The Creative Process in Creative Space
An art studio is a special place, it is where the ritual of making begins. Having a space that not only inspires, but serves your creative goals is key to creating work that truly speaks your language. I have, and continue to make work in many places, but my studio at home is where I can get deep into my creative zone. This place making for creating has been something that is crucial to my growth as an artist, and I know many other makers and creators who have had a similar experience. As artists, we don’t NEED a dedicated place to create it’s in our blood to do it no matter the environment. That being said a studio or makerspace is a huge component to feeling professional, dedicated and inspired. Your art environment becomes embedded into the entire creative process, bringing you an ease of ideas and flow…or at least that has been my experience.
Making, making everywhere, but not a spot to sit…
In college my art making process took place anywhere I could park my butt for a few hours; the couch at home, the common areas of campus, the bus, sitting on the floor of a friend’s house…pretty much anywhere. After school I didn’t put much thought to having dedicated space, because it was never apart of my process. I got lucky though, I started working at the amazing co-working space called Converge in the River North art district of Denver. This space was dedicated to artists, creatives and designers. It was my first taste of creative community and focused work space. I saw my work thrive there, with artists and creatives bustling around as I worked as community manager and created art in my down time. I went on off days and loaded up my art in a bag to spend hours at one of their desks tackling a new piece. It was there I saw the benefits of surrounding yourself with other artists and the importance of placemaking creation. Whenever I entered that beautiful Denver warehouse I was bubbling with inspiration. I soon bought a midcentury wood desk and set it up in the corner of my living room to store my supplies and provide me a space at home for late night creative surges. It became very clear that this coworking open style of art making didn’t work well in a house of roommates in their early 20s. My desk soon became a catchall for all things, or a seat for guests who were visiting. I basically only made work at Converge during that time and growth was slow but steady. Flash forward a few years and I have the opportunity to have a two bedroom apartment with my partner. One room for sleep and one room for creation. Now this space is still shared, allowing a corner desk to my partner for his game set up but beyond that it is mine to store, create and get inspired. Over the three years of having this space I have seen my productivity of work skyrocket, the quality of my work grow immensely, and the ability to get into the flow of a piece be as easy as breathing. Now as I reflect on all the places I have been with my art making, it is clear how special this is and I am truly grateful for the space I get to call my studio.
The Studio as the Conduit of Creativity
I have grown to know my process, reflect on it, and adjust with it’s evolution. It always stays roughly the same. It starts when I get an idea and I chew on it a while, sketching and daydreaming about it’s layers. I stew and let the idea gestate until I revisit a specific design over and over in my head. This part of my process can take a day or a couple of month as I work through an idea. Once a vision is stuck in my head, then I get down to creation. Regardless of space a few things are always true about my process, I like all my colors lined up where I can see them, and I like to build a bit of a nest with my tools, tables and supplies. Sort of a crescent moon of creative machinery, I sprawl and settle in to the task. In my studio the act of building my maker nest is half done. I have all my paints on a utility cart with colors at the ready on the left of my easel, my rainbow organizer that acts as an additional flat surface sits on the right, and a stool-turned-table is always prepped with a water cup and pallet setting next to my paints.. I save time, energy and mental space for the piece itself by having my painting area locked and loaded by the window at all times. Rather than creating my nook, I basically just climb right in. But this isn’t limited to my easel area, my desk is stocked with pastels, pencils, watercolors, sketchbooks, and the like if I am compelled to illustrate. All I need to do is pull down my chosen weapon of creation and my process jumps into full swing. This dive-right-in design that comes naturally when you create a workspace has conditioned this room to be a place of action. Just like leaving your bedroom for sleep alone will help any insomniac develop a sleep habit, having a room dedicated to your creative process helps your head immediately ready for the magic of making. My sketchbooks are at the ready for digging up old ideas, my newest work and inspirational art I collected adorn the walls, and my tools sit just a reach away. I noticed something with this, my creative processed has slowed with access to dedicated creative space. I don’t feel rushed to get to a stopping point before loading up out of the place I was in. Instead my process has evolved to let me take as much time as I need on each piece. I step back, I examine each element as I tackle it, I do test swatches as I work, I can step away for lunch and come back to my nest still in use, I can go to bed and come back in the morning without the need to reset my space for work. This change of pace has made an immense impact on my work. I can see all my recent work on the walls, dissecting what I like and what could be better. I can get inspired more easily by past ideas since they are in my line of vision, instead of the closet. I can take breaks to watch a youtube videos about a techniques I am considering for a piece, pull out books on various subjects, take time to find additional reference photos, all without keeping an eye on the clock to make sure I am not pushing closing time or distractions like TV when I am on the couch. The result is more thoughtful pieces and stronger style developing across my work.
Designing a Successful Studio
With any sort of office or studio space I believe there are three pillars of a success; an inspiring design, great organization, and how you use the space.
To be inspired by your space, you need to add elements of design that speak to your sensibility. I for one am far from a minimalist with anything. I like loud, bright, and energetic with all elements of my life. My studio certainly reflects aesthetic by pulling together small works of art and momentos I have collected over the years that hang directly over my desk work space. This mini gallery has everything from prints I got from other artists or as gifts, a ticket stub from a once in a lifetime trip to Paris I took with my grandfather, and some of my own work that is sentimental in nature. Above the storage side of my desk is my award for Best Live Artist 2019 at the CanFest put on by Improper City, next to the concept drawing of the piece I created for it. Next to that is my vision board for the year, a collage made of art from magazines like Juxtapose and Hi-Fructose intermixed with inspirational quotes. The rest of the walls are loaded with recent paintings and some of my favorite illustrations. It is nearly a floor to ceiling mosaic of ideas and designs that are representative to my most current aesthetic and inspire me to grow into my style.
With any workspace, if it isn’t organized it isn’t functional. I focus a lot of my layout and design on what like items need to be stored and where to store them. My main pieces of furniture are a large corner desk with one side for work and the other for storage, a grey metal utility cart from Michaels, a three foot tall rainbow stack of drawers for tools, my easel, and a red leather chair for any guest or collectors to visit. Under and on top of my desk I break down my supplies to boxes, bags, and wire baskets. It all fits together like a puzzle allowing me to grab easy any like items. Under my desk is a large bin of paper and canvas ready when I am to play. Everything has its place, its home. Painting items near the easel, drawing items near the desk. This ease of access to all my supplies makes creative flow easy since I am not interrupted periodically in order to find a pencil or brush I left in a travel bag from the day before. I sit and work steady.
The most important aspect to all of this is how you use it. You can have the nicest, most loaded workspace, but if you don’t make the most of it then it is all for not. To me I wanted to make sure my art space was not tainted by unproductive time. Every studio day I start into my workspace early, more often than not I am already planned out with what piece I want to work on, and what admin stuff needs to get done. I usually set out with my admin work as I wake up and sip something caffeinated. It gets me in art business mode, or as I like to call it “the get shit done mindset”. Sometimes while my admin checklist shrinks I will find myself on the endless scroll of social media, or reading a silly unrelated article. When I find myself at any time derping around the internet I do a very key thing, I recognize what is happening and leave my studio. I grab a drink, or sit on the couch to continue my leisure time if need be, take my dog for a miniwalk, whatever I need to get that energy out. The most important bit is that I do it away from my studio in order to come back fresh. I treat my studio space as a ritual space. The more I allow myself to goof off in the studio the easy it is to be distracted from work. Conditioning yourself to an environment is a crazy cool thing that our brains do, and can be a useful hack when utilizing a creative space.