Working Space Quandry

As long as I’ve had a studio, I’ve had the following unanswered questions. Let me know if you have an answer:

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Michelle Allen’s workdesk. Mne is no better. Her site is Close To My Art.com

1. I’ve had big studios and small studios, but no matter how much space I have, when I’m working, I’m using  about one square foot of space. Everything else is filled with ink, glue, and papers. I swear, if I worked on the surface of an aircraft carrier, I’d be working in one square foot and the rest would be piled up with stuff.

2. As soon as I buy something and put it away, it disappears. I can look till my eyes cross and can’t find it. The instant I buy another one, the first one appears. Jumps out of the closet.

3. Finally, in an effort to reduce clutter, I decide to get rid of boxes of supplies I haven’t used in months. The instant they are gone, I desperately need one of those supplies and have to re-buy it.

4. I own four or five aprons. But there is never a clean one in arm’s reach.

Not at all a studio apron, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were hanging behind the door.

Not at all a studio apron, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were hanging behind the door.

5. Putting on an apron does not occur to me until I have a lap full of glue or gesso. This has been true for the last 30 years.

6. The book with the instructions that I need right now is no longer in the book case, where it has been for 12 years. It is now gone.

7. The book I do not need smiles at me from the book case. In fact, both of them do. I ordered that one at least twice.

8. My favorite tool is the one that has just been discontinued.

9. I stop reading magazines to have the time to work out a project problem. Takes me weeks. I finally brag about my clever solution on Facebook. A dozen people tell me the article that solved the problem was in last month’s Cloth, Paper, Scissors. There’s a video, too.

10. I proofread my business card three times. I show it to a friend to proofread. It’s fine. The package of 500 cards arrives, and the one they company used as a label has a typo. I see it before I even register what the box is. Yep, a missed typo. On all 500 cards.

–Quinn McDonald thinks her studio is haunted. Or possessed. Or possibly just over-run with supplies that know how to vanish and appear at will. 10.

Choosing Art Supplies: Need v. Want

Of course you know you don’t need a lot of equipment to be creative. Paper and pencil is fine. Paints and brushes. Scissors and glue if you work multi-media. But in our consumer society, we are pushed to be “creative” by buying equipment, products, “stuff” that will make us better artists. “If I buy this left-handed brush made with the eyelashes of a thousand virgins surely I will be able to paint perfectly.” I’ve been there.

There is a fine line between “need” and “want,” and even if the line is clear, it

This brush does a lot in one stroke. From Tonyspainting.us

doesn’t mean we don’t want. There is also that slight frisson of fear that if we buy one more thing, the producers of  Hoarders will come to our door while we shriek, “I’m an artist, those are my tools!”

If you have limited space (who has huge studios with endless storage like those featured in those yummy studio  magazines?) you need to make careful choices of what you need and how you will store it. It doesn’t make sense to have the perfect piece of equipment if it takes you an hour to find it. So how do you make that choice?

I asked my spouse, who is a chef. Yes, he has a ton of equipment, too, but here are some great kitchen rules that work in the studio:

1. Choose equipment that does more than one thing. For example, toasters ovens can cook without heating up the whole kitchen, broil, and make toast, but a specialized bagel toaster can just toast bagels. Does anyone need a banana hook? Look for equipment that can do more than one thing. A paper cutter for example, can trim straight edges, cut papers in half or other fractions, make triangles, squares, and other straight-edge geometrics. A paper cutter can also cut heavier papers for covers, pockets, and cards.

2. Avoid equipment that requires you to buy more than one to achieve the same idea. Years ago, we used a square cake pan and a round cake pan to make amazing cake shapes. Now you can buy cake pans in the shape of brains, vampires and SpongeBob SquarePants. How often will you use each one of these? The same thing works for shaped hole punches that you can buy in eight sizes. Will you really use all eight sizes of butterflies? Nope. But when you are standing in the store, you aren’t sure what size you will need the most, so you buy them all. Marketing loves your indecision; they are counting on it.

3. Buy the best of what you use the most. For a chef: knives and pots. (Notice these are all multi-use tools.) You need good ones and several because you are not going to take time to plan your meal so you can keep washing one pot and reusing it. The same is true for paint, brushes, paper, and whatever you use in your specialized kind of art.

What purchase do you regret? What was a great discovery? Let me know in the comments.

-Quinn McDonald is an author and creativity coach who works with creative people who are stuck.

Choosing Art Supplies: The Kitchen Method

Of course you know you don’t need a lot of equipment to be creative. Paper and pencil is fine. Paints and brushes. Scissors and glue if you work multi-media. But in our consumer society, we are pushed to be “creative” by buying equipment, products, “stuff” that will make our creative work easier. Their is a fine line between “need” and “want,” and even if the line is clear, it doesn’t mean we don’t want. There is

This brush does a lot in one stroke. From Tonyspainting.us

also that slight frisson of fear that if we buy one more thing, the producers of  Hoarders will come to our door while we shriek, “I’m an artist, those are my tools!”

If you have limited space (don’t get me started on those magazines of huge studios with special lighting and doors), you need to make careful choices of what you need and how you will store it. It doesn’t make sense to have the perfect piece of equipment if it takes you an hour to find it. So how do you make that choice?

