What kind of work space inspires you to make your best work? My preference is a moderately tidy studio for painting. I've noticed that this is most important when I am starting a new body of work because at this stage I’ll easily get distracted by a workspace that is visibly dishevelled. When I'm developing a new idea I want to feel as though it's a fresh start in a new direction. That said, at the end of working on a series of paintings the place is a big mess. In the end there are always tiny drawings on scraps of paper littered everywhere. I tape these little ideas to my easel or the wall and the cast-offs end up on the floor to be trampled into oblivion. These scrappy little doodles serve as little mental notes for paths I may or may not explore.
The reason that I am less distracted by the studio mess once I’m really into my art production has to do with the fact that when I’m so deep in the creative zone my thinking becomes more automatic. Wild horses could not stop me. These periods of time show a peak in confidence levels, decisions are made quickly, risks are taken, and work happens at an alarmingly fast rate. Mess - what mess...? I’m seeing colour, composition, magic - I see no mess!
Here is my studio, still in a fairly tidy state as I'm just three paintings into my series, Antarticus.
Studio of Rebecca Chaperon
So my questions for you are the following: are you a clean machine in the studio or more laissez-faire? Are you a reference hoarder or, like me, a little of all of the above? What might this say about you as an artist? Not that it matters what others think but it might be adventageous to note how these changes in your studio environment are affecting your unique creative process. And, by knowing your own particular needs for producing work can you tweak your studio to better feed your inner artistic wizard?
By learning about my own need for studio cleanliness at the beginning of a series I began to also understand that, psychologically speaking, I was sweeping out the cobwebs in my mind so that something new could be created. I consider it a strange nesting ritual that prepares me for jumping into unknown artistic territory, which can be a bit scarey, am I right? After all, the new work might not be the work I am used to making, or that I'm well-known for, in other words it may not be the work I identify strongest with (especially in the beginning) and I have to let that go in order to create something that feels truly new. For me, getting my space as minimal as possible before I get started is super-duper helpful. This has included getting rid of some furniture, old reference books - giving away art supplies that I hadn't used in years.
Francis Bacon in his studio in1977
I know other artists who are the opposite. For these artists they need to build a nest of reference materials, stock up on supplies, hang previous work up on the wall. Through this catalog of stimulus they can create fluidly and these objects and references serve to deepen their identification of where their new work is going and what mood or style it might convey.
Have you ever seen this photo of Francis Bacon's studio? Famous for his thick application and heavy handed marks, Bacon's dark images were born in a studio that was piled high with art supplies, buried under reference materials and the walls - well, they were covered in paint. It would appear that he liked to test paint colours directly on the walls!
Bacon's studio was a sort of incubator for his creative process.
I challenge you to observe your style of organizing space/materials/thoughts and take time to identify how you can tweak it to best complement your unique process of creating.
Build your own creativity incubator!
Colour, composition, magic!