Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Studio Set Ups

I have had several studio set ups. In my first apartment, my roommate, April and I often painted with our canvases nailed to the outside shingles of the house, and then brought them inside to hang on the wall between sessions. Our little place might have been 500 square feet with three people living in it. On dry days painting outside was just fine. We were in college, so we could paint and store some of our large pieces at the university's studio. Most of our work was iconography and rather small so we could paint at the kitchen table.

Working at a small table
When we graduated, we moved right away into a bigger ranch house with a bonus/laundry room. We set up jumbo canvases against the wall and painted standing or sitting on the floor her and my two huge canvases side by side in the long thin room. On sunny days we hung the paintings on a derelict swing set to dry. Still we worked on small pieces at the kitchen table.

When April moved out with her fiance/now husband, I downsized to a miserable tiny apartment surrounded by trees. I painted on the floor by the french windows with bits of green tinged light coming in. The paintings made during that period needed considerable color correction after seeing them in real light.

Projecting an image in my tiny dark apartment

For a while I owned a house and I had my own tiny room for a studio with a good sized window with plenty of sunshine. I painted on a homemade giant easel and at a small desk. The DIY easel is made of two by fours and can support paintings five foot and taller. Over the top? Maybe.

Jumbo Easel by Ben Grosser (I built mine using his plans)

After a time, we downsized again. I paint in a large kitchen nook with picture windows on three sides. I was sad to have to put my jumbo easel in the garage, but I can use it there if I need to dry something large. For christmas this year my dear husband gave me a lovely sketch box easel and I love it. My studio set up is great. I have a large kitchen table for painting small works at, and next to it is my lovely easel. I get plenty of good light to see my work by.

Except, of course I took the photo at night.

My experience with so many various living situations, has made me really appreciate the importance of windows and a compact set up that can expand and collapse as space requirements change. Right now all my paints are in plastic drawers under the kitchen table. But in a larger set up, they might sit along their own wall. I keep stacks of paintings and canvases in kitchen cupboards and along the wall behind my easel. But in a larger room, they might have their own closet or be hung along the walls. Yet I'll take good windows over walls to hang my work any day!

My dream set up is a hybrid. A wall of windows with that coveted north light with adjustable venetian blinds to change the character of the light as needed. One wall would be ceiling to floor cupboards, counter with deep utility sink, and bookshelves to store my paintings, canvases, and paints in. The opposite wall would be white and installed with a gallery style hanging system, so I could hang finished works in rotation. My desk and easel would sit in front of my wall of windows so I could look out the window and paint. There would be enough space in my dream studio for a friend or two to set up easels and paint with me and for a model to pose.
Picture re-posted from

However, I can't let my dream studio stand in the way of my creativity. Regardless of the setting, I paint. Whether it be by the shady french doors or at the kitchen table, I must paint!


  1. This is a great post, Sara! Thanks for sharing. I lucked out with my studio--It's the upstairs kitchen of a duplex my husband and I bought a few years ago. The downstairs kitchen, we use as our regular kitchen.. But upstairs, I have running water, it's northern facing with storage, totally dreamy! Best one yet and I've had as many as you. (:

  2. Thank you for commenting Diane! Your studio sounds similar to mine, I love being in the kitchen with all the bright light. And the sink is nearby when I need it, even if it means getting some paint on the dirty dishes (cough).

  3. I want to see pictures of your new setup when you get it ready!

  4. We are going to start setting it up this weekend, but it won't likely be complete until after my big show in October.