Sunday, March 4, 2012

Setting Up Your Studio

Posted by Cheryl Kirk Noll

My workspace hard at work.

I just read Melanie Linden Chan's blog post about organizing. click here Boy, do I need to do that.

It made me think about the challenges of CE students, who are creating their own workspaces as they create new art. Many need to carve out a bit of space in a busy family environment.

So I decided give a little advice, and show off the studios of some folks I know.

1. Create your own dedicated space.

When you have to clear your work off the dining room table before you can eat dinner, you're wasting precious time. Get your own space... a place that's yours, and yours alone... even if it's a small desk tucked into a corner.

CE's children's book writing instructor, Marlo Garnsworthy, has recently set up her own art space. It only takes a corner of one room, but is practical and inviting.    

Marlo's newly created workspace

Marlo's space at work!
2. Get good light.

Illustration comes from the Latin word that means "to light up." Follow that advice! 

Traditionally, north light is supposed to be best for artists, but I like any and all the natural light I can get. You also need at least one of those adjustable neck lights so you can pull it exactly to where you want. Fluorescent or incandescent can be debated for days... your choice. The fluorescent lights with a magnifying glass are great for those little details.

Check out the many lights from instructor Judith Moffatt's wonderful studio. The L-shaped configuration of desk and worktable is an especially efficient set-up, and accommodates her computer as well.

Judith Moffatt's workspace

3. Get comfortable.

Artists often suffer from repetitive motion injuries. If you're hunched over with no back support, you're going to have neck and back problems down the road. Get a chair with an adjustable seat and have place to rest your feet.

Many artists prefer desks that can be tilted. Some folks use high desks, and stand instead of sitting. Illustrator Don Tate works standing up, and shows us that messy can work, too! link to Illustrator Don Tate's studio

Even with good seating, stand up and walk around at least every hour. Do a few stretches, gently roll your shoulders and neck, or stand with your back against the wall and do a few pelvic tilts. 

4. Have your tools handy.

Set up hooks for rulers, T-squares, etc. Use lazy-susans or other tabletop organizers. Office, art, and scrapbook supply stores offer many options. Mobile taborets are popular, although I've never gotten mine to function that usefully. Drawers, shelves, racks... you get the picture.

I love this double lazy-Susan from kitchen storage at Target.

Specialized containers can be useful.
5. Create adequate storage.

You need a place for materials that you only use occasionally, such as papers, reference books, specialized tools, and finished art. If your space is limited, you can put these in a separate room. My basement is dry, so it works well for storage, but attics and basements can be problematic because of heat, cold, damp and pests.

Deep, professional quality legal size file cabinets are useful, and flat files are fabulous, but they can cost an arm and a leg. Check out used office supply stores for better deals. Cheap file cabinets aren't cost-effective if they stop opening when fully loaded.

Flat files in my cool, dry basement.
Don't forget a place for the peripherals... close enough so they can get wired up properly. Printer, scanner, computer, back-up hard-drive. A place to do cutting is good too. 

Judith Moffatt's flat files, printers, and reference books.
You can never have too much storage space, light and decorative touches (or purple).  Judith's studio.

5. Create a place to display your work in process.

It's great to be able to look at reference materials, inspiration boards, sketches, etc while you're working. Try to have a bulletin board or open wall space nearby. Stand back from your work and view it from a distance occasionaly. 

For a few peeks at spaces to aspire to, here are some links.

Blog tour of the ultra charming studio of Jenny B. Harris, "illustrator, designer and generally artsy crafty person." click here

Illustrator Susan Kathleen Hartung's studio tour. click here

No matter how little space you have, you can make it work for you! 
Marlo sharing her space with her daughter.


  1. What a great post! I definitely need to work on getting my space more organized. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. wow~~I love all the ideas !! Thanks for share !!

  3. Awesome post, Cheryl!

    Although it is looking a bit different now, this is what my studio looked like when I set it up at first:

    I found this about working in a standing position:

    Thanks for sharing! :D

  4. That's interesting, Melanie. Thanks for the links.

  5. Thank you for the post, Cheryl! It's wonderful to see the working spaces of so many talented artists!

  6. Hey there, I found a JACKPOT of Creative Spaces! Check it out!