SETTING UP A STUDIO
It’s done and dusted. My new studio is finished and I’ve well and truly moved in. I am so lucky, it’s the most inspiring, beautiful space that I’m making my own. A dream come true. What about the view though?
Early morning view from the studio
I started painting over 30 years ago and probably like many artists, began working from the kitchen table. As the years progressed, I graduated to a corner of a room at home. I also limited myself to using watercolours. Water-based media was more practical in those early years with three young, inquisitive boys – itching to get their hands messy. Eventually, the children (and I) grew up and we began to take our chosen paths more seriously.
Out came the oil paints.
I know some artists who are able to paint with little or no paint straying anywhere than on the canvas. I am NOT one of those artists! I need room to paint and now I have a room to paint in. It has taken a few years and a great deal of planning to realise the studio I have now.
Let me take you on a little tour of it.
North light is best and also to have light from above. My brief when designing the studio was to have plenty of natural light. I have a large skylight as well as floor to ceiling north facing sliding doors. The doors were fitted because I wanted to make the most of the wonderful view over Ardmore Bay. The only problem I’ve encountered is that it’s too easy to put the brush down and to just sit and drink in the glorious view. I haven’t painted at night in my new studio yet but if I do – I have an artist’s overhead daylight lamp. When positioned properly the lamp light takes in both the canvas and the palette which is essential when mixing and matching colours.
Lots of light and note the workstations on castors
It’s so important for all of us to be organised. For me, it’s essential to be able to put my hands on materials and equipment easily. I’m the lucky owner of a Hughes Easel that I bought second hand. I also have a table palette that fits nicely in front of the easel (it was custom made by the previous owner of the easel) At the moment I’m painting small canvases and so the easel can easily take 2 at a time. For my reference material, I usually use my iPad with an iPad holder. However, if I’m painting from a photo there’s plenty of room to blue-tac it onto the easel.
I keep my paints and mediums in a make-up box beside me that can open up so that I’m not fumbling about looking for things mid brush stroke!
CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS
Because I teach it is very important that everyone else is organised too. I have kitted out the studio with IKEA bookcase shelves, having seen them at my good friend Julie Douglas’s atelier in Belfast. I have added castors to mine and reinforced the slightly wobbly backs so that these shelves can be moved easily to different areas of the studio. The bookcases are like mini work stations (thank you Julie) that can also be used to house individual still lifes in a workshop scenario.
Hard at work but coffee breaks are an important part of a class
CLEANING UP AND VENTILATION
An available sink is a must. I also keep all the cleaning materials, soaps, mineral spirits in a little cupboard underneath it.
Everyone who knows me understands that I need plenty of moving air around when I’m painting. I also sometimes use alcohol inks and I have masks for this. Not everyone uses them but I don’t think it’s worth taking even the smallest risk. There is a door and a window on the opposite side to the sliding doors overlooking the bay and so it is easy to circulate the air if it’s too hot or if we use a lot of solvents.
I’m actually reconsidering my use of all solvents, I have a little more research to be done first but I’m heading that way.
Over the decades I have accumulated a large library. Initially, I started painting with watercolour. I then delved into the world of mixed media. The oil painting section together with the rest of the collection makes up a diverse inspiration-laden area. When things aren’t flowing freely and I’m stuck waiting for the creative genie, I just plough into the library.
Studio views and the library
Last but not least is the overall space. I’m building a little collection of jugs, vases and bits and pieces that would look lovely in a still life. I will be hanging my antique door soon and will hunt around for some old rugs to grace the floors. Then, when the sun is shining I can throw open the doors and drink my coffee sitting on the deck.
I want my studio to be functional as a studio and classroom but I also want it to be my favourite room. Somewhere to sit and feel inspired, somewhere calm and comfortable. I know I’m blessed and I’m so grateful to my wonderful husband and family for making this dream come true for me.
A room with a view
Me with my main supporters