Articles

A View From the Easel

This week, artist studios in Arizona, Australia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and South Africa.

The 126th 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.

Barbara Kemp Cowlin, Oracle, AZ

My 650-square-foot studio is a few steps across the courtyard from my home in the small mountain town of Oracle, Arizona. The studio is a former two-car garage with great light and wonderful views of surrounding oak and fruit trees. About 75% of the studio is my designated painting space.

My husband built the wonderful wall easel on the right to accommodate paintings from quite large to small. I like to work on multiple paintings at a time, and the vertical wall easel saves space. Beyond are paintings in a holding pattern, drying and waiting to be packaged for an upcoming show. In addition to the wall easel, I work flat on tables. I usually have three to six paintings going at a time, each at a different stage of development.

The way my studio is set up allows me to move fluidly from painting to painting, although it’s admittedly something of an obstacle course. I always paint standing up whether working flat or on the wall easel. Below the window on the left is a work table where I cut stencils, with handy drawers for storage. Scattered about are book shelves filled with art books. In the lower right you can see the blue corner of my small couch, which I use to look at art magazines while I take my daily 3pm Diet Coke break. Beyond that are two office desks with a computer. I once kept this non-art area separated visually from where I paint, but I’ve learned how to focus on the painting area when I paint and on office work when I’m in my “office.” That’s the theory, anyway.

Thelma van Rensburg, Pretoria, South Africa

My studio is a large, industrial inspired space with an open ceiling, large windows, and industrial lighting and is located on the second floor of my residential property. My workspace consists of a custom-built steel workbench, which allows me to work big or small on a flat surface. This is necessary when working with watercolor, monotype, and ink. The workbench is always stacked with inks, watercolors, brushes, pencils, and references, causing it to become quite chaotic. Against the wall is a large, custom-built bookcase with art books and inspirational reading. To the left is my printing table and a window with a beautiful view of the dam located alongside our estate. For several years I was forced to work from my kitchen and living room, which makes this space a Godsend.

The wooden workbench against the wall houses my iMac, where I spend many hours doing research for my PhD in creative practice and finding inspiration for future works. Also against the wall is a large industrial wash basin where I clean my brushes and pallets. The grey tile floors and mint painted walls provide tranquility and comfort within the sometimes chaotic inner world of my creative mind.

Paul William, Somerville, MA

My studio is in the Central Street Studios building in my hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts. Having spent so much time growing up outdoors and deriving so much pleasure from the outdoors still, my work primarily focuses on nature and my experiences of it — not only natural forms but also architectural forms and how they fit into the outdoor spaces we occupy. I do spend a fair amount of time painting plain air, though I also devote much of my time to my studio practice for larger works that are often based on imagination or studies that I’ve done off site.

I like to leave an open space where I can comfortably move around to stand and paint.  It’s helpful to be able to move back and forth from the easel to see the work from various vantage points. Behind the view here is a large mirror on the wall, which is very helpful for looking at images to see if I recognize any problems with the work in its mirror image. I always put up recent paintings on the walls so I have a reminder of what series I’m working on and to stay aware of my starting point for the next work. Having my work up also is beneficial, as there are often studio visits from friends and collectors, and they can see my recent body of work. As this studio space is not large, I take unsold and less successful paintings home to my basement storage.

Being in an artists’ building is very helpful for me. Painting can be a very solitary undertaking, and having other artists around is hugely beneficial so I can see others work and simply socialize. Having a community is so important to me in order to grow professionally.

Eddie Ivaneza, Melbourne, Australia

My studio is on the first floor of an inner city townhouse in Melbourne and a short tram or train stop away from the locations I frequent across town.
The large concrete floor plan is a plus, but the lack of windows is a negative. The large garage door can be opened during the day for natural sunlight and a quick sweep. The neighbors occasionally walk past with a thumbs up or a quick comment or glance on their way to the communal bins. The bins are also a negative. I’m lucky to have a space like this in Melbourne in which to experiment and create.

Hilary Greenstein, Minneapolis, MN

It’s a cloudy winter day in Minneapolis, but my three south-facing windows still provide lovely light to paint by. The tall ceilings of this space are a must for workability due to the large scale of my paintings. The left wall pictured is my painting area, where I hang my canvases directly on the wall to simultaneously work several pieces. Not pictured are the walls at the front of the space that serve to display finished works. The painting racks I built in the back corner provide much-needed storage space for older works.

The two tables along the right wall serve as desks, but mostly are used as a place to pile materials while I paint. When I am building and stretching new canvases, the tables are pushed into the center of the room, becoming one big worktable. I have a closet that contains my stockpiles of materials, but all of my everyday studio essentials are accessible on the shelves over my desks. I stash my messy materials in drawers to keep them handy but tidy. Two essentials pictured are my mini coffeemaker and my radio. I always need background noise while I work — playing the radio, binging on podcasts, and sometimes playing episodes of Friends or I Love Lucy. In addition to guzzling coffee, I am a big studio snacker, eating tubs of cookies hand over fist while I paint, probably ingesting more oil paint than one ought to. I put down plastic to protect my wood floors, so I can focus my cleanup time on trying to get the paint out of my hair.

comments (0)