Today we get a look inside the studio of Doreen Kassel, author of the new book Lush Life Creative Coloring: Organic Worlds to Explore, Color and Embellish. Doreen’s book goes beyond most coloring books to include fantastic mixed-media techniques for enhancing the pages, such as using stencils, creating a wash, etching patterns, and more, along with 53 stunning black and white pages to color.
The varied career of this New York City-based artist includes designing and illustrating children’s books and puzzles for National Geographic, UNICEF and Scholastic; designing textiles; sculpting whimsical characters in polymer clay; and teaching workshops.
Read on to learn about her colorful and eclectic workspace, and to see beautiful pages from her new book! ~ Jeannine
Q. Can you briefly describe your studio—where it is, the size, and the overall look and feeling?
A. My studio is in my apartment, in Manhattan. It’s a small space, 8’7″ X 10’5″. It’s very typically a New York City room; it has just one window, and it looks onto a brick wall across the way. I painted the walls bright yellow and the floor white, and I have a colorful rag rug on the floor. Colored Christmas lights ring the window, so it’s cheerful. There’s also a red futon along one wall because the room doubles as a guest room when friends and family come over. I have lots of art and family pictures on the walls. My pièce de résistance is the giant paintbrush that I have propped up on the wall.
Q. What are the art materials you have in your studio, and how are they organized? Do you have a favorite storage piece, or one that you made yourself?
A. I have paints: acrylics and oils and gouache and watercolor. I have pads and loose papers and tracing paper, Premo! polymer clay (all in white), translucent polymer clay, armature wire, tape, foil, colored pencils and markers, cutting implements (lots of razors), tools, rulers, pressed cotton balls, canvas boards, glues, boxes, bubble wrap, tissue paper, cardboard, and canvas board. There is a big storage closet at the end of my studio. Every so often I organize it, but it gets back to being a jumble very quickly.
My favorite storage pieces include a small, multi-drawer chest that was my father’s, and it houses all kinds of pencils, razors, erasers, drafting tools, and pens. My other favorite storage items are stacked pieces of vintage luggage that I keep in the living room (again, accommodations for city living). They are pretty and very roomy for holding my finished pieces.
Q. Is keeping your studio organized essential? Or do you have a less structured approach to your supplies and artwork?
A. I have a less structured approach to studio organization. Basically, when I find I’ve worked myself into a minuscule spot on my table, I know it’s time for some clean up. Sometimes I spill out onto the dining room table, which is a wonderful, industrial wood table that is very forgiving. Every few months I try to reorganize. I would like to keep my studio more organized. I keep trying—every day is a new day!
Q. Do you display your own art, or art from other artists, in your studio? What are some of your favorite pieces?
A. I mostly display my own art, along with some of my children’s work. I’ve done a bunch of subway drawings since moving back to New York about three years ago. I’ll sit on the subway with pencils and pens and draw people, using anthropomorphism to add to the humor and absurdity of the subway experience. I have a bunch of those pictures up, and they’re my favorites. I also have some of the original inspiration pages from my coloring book on the walls; it’s lots of fun looking at those, too.
Q. Is having a dedicated space important for the work you do? If so, why?
A. It’s essential for me to have a dedicated workspace. There is a door, and the room is small, but it’s mine. I’ve spent my whole life as an artist, and I’ve always had a dedicated space, even if it’s been in the hallway or a corner, with no door.
Q. Do you listen to music or podcasts while working? If so, what are your favorites?
A. I always listen to music and podcasts. I’m not a big fan of silence, and after the initial quiet of thinking out a piece or a project, I like to use my hands to work and engage my head with music and stories. I love the music of my youth, and I love to sing. The Beatles, Motown, girl groups, singer-songwriters, Gilbert and Sullivan, some classical choral music, a bit of vocal jazz, and my son’s cello music are some of my regulars.
I also enjoy listening to podcasts on NPR and local public radio station WNYC: StoryCorp; 2 Dope Queens; Fresh Air with Terry Gross; Here’s the Thing; Death, Sex & Money; and more.
Q. Do you have any studio rituals, such as tidying up before leaving for the day, or putting out fresh flowers?
A. I don’t really have studio rituals. I do like to turn on my colorful Christmas lights; they cheer me up.
Q. If you could change one thing about your workspace, what would it be?
A. It would be bigger and have lots of light—windows and light, and a view! I know that’s more than one thing. I guess light, a pretty view, and then size—that’s the order of importance.