As practising artists, the time we spend creating our craft and the environment where we do it are two of the most important factors that can directly affect our work. In this article, we will discuss how you can effectively manage your time for art, and how you can build your own artist studio that will inspire, motivate, and most importantly – equip you to create.
Why you need time management and organisation
Cliche as it may sound, the popular saying is true: An organised space means an organised mind. It is easy to fall into a trap of utter disarray when we leave our artist studio messy all the time, and the same goes with our daily routine. If we don’t schedule and make a to-do list, we are bound to get disoriented.
Truly, there are so many materials to arrange, ideas to develop, and paperwork to do — all on top of pushing yourself and finding inspiration to create in the artist studio. How do we fix this? By having a personal system that works for your schedule and space arrangement.
Creating Time: Setting yourself up to achieve your goals
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso
Brilliant concepts come to us all the time, but when it comes to our productivity in art, we need to spend a lot of time in the artist studio. Not to burrow into ourselves, but to move past it – because only then is exploration is possible, and great art is made. We have to equip and set ourselves up for success. Dedicating time for your art every day will keep the discipline of creating going. Behind the glitz and the glamour it brings, being a professional artist needs your focus, time, effort, and sacrifice.
Manage your schedule
What does your day to day look like? Do you have a day job that requires you to be in the office most of the day? Or are you working on your art full-time? Our schedules vary from person to person, so we must do our best to work with the time that we have.
DIY layout on ZenART’s B5 bullet journal, Ashtyn Duddleston (@ashtyn_plans), Wisconsin USA, 2019
Keep a journal
To be on top of things, keeping a bullet journal to track your daily activities and ideas is a good practice. You can also bring a handy visual diary wherever you go and fill it up with sketchbook ideas when you have free time. This will help you monitor thought patterns, ideas, art concepts, and emotions that you encounter every day.
Use your time wisely
Once you’ve set a proper schedule dedicated for your art, see to it that you value your time. When you are working in the artist studio, stay focused on the task at hand. Read up, research, and take breaks if you must. You don’t always have to be working, but you have to feed your art through other ways. By doing so, you keep your productivity levels high while adding more knowledge and skills to what you currently have.
The magical artist studio
For a creative, the artist studio is a sanctuary. It is the conjuring place of magic, where art is made and kept alive. It is important that artists are free to think, reflect, and create as they please in their own space. Surprisingly, having an artist studio not only contributes to the advancement of our career, but to our overall well-being too. According to studies, an artist studio can be the perfect environment for entrepreneurial innovation, because the set-up encourages new ideas to flourish. A space that we can call our own gives us a sense of freedom and creates a ripple effect of creating new possibilities in our minds.
An artist at work in her magical place
Aside from that, the artist studio is also a place where mundane tasks and very non-glamorous things go on. Coming up with new ideas take a lot of introspection, and it is here where we will sit for hours to work and struggle with our art. Just like in a theatre production, this space will serve as our backstage: Where all the thinking, rehearsing, and preparing will take place. In other words, the artist studio is our own little universe.
Types of Studios
Choosing and setting up the artist studio is as important as making a big life decision. When deciding which one to acquire, keep in mind that your artist studio should make you feel comfortable, safe, and free to be yourself.
Artists in a shared studio space, Heather Day (@heatherday) and Chase McBride, Art + Marketing, 2017
Rent a shop
Empty shops make marvellous artist studios. They usually have large windows that give plenty of natural light you can utilise. Many functioning shops have empty rooms upstairs that are available to be rented out.
For those who have extra space at home, this is a good choice. It saves rent money and commute time. You can design the place however you want, and work anytime the fancy takes you. However, it can have some major drawbacks like privacy and productivity issues. Oh, and let’s not forget: bedrooms and artist studios don’t mix!
Usually shared by a collective, group artist studios create an encouraging environment. You will spend a lot of time with other creatives whom you can collaborate and hold exhibitions with. In this artist studio, you can also hold projects that have financial benefits, like live sketching and painting workshops.
It can be a good idea to exchange workspace in your home with a friendly fellow artist that you trust, and vice versa. This avoids domestic distractions and feels more like going to work. Alternatively, an elderly neighbour may have a spare room she would gladly rent out to make some extra money.
Arranging your studio space
An artist arranging the materials inside her studio
The next step is arranging the artist studio according to your needs. Does your targeted space have enough room for you to comfortably create art? Is there storage where you can safely leave your supplies? Setting up the artist studio is a very personal journey, and you would want to make sure that the space is an honest reflection of who you are as an artist.
Before diving into it, first check the world inside your own mind. Free yourself from any negative thoughts, self-doubts, and insecurities. According to Dr. Laura Markham on her article Spring-Cleaning for your Psyche, you can disarm your inner critic by:
- Bringing awareness to your mind
- Changing what your mind thinks and says
- Giving your mind a vacation
Oftentimes, we can be our own worst critic and this gets in the way of making art. By doing this, we liberate ourselves from all the negative thinking and create space in our minds to let art flourish.
Materials and Equipment
First things first – let us define the studio must-haves. Before filling your space with furniture and supplies, we have listed down a few basic pieces of equipment that all artist studios should have.
Canvas storage inside Maggi Hambling’s (@hambling_hambling) studio, Jake Curtis, 2017
Work table with drawer
This is where most of your innovation, sketching, and journaling will take place. A work table is non-negotiable! With this, you should have a set of pens, erasers, pencils, and paper pads within reach. You can also work on your laptop or computer here to create digital work and take care of business matters.
