The State of the Studio


This is how my painting area looked at the end of a busy summer: What a mess!

Studios often reflect the personality of the artist. These spaces where the creative process unfolds are as diverse as the artists themselves. While there are certain universal elements that every painter requires—like adequate light for the painting area and abundant storage for supplies—the other aspects end up reflecting individual comforts and working preferences. Studio spaces may be painted light or dark, expansive or intimate in size, arranged in an orderly or cluttered fashion, present a sterile working environment or be filled with visual stimulation, a private sanctuary or open to the public. Visiting a diverse group of artist’s studios will reflect many of these traits and often provide good ideas for our own. For two such examples, check out the article, “A Tale of Two Studios,” in the new, December 2010 issue of The Pastel Journal available for pre-order in our online shop.

I’ve had a few studio spaces over the years and will undoubtedly have a few more before my painting work is done. While many of these working spaces have been diverse in nature, there is one thing beyond the need for adequate neutral balanced light that has undermined my ability to successfully slip into a productive painting state: order. Without order, I find myself distracted and ill at ease. Retaining order while being busily obsessed on painting is a constant chore for me, especially when a large portion of my time is spent painting on location. Coming in tired from a painting trip or workshop experience often leads to a dumping of supplies in the studio space. After a long summer, this clutter accumulates and considerable time and effort has to be expended to rectify the situation. Personally, I have always envied the painters that seem to be at ease in a studio environment of complete chaos, but I know it just doesn’t work for me. Even when the summer buildup is dealt with, I have to tidy up at the end of the painting day or first thing in advance of a new day; otherwise, it affects my state of mind and ultimately the artwork.

No matter what your studio or working space evolves into, one thing is imperative to the creative process: You have to be comfortable in the space and able to transcend from the conscious world around you into the creative world within.

Please post a comment and share your personal studio preferences and observations.

[pictured above] This is how my painting area looked at the end of a busy summer: What a mess!




Richard McKinley on DVD

Watch art workshops on demand at ArtistsNetwork.TV

Online seminars for fine artists

Get a copy of Pastel Pointers, the book!


You may also like these articles:

11 thoughts on “The State of the Studio

  1. richard mckinley

    Tom, Love your observations, very thought out. One thing to remember, you produce beautiful work – I have witnessed your plein air process and it works. Your issue as I remember is stopping. That’s one many of us deal with.

  2. Tom Bailey

    "If a cluttered studio implies a cluttered mind… what does an empty studio imply?"
    –That said, the only thing I hate more than the mess that I have created is the thought of cleaning it all. I’m a lazy slug. I have somehow evolved the ability to create a mental cocoon around my ‘active’ art area and blur out the rest. I know it’s not healthy and those who live with me hate it. An organized studio and plein air set-up would free more mental space to create better work. And they, like a blank white canvas or new empty notebook are powerfully inspirational. So: an organized studio ("clean" is probably not attainable in my lifetime) has become one of my goals for the coming year.

  3. Randye

    I would describe my studio as "marinating." I now have great light, good music, an easel I can leave up… I’m just trying to make a space where I can paint whenever I want… Have to work on organizing the pile of pastels I’m generating… Those that I want to finish… Those that are hopeless and not able to be used again, those that need to be washed off, those that ARE washed off and then there’s all the photos that seem to be multiplying like rabbits!

  4. Ginny Burdick

    Ricardo you are so right. When I walk into the studio that I have ignored for a while, and chaos is every where I can’t creative, but some times it takes time to get things back to where they feel sane. But as this happens I can feel some of the creative thoughts move, and as the order happens, sometimes a painting begins to evolve. The chaos too often gives me the excuse not to psint. This last year Studio Magazine did a 4 page story on the stdio, it was clean that day. Thank you Richard

  5. richard mckinley

    Lynn, sounds like a good working space. We all need to remember that it is not the space in which the artwork is created that will be treasured later, but the artwork.

  6. Lynn Morgan

    I don’t have the luxury of a separate studio space, so my eat-in area of my kitchen is my studio. Instead of a table and chairs, I have a project table with 9 bins on each end, some containing baskets. That’s where I store pastel books and lots of other paraphernalia. Since I live alone, I can leave my pastels out all week, but I pack them up each week to take to my painting class. That’s when I clean up the space before bringing it all back out. My easel is set up next to the table, and the space has windows on 3 sides. It doesn’t face North, but it still works for me, and it’s the best I can do!

  7. Carol Preston

    Richard Thank you for sharing studio thoughts. I am one of those artists
    whose studio looks a bit chaotic, but I know where everything is, and it must be in that place. I have been told that I am not organized, but my reply is this is my type of organization. The point is that our studios are our own, and as you way reflect our own personalities. It is the way we work, and as such should be left to our own devises.