When I told an artist I planned to interview him in his Philadelphia studio, he immediately started a three-day renovation of the space so it would be tidy, professional, and well organized. He repainted the walls and cement floor, organized the bookshelves, re-hung the paintings on the wall, cleaned the windows, tossed out bags of trash, boxed up props, and wiped down all the furniture. I told him it wasn’t necessary to do all that work, but he explained that I had given him an excuse to stop painting and spend time organizing a better work environment.
Most artists are like my friend in Philadelphia. They just don’t get around to organizing and cleaning their studios even though they recognize those activities can help them operate more efficiently and creatively in the space. The only time they really plan the work space is when they have the opportunity to build a new structure or convert a room previously used as a bedroom, garage, or recreation room.
My visit to Philadelphia was followed by studio interviews with an artist who worked in a converted root cellar, a woman painting on a piece of plywood laid on a spare bed, and a guy operating in an attic he shared with pigeons. I then went home and completed a painting in the basement space of my home, which is filled with cat boxes, cleaning supplies, back issues of American Artist, and wrapped dahlia bulbs. Not surprisingly, I started thinking about putting together a magazine that might help me and many other artists by featuring better storage units, color-corrected lighting, durable furniture, adequate ventilation, and better organization of work spaces.
I’m now in the process of putting together that special newsstand magazine, and I am soliciting information about artists who have taken the time to resolve some of the challenges we all face. If you have a good idea to pass along about storing wet paintings, keeping sheets of white paper clean, shelving still life props, buying a well-made easel, installing color-corrected lighting, evacuating solvent-laden air, hosting a model, providing space for students, or displaying finished paintings I would like to hear from you. If you have visited a studio that is worth bringing to the attention of other artists, I would also like to hear about those spaces.
I look forward to hearing about the studio you are currently using or the one you dream of occupying.