and I have a huge screen so my chair is very high. Turns out that sitting with your legs dangling like a 4-year-old is not so good for your back! A stack of two foreign language dictionaries has solved the issue.
What else is important about your studio practice?
For me, it’s important that I have a constant flow between the sketches and studies I work on and painting. I ‘batch’ these types of work, working on a series of studies and then painting, but rarely one to the exclusion of the other.