When I first realised I had to give up my studio to make room for my future son’s nursery, I was a little saddened. It was necessary for me to give up my oil paints, downsize, pack away my easel and learn a whole new way of creating.
Before boxing everything away, I sold a few items that I no longer used/needed and narrowed down my supplies to two portable boxes: one containing sketchbook supplies including pencils, charcoal, coloured pencils, erasers and some mini sketchbooks. The other I crammed with my watercolour supplies. But not being able to sit in front of the easel – or even a desk – for the better part of 40 weeks proved more of a challenge than I thought. (I now have a new rooftop studio which I’ll be sharing in a future blog!)
I quickly learned that giving up my studio meant taking back control of how – and what – I created. And to look at the next 40 weeks as a series of creative explorations and moments, instead of one big project. So, here are the 8 things I learned from creating without a studio.
1. Paint for yourself, not for others
My attention was shifted to mini paintings, small studies, learning exercises and painting when the mood struck, instead of spending my weekends in my dedicated studio.
2. See more
I began to see and feel more, painting based on my own experiences, which unfortunately became more and more limited by lockdowns and pregnancy complications. I couldn’t get out and paint nature, but I soon realised I had a universe of inspirations at my fingertips (or more accurately, in my tummy!).
If you’re pregnant and stuck indoors, you’ll inevitably paint about it, a lot. My surroundings didn’t change at all, but my relationship with my growing bump did, and those little milestones became moments to document, not through a camera lens but through sketches and watercolours.
3. Embrace sketching
Having been primarily an oil painter for 10 years, I’d rarely sat and focused on sketching, other thank quick studies and ideas for the canvases. Now, a sketch could be a complete mini-project in its own right.
4. Keep a record
Every page in my sketchbook includes little notes of what inspired me at the time, and what events were going on around me, almost like an art journal. The inspiration became as important as the idea. I might turn some of these into blogs one day.
5. Cut back to the essentials
This was the perfect time for me to rummage through my supplies and see what I really needed, and what could be sold, thrown away or donated.
6. Try a new medium
Oil paint fumes were off limits, but I took this time to finish one of my very few acrylic paintings (read about the otters in this blog) and dug out a rather ancient set of charcoal pencils, with very satisfactory results! Just because space might be limited, free yourself in another way by combining new mediums, trying a collage or just getting back to pencil and paper.
7. You don’t need a lot of time
A few charcoal pencils and a good subject, and as little as 30 minutes to yourself in an evening is really all you need. A vital lesson which I’ll need to remember in the months ahead!
8. You’ll still miss the studio
Of course, I still miss painting, in fact I think this has helped me realised how much I miss it, and what I want to paint when I can get back to it. This whole experience has reminded me about how passionate I am about painting, what truly inspires me, and has encouraged me to look fondly back through my body of work and motivate me for the future when I will have time and space once more.
While it wasn’t easy to make room for sketching or painting, I never regretted when I did. It was great to slow down, switch off, and break the work from the lack of work/home balance that came from lockdown. Dedicating that hour in the evening, I felt like I was truly at home again, creating in a safe little corner.