Finding a Space for Art

In response to my post What Inspires Me, Heather wrote this:

. . . how do you just get started. I don’t mean the mechanics, I mean how do you just do it?

My husband and I bought a home three years ago and I have done very little creatively since then b/c I don’t have the space. I know that may sound like a huge copout, and I suppose it is…but nevertheless it stops me in my tracks.

Where do you “do” your work?

Heather– I wouldn’t consider your space limitations a cop-out. They appear to be very real for you. I am very fortunate in that I have a spare bedroom in my house and that’s where I work.

One side of the room has my computer, phone, printer, and school related things along the wall on a big table that my husband built for me. It goes on top of two short file cabinets where I keep all my family related paperwork.

The other side of the room and most of the closet and walls have my art related things. I have two smallish tables against the wall and several stacks of de-wheeled Iris carts with lots of junk inside. I also have two shelves above the work tables that are stacked with paints and clear shoebox-style plastic containers that have labels like “nature bits,” “stamps,” “junk jewelry,” and lots of other ephemera that I collect.

Behind my door, I have a shoe organizer that’s stuffed with ribbon, lace, and yarn. I also have a book shelf with pizza boxes full of paper scraps organized by color and a file drawer with magazine clippings and collage sheets.

Now, as I describe this I know it sounds pretty organized, and on a good day, I am able to put everything in its proper place. But ask my husband– it never stays there for long. I couldn’t keep this room neat and tidy if my life depended on it. As soon as I start a project, out comes everything. Oh, I promise myself that after I’m doing using the gold paint from the gold and silver paint box that I’ll put it back on the shelf– but there it stays– on my work table piling up along with everything else I’m using until I’m working in a space about the size of a book. (At least the space isn’t the size of a postage stamp, although if I was altering a postage stamp, that’s probably all the space I’d have.)

So I really feel for your situation, I don’t know what art you like to do. I think some art is “smaller” that other art. Maybe, if you’d like to start altering a book, you could do one like my Altered Book Journal and just focus on using watercolor crayons inside. Then you just need the crayons, the book, a water dish, a paintbrush, some Masquepen, a pencil and notepad, some fluid matte medium, and a brush for that. It sounds like a lot, but you could probably fit all of it in one plastic shoebox thingy or a cardboard box that you stash in the corner of the closet when you’re not working. You could pull it out onto the kitchen table when you have a few quiet moments, work for a while, and then easily pack it up again (after letting the paint dry!)

I know I’m not much help. Maybe someone else can come to your rescue and give you some good advice. I think the hardest part is not always creating the space, it’s creating the routine. It’s giving yourself permission to not do anything else but art for just a little bit of time each day. I think once we get out of the routine, it’s sometimes hard to get back into it– almost like exercising. I remember when I used to run when I was younger. If I skipped a day, I felt very out of sorts, almost desperate to get back to it. That’s how I feel about doing my art now. If I can’t get to it, after a while I get very cranky.

Have you every heard of micro-movements? Sark talks about them in her books about living a creative life. The idea is to take tiny steps toward your goal. You can even download a copy of her process here Micromovement Sheet . Whenever I have a project that I’m avoiding doing, I try her technique. And sometimes, it works.

3 thoughts on “Finding a Space for Art

  1. I can really relate to Heather’s problem. I had a small studio until my son was born 13 years ago. My studio became his bedroom. Then five years ago we had another son. So I had no hope of regaining my studio any time soon. Each of the boys has a bedroom, and my husband has a home office. Everyone in the family has a private space in our house except for me! For years I allowed that to keep me from pursuing artistic endeavors that I really wanted to delve into. Finally I decided enough was enough. I carved out a little bit of space by our back door, off the kitchen, to have a small work space and some storage. (Unfortunately, this often ends up piled high with supplies and works in progress, so I can’t really work there regularly!) In the basement, I put in some shelving to store the huge quantity of supplies that I have collected. When I am working on a particular project, I pull out the needed supplies, and temporarily take over the dining room. I clear my work off of the table for meals, and just pile stuff on the sideboard when I’m not working. My husband has learned to ignore the mess while I’m in the midst of a project, because he knows I need to do this! It is not an ideal solution, but at least I am creating art much more regularly than I have been doing for years! Another tip that might help is what I have done for my boys. Each of them has an “art cart,” a wheeled storage cart full of supplies. They roll it out to the dining room when they want to work on a project, then put it away in their room when finished. Depending on the quantity of supplies you have, you might need several, but it’s a start! The main thing is to create, even if it is a little bit at a time (as in micromovements.) Good luck.

  2. Karen you are an inspriration! I’m enjoying your feedback about Art and life itself.

    Thanks Monica in san diego

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