I asked my spouse, who is a chef. Yes, he has a ton of equipment, too, but here are some great kitchen rules that work in the studio:

1. Choose equipment that does more than one thing. For example, toasters ovens can cook without heating up the whole kitchen, broil, and make toast, but a specialized bagel toaster can just toast bagels. Does anyone need a banana hook? Look for equipment that can do more than one thing. A paper cutter for example, can trim straight edges, cut papers in half or other fractions, make triangles, squares, and other straight-edge geometrics. A paper cutter can also cut heavier papers for covers, pockets, and cards.

2. Avoid equipment that requires you to buy more than one to achieve the same idea. Years ago, we used a square cake pan and a round cake pan to make amazing cake shapes. Now you can buy cake pans in the shape of brains, vampires and SpongeBob SquarePants. How often will you use each one of these? The same thing works for shaped hole punches that you can buy in eight sizes. Will you really use all eight sizes of butterflies? Nope. But when you are standing in the store, you aren’t sure what size you will need the most, so you buy them all. Marketing loves your indecision; they are counting on it.

3. Buy the best of what you use the most. For a chef, knives, bowls, pots. (Notice these are all multi-use tools.) You need good ones and several because you are not going to take time to plan your meal so you can keep washing one pot and reusing it. The same is true for paint, brushes, paper, and whatever you use in your specialized kind of art.

What purchase do you regret? What was a great discovery? Let me know in the comments.

-Quinn McDonald is an author, artists and creativity coach who works with other creatives to help them get unstuck.

Theme Thursday #8: 7/2/09

Today’s Theme Thursday is less of a theme and more fun ideas, readings and items you may miss if you don’t scour the Web regularly. I don’t either, but people are starting to send me links and I’m gleefully passing them on.

Pencil tip, Q. McDonald

Pencil tip, Q. McDonald

I like graffiti, particularly if it’s not on my property. I find it inventive and a great combination of words and art. This graffiti is done in moss, and, best of all, they tell you how to do it, too.

Nathan Sawaya is a brick artist–he makes sculptures out of bricks. This link takes you to his Lego art–those little plastic connecting blocks that warms the hard of every kid. Nathan does some amazing things–the yellow torso made me gasp with surprise.

Love your doodles? Turn them into a charm and wear them! Doodle Art does just that–it puts your art on a sterling disk and gives you a rubber stamps as well. Money well spent, I pencil_tipthink.

Another journal brand worth knowing about–Field Notes. Sturdy take-along notebooks in Kraft and clever colors. Hurry if you want to snag the “Grass-Stain Green” one, the grid on the pages matches the cover. 3.5 x 5 inches, they are a perfect take-along size, and don’t bleed through when I use my fountain pen.

pencil_tipPete Harbeson, a frequent comment-leaver on this site, sent me  the note, “You’ll love this site.” He was right. It shows art supplies no longer in use, made obsolete or no longer in favor, and it shows them in loving photographic details and explanation. If you remember rubber cement and the thinner Bestine, you will love poking around the site.

Dan Baum was a writer for the New Yorker, at a time when “staff writer” meant “writer for hire and no benefits. He wrote incredible proposals, all worth reading. You’ll have to click (or double click if you use Windows) on the black diamonds to read the proposals.

Send me your suggestions in the comments or post your own.

Enjoy!

Prior Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 6/25/09 * * *    Creative Play 6/18/09 ***   Creative Play 6/11/09 ***   Creative Play 6/4/09 *** CreativePlay 5/21/09 ***   Creative Play 5/14/09, ***     Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Art Challenge at Thanksgiving

It sounds like a recipe for a Thanksgiving tear-jerker: My spouse is in Virginia, waiting for our house to sell; the people I’m staying with are in the Caribbean, watching the UConn Lady Huskies play; I’m alone in Arizona without a Thanksgiving invitation.

The instant I knew this would happen, I began to plan for it. No turkey, nothing that makes me feel alone and sad. No need. I chose this way of moving to another state, and knew it could happen. Dinner will be a favorite chicken recipe, and I will go over all the things I have to be grateful for. It’s a long list.

art suppliesOne of the things I miss the most is not having my art supplies here with me. Today I came up with an idea–if I spent $50 on art supplies, what would I chose? How much art could I make? Off I went to Utrecht Art Supply in Tempe to find out. I had a few things with me–my journal would serve as paper, I have a few pencils and pens, I can borrow masking tape and some cheap, hardware store 1-inch brushes for gel medium. Here’s what I purchased:

— An 8-0z. jar of gel medium in semi-gloss Golden gel medium. Can’t live without it. It’s glue, it’s paper prep, it makes colors more transparent.

— Five small bottles of Golden acrylics in Titan Buff, Naples Yellow, Raw Umber, Interference Gold, and Cobalt Turquoise. Can’t resist that gold shimmer. I stuck to one color palette and added a contrast.

–A set of inexpensive brushes for paint, blending and gel medium application.

–A box of 15 Caran D’Ache water soluble neocolor crayons. I’ve never used them before, but I love crayons and the idea that these can be used with water is exciting. And it extends my color range.

–A kneaded eraser, a 6-inch ruler, a hardware store version of an X-acto Knife.

That’s it. Tomorrow I’ll start to see what I can create with that supply list and whatever I can use for art in the house. This morning I noticed that the dining room chairs have some interesting carved designs. A rubbing might be nice.

I’ll publish the pieces as I go along. And if you, too, are alone at Thanksgiving, join in and make some art. Send along a photo to Quinncreative [at] yahoo [dot] com, and I’ll post the best ones.

I also stopped at the library and picked up three great books, two world music CDs, and a DVD of a classic movie–Now, Voyager with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. What a great weekend–chick flick, art and no bickering relatives!

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007 All rights reserved.