Watercolour pans, oil paints, solvents, paint brushes, atomisers etc., — all painting materials go here. Choose one with rollers so you can easily bring it to any part of the studio, especially when you are working on large scale paintings.
This is where you will store your canvases so they will not garner dirt. You could also keep in here materials that you have not opened yet but need to store like paint sets, brushes, unopened oils and solvents.
Here’s where the things that you do not use on a regular basis go. For example – old canvases, canvas protectors, gun tackers, nails, cement, clay, what have you. Some art materials also emit a bad odor, so it’s better to keep them hidden. Necessary cleaning materials like soap and disinfectant sprays can be kept here as well.
In case you want to do some research to get into work mode (or while at it), keeping a bookshelf in your studio is a good way to have your books, zines, brochures, and various reading materials within arm’s reach.
A desk lamp or a standing lamp is an artist’s best friend. If you want to work at night, or need to do a bit of detailing that entails focused light, a sturdy lamp will do the job for you.
Aside from our studio must-haves, there are some very important things to consider when setting up our artist studio. These factors can make or break a place, so choose carefully!
Spacious artist studio with floor to ceiling windows
One of the most important aspects of an artist studio organisation is the lighting. Does your space have a source of natural sunlight? If yes, how little or how much are you going to get? Go into the proposed room during each part of the day and consider how the light is affecting the room. The lighting is crucial, otherwise there can be problems in assessing and mixing colours accurately.
Windows are very important especially if you are working with toxic supplies (i.e. oil paint and solvents!) You need to be able to breathe properly and have fresh air circulating the room. Otherwise, art-making can pose a great threat to your health; so yes – good ventilation is a must!
Are you close to a source of water? Make sure that your artist studio has a sink, a faucet, and proper drainage. You have to be extra careful when getting rid of toxic waste like paint, solvents, oils, etc. We will talk about how to be environmentally safe when working in the section below.
No matter how wonderfully planned your artist studio is, an uncomfortable space will hinder the creation of art. Do you have chairs, tables, easels, etc. that help facilitate your work? Can you move around with ease? You will be spending a lot of time here, so arrange the place in a way that is comfortable for you.
Does the atmosphere of this place stimulate your creativity? If there are things that bother you, change them (if you can) rather than ignore them. Fewer distractions mean more energy focused on creating. Put up inspirational quotes on the wall, create your vision board and place it where you can always see it. Fill your space with things that inspire you.
Inspiring studio space, Caro Arevalo (@cafeinacoli), Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 2019
Handy studio items
There are a couple of things that can make your life easier in the studio, and it wouldn’t hurt to have them around all the time.
Painting can be a messy job, so be ready to clean up anytime
You need this to take progress photos, inspiration, references, and simply document the process of creating
As we’ve said above, you also need to do some paperwork in between, especially if your art is your personal business
Get a 2-in-1 machine to save space and money. You will find yourself needing this, especially when printing reference photos and signing documents
Who doesn’t like good music while painting? – If you don’t like listening to music while creating your art, let us know in the comments below!
The artist’s stress reliever. You can play around with this, creating various shapes and forms that can kick in some inspiration
Yes, lots and lots of containers. You will be needing these to store your writing materials and paint brushes
Wearing a painting apron will protect your clothes from getting soiled during work
How to be environmentally safe in the studio
Some oil paints, solvents and mediums can be very harmful to nature and your health, especially when not handled properly. This is why aside from ensuring that you are safe by wearing masks and having proper ventilation, we firmly recommend using non-toxic oil paints and solvent-free medium alternatives. When choosing oil paints, opt for pigments that are free from harmful driers and solvent fumes. A great example of this is the ZenART oil paint palettes. You can be sure of its safety since they are fully committed to producing non-toxic materials that are also suitable for vegans.
ZenART’s eco-friendly, non-toxic oil paints from the Impressionist Palette
Some of the safer non-flammable and biodegradable alternatives to turpentine and mineral spirits are Citrus Oil Thinners, Turpenoid Natural, and Bristle Magic. They can also be used for cleaning and reconditioning your brushes.
Some artists also reuse oil colours from their palette by scraping paint off with a palette knife, and storing it in an airtight container for the next painting session. Even ‘palette mud’ (the dull mixture of many colours from the palette) can be used for tinting canvases and boards for underpainting. It’s all about being practical, resourceful, and grateful for what we have.
A place of purpose
Your artist studio is the place where you can be yourself the most, especially in this fast-paced world where it is easy to lose ourselves. Treat this place with the utmost care and respect, and it will love you back. When you create, remember the reason why you are creating, and it will lead you to your true purpose. Care more, do more, live more, and be mindful of your surroundings.
The happy painter Olga (@olgagart) at work in the artist studio
With a proper schedule and a well-equipped studio, you can now do away with all the unnecessary things and focus on creating your best works of art. Good luck!
Did you like this article? What are your favourite studio tips from the ones we discussed above? Let us know in the comments section below! As always, we are looking forward to reading your comments and suggestions.
— MEET THE AUTHORS —
Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”.
After 20 years of successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!
Regina R. is the head content writer for ZenART Supplies. She is a full-time artist, art and literature advocate, and a mother of three cats. On her free days – she likes to cook, knit, and tinkle around with her typewriter while drinking a glass or two of good red wine. Oh, and she loves 60’s music too!