Articles

A View From the Easel

This week, artist studios in California, Idaho, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina.

The 111th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Reniel Del Rosario, Berkeley, CA (site)

This is my Berkeley studio. The left side of the photo shows my painting section, far back is my sculpture side, and to the right is my drawing/watercolor portion. The desk is my planning and relaxation area, but I’ll be honest, it’s also a clutter collector for books, treasured objects, stationary, and brushes. The outside (seen through the window) is the host to canvas stretching, messy experimentation, and lung and/or liver abusing.

I engage in a cyclical rhythm in my studio: paint; wait for paint to dry; hop over to sculpture; make a clay form; let it harden; skip over to drawing; make some marks; loop back to painting; switch the one I’m working with; grind pigments; prepare a board for hide glue; etc. When I know I’ll be taking a break, I always leave obnoxious neon-green notes on the work with my current thought (needs more yellow, cover up this ugly mark, just wait, etc.). This way, there’s something to look at when I return to see if I really wanted that change. I’m always happier to work on one project after another.  That’s why the center is “emptier” than the rest of the space — it’s my dance floor.

Dave Thomas, McCall, ID (site)

This is my small summer studio in McCall, Idaho — only 12 by 20 inches. The space is very cozy compared to my 1,500-square-foot studio in Eagle, Idaho, so I must be extremely efficient, setting up temporary tables on saw horses to do what I call busy work — stretching canvas, etc. This gives me time to think about the next step of the painting on the work wall.

I like “work,” and it plays into my daily practice, so building stretchers and stretching my own canvas are not only cost-saving moves, but this also helps me to think about my work and the next steps. There are only three windows, so tube lighting works fine for me. I use mostly water-based materials due to vapors and what I consider bad smells. There is no sink in this space, so I use five-gallon buckets of water to clean up brushes and mix materials. My work is a mix of figurative, graffiti, humor, and some sort of self-image that I have of myself from dreams or sketching ideas.

Ara Lucia Ashburne, Chicago, IL (site)

My studio is a five-by-five foot space in my building’s basement storage area. Behind and around me is a U shape of shelving units filled with bins. Inside this U is my easel. I have just enough space to turn around to the work bench (visible in the picture) that holds my brushes, pencils, notebooks, and tape. The blue tarp covers a cabinet owned by my landlord, and you can see on one end the precarious stack of labeled plastic drawers for all of my various blue paints, additional plastic bins for other colors, and a cardboard box of mixing paints. My fashion books are in the middle. These are where I find the images that launch my paintings.

The Lenore doll perched atop the books used to have yellow braids, but in a previous studio, some mice ate all her hair, so my husband bought her the pink wig she wears now. She has been with me through the last 20 years in every studio I’ve had. At the far right is the white tulle fabric I use as a brush at the end of my painting process.

The advantage of this restricted space is its proximity to my other life. I can take advantage of any random window of time to run down to the studio and work. Sometimes my work involves painting on my body and pressing it onto the canvas. I use two-dollar, disposable “hazmat suits” (from that large cardboard box in the lower right) to cover my body afterward — this way I don’t get paint on everything en route to the bathroom, where I shower and (attempt to) get all the paint off my body. While it’s true that my studio is incredibly small and is lit with only two bulbs, I can’t imagine that I could afford a studio elsewhere with its own private shower.

Jennifer Sanchez, New York, NY (site)

I live and paint in New York’s Lower East Side. This is my home studio in the corner of my living room. I have to keep things super modular, tidy, and petite. That cart gets wheeled away and tucked behind a screen, while the table is collapsible and folds down when I’m not painting. Most paintings and sketches are on paper or panel and usually between 10 by seven inches to 30 x 22 inches.

Leah Smith, Mebane, NC (site)

This is my brand-new, very first studio that is not at school, and is not also my bedroom. (Come on over for a studio visit! I won’t even awkwardly ask you to just ignore my bed and dirty laundry in the corner!) Living in a little town a bit away from the action allows me to afford a place with an extra room, which I quickly outfitted to get rolling on some large-scale drawing.

The rest of the house may be half-empty with boxes sitting around and bare walls, but this space is already home. Every morning, I commute from the kitchen to my chair, coffee mug in hand, and get to work. Favorite features: the world’s best tall rollie chair and the table I built specifically to fit the world’s best tall rollie chair.

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