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Good studio practice ~ advice for the developing artist, Part 1

I wanted to take a few moments to write a series of thorough but brief posts sharing some principles, attitudes and habits that can be useful for the developing artist. Some of what I will say in this series will not be new to all of you, of course, but may be helpful for some beginners and maybe even remind some seasoned painters of some good habits they may still be struggling with. Also, this is not intended to be an article exposing grand secrets of studio work, but is meant to assist beginning artists in building a sound foundation and offer things to consider when approaching your work and the environment you create it in.

Most of this writing promotes keeping a clean and organized work space. I will also be talking about some materials and how I care for them. Much of my attitude here and with art in general gravitates toward the academic ideal and rational painting seen as a trade and set of skills. Finding your voice and how you choose to express it is unique for each of us, but knowing your tools and developing your skills will certainly assist in realizing your vision.

A logical place to start is in laying out your palette.  It is to your advantage to have your tools laid out and easy to work with for a number of reasons. For one, it makes everything a lot easier and the paint ends up where it is meant to, on the canvas (linen, board; whatever support you use) and not on your clothes. It also helps your mind stay focused on expressing yourself and not on where you left that favourite brush of yours. Below is a quick drawing of my current work surface.

As you can see I use part of my table surface to mix my paint. The entire top of my palette/cabinet is glass so it is very ease to clean up after a day’s work.  The paint tubes lined up above the mixing area afford easy access and I can grab what I need without really looking.

Now, I design and build pretty much everything in my studio so if you choose to do something similar make sure not to make your surface area so large that you are reaching across your palette to get at your paints, oils, or solvents. You would inevitably get paint on your clothes.  Also, having my brushes right there (ones that are in use and others available should I need them) and my jars of mediums and solvents all handy makes everything ready to go and accessible at the same time offering me ‘room to breathe’ in regards to the size of my work area.

This cabinet also stores quite a bit of other materials from a stock of paint, solvents, rags, brushes, varnishes and virtually anything else I need aside from rolls of linen. It is also has locking wheels which I highly recommend for this as well as your easel, depending of course on the style. It is more convenient to move things around when they are on wheels, especially if you like to work large or your art space doubles for another purpose.

One last recommendation, it is a very good idea to have locks on your cabinets and drawers where you keep paints and solvents, especially if you have children, and do yourself a favour and keep all your solvents, mixes, oils and varnishes all labeled properly.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series where I talk about caring for your brushes and what to consider when choosing your paint.

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