26 March, 2010

Ten Life or Death StudioTips

Intent, After Degas
Pastel & Charcoal
Casey Klahn

The other day I found Dadaist, Erik Satie, via Sippican Cottage, and I was amused by the story of the state of his studio after he died.  No one except Satie had there entered for twenty-seven years, you see.  Among the histoire his friends uncovered were love letters and his portrait rendered by his vrai amour, the painter and pastelist Suzanne Valadon.  Also they discovered seven velvet suits, many unpublished songs, some drawings and way too many umbrellas.  What will be found in your studio when they come to collect your corpus?

Since the studio has been my steady haunt, lately, I can offer you these ten tips for studio practice. Bonus: Here are ten that I published two years ago.

1.  Lay out all of your drawing tools, such as charcoal (all sizes), graphite, erasers, stomps, knife and so forth.  Once I did this, it increased my tendency to form my paintings around sound drawings.
2.  Have lots of surface area.  I have a ladder studio organizer, a custom made 2.5 foot by 7 foot by 3 foot table, an extra full size easel that lays down as a table, and several knock down tables of various sizes.
3.  Make some room for your art library.  I use a surplus bookshelf and some wall shelves that are bracket mounted.
4.  Lately I have been mounting my newly finished works on a piece of Fome core or GatorBord and hanging them with a bulldog clip on a nail.  I can reference my current direction that way.
5.  Peg board.  The young 'uns may not remember that funny board with holes and pegs that hardware stores used for all of their displays.  Find them at your hardware store - ask the kid there what it is.  Here's how to install one.
6.  On my pegboards, I hang rulers, tape, architects square, clips and clamps, my field easel and bag, utility knife, and so forth.  Everything's handy.
7.   My eye doctor has me washing my eyelids with baby shampoo.  It treats my lifelong blepharitis, but we all receive a lot of studio contaminates in our eyes.  I use Johnson's and apply with my fingers.
8.  Speaking of studio environmental hazards, I also use a hand barrier cream rather than gloves when I paint with pastels.  Works great.  I tried to find the one I use, but Murphy's Law took effect and it is discontinued.  This one looks a little more expensive, but not as much as others on the market, either.
9.  A pair of studio slippers helps keep you from tracking dirt to the house.
10.  You need a few breaks for the mind. I always have a pair of binoculars at hand in order to keep track of the prairie animals.  Of course, you never leave them on the windowsill, right?


Kaylyn Munro said...

Great list. My studio is a work in progress and I've been thinking through practical solutions to a lot of the issues brought up here!

1. done. 2. is there such a thing as enough surface area? 3. on my list 4. I do this, too. I also mount smaller work on panels to a slightly larger piece of mat or chip board with t-mount tape. keeps me from touching the edges of the painting and gives a surface to clip up on the wall. 5. did one whole wall of my garage with this. maybe in the studio too. cutting with a saw created HUGE amounts of awful dust. wear a mask when cutting. 6. you have a lot of wall space! 7. huh. Baby shampoo. 8. I got something like that at a hardware store. Works only when you use it!! 9. And its a good 'arriving in the studio' ritual to change shoes! 10.. I don't need any encouragement for getting distracted!!

Unknown said...

This is a helpful list, Casey. Thank you! I shudder to think about my heirs having to deal with all the stuff in both my studios! I should take care of that soon ....

Deborah Paris said...

Funny story and great list Casey! I have actually thought about what would be found when I am gone (hence my relentless culling of old work). Your list is excellent (and I particularly agree with you about the drawing material).The thing I've added in the past few years is a studio journal for collecting not only random thoughts and painting ideas but also a monthly list of what I have produced, what has left the studio for shows and galleries and what has sold. The first and second things lead to the third which I can now see in black and white.

Rose Welty said...

I'm packing my studio right now for a move across the country. So I'm ripe for new ideas and a reorganization. Can we have some photos? I know it runs the risk of making us all drool at you huge studio ( if memory serves) but it would be helpful nonetheless. I'd particularly like to see the HD tables - I love that sort of project!

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for the responses, everyone. I demurred on the photos this time, since my process is work, work, work, tidy a little, work some more, work, can't afford to clean today - gotta get on the easel instead, work...etc.

It's a mess! No velvet suits, though.

My trailer house studio is big, at 14 feet by 60 feet. It still sports the brown paneling, a la 1960s. I did re-do the floors, and I occupy the large room for the actual studio. Believe it or not, the space is more than full, and I already dream of adding on.

I like the journal, Deborah! I have thought of doing that digitally - but somehow I think my style will be better suited to analog.

More ideas?

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Every couple of days, I put away the paintings that are finished. Unless I'm working on something, I love to walk into the studio with a blank slate and no eye-distractions.

Whenever I finish for the day, I leave the studio with a small clean-up ritual: I make notes in my painting journal about the current work, wash up any cups, empty the trash, wipe down the counters. Sometimes I leave myself a note for the next day.

I have never heard of washing eyelids with baby shampoo, but it sounds like it's the right thing for you and something to consider. Whenever I come in after plein air painting, I dump my stuff in the studio and head straight for the shower. I know that there's pollen (and pastel dust) in my hair, on my eyelashes, on my clothes, so it's a shower for me.

Celeste Bergin said...

oh my word--what would be uncovered in my studio if I kicked it. hmmm. too many books (some duplicates because I bought some on eBay thinking I would re-sell them. THAT was stupid! lol)--also a fair amount of supplies that make no sense to what I do now..like compasses and airbrush things. It's kind of like a museum here and there.
I promise to clean it up soon!

Casey Klahn said...

Celeste and Katherine - thanks for the input. The two of you seem to be the odd couple. One very tidy and one (like myself) less than tidy ;)

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

They'd find dried up produce and fruit flies ;)
These are great tips. I'd had to know how much time I waste looking for stuff.
Your paintings are powerful.

Casey Klahn said...

Thank you, Mary. Glad to see your comments!

Jala Pfaff said...

Seven velvet suits?! Hahahahaha, that's awesome.
In my studio, they'll find a lot of embarrassingly bad canvas waiting to be painted over. Oh, and also a whole lot of canvas rolls and stretcher bars that never quite got put together.

Casey Klahn said...

They were from his "velvet gentleman period." No wonder he couldn't get a girlfriend.

Zane Carriker said...

What will they find when I'm gone? Will they marvel at how neatly folder are my socks and underwear or will they find what I wrote when I might have been folding?
I'm a writer and programmer. My custom built work-station is eight feel long with the keyboard high enough for me to type standing up. It holds three computers and two printers and a TV. I work at the center computer, reference material on the left, testing computer on the right. I often start at 5:30 in the morning and keep going till I fall out of the chair.
That's where they will find me. I don't fold.

Casey Klahn said...

Your work station reminds me of the one where Charlton Heston, playing Michelangelo, has this huge, long, heavy drawing table made from a plank of wood.

Of course, when the Pope, played by Rex Harrison, gives him grief, he upends the whole thing in a fit of Charlton-Heston-pique! Underwear and socks go flying.

Cmichaudart said...

I've been moving my studio all day (ouch) so your post was timely. Not my dream spot but I did double my space...and renewed my vows of putting things up! To that end I bought a nifty little label maker and I have been labeling boxes and shelves like crazy...hopefully that encourages me to put things back where they (now) have a special place.

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