The Biggest Art Studio Myth

Who among us does not think they might be a more creative, productive, or successful artist if only they had more space? Or more storage? Or someone to clean up after them?

Over and over again, I hear: "If I only had more space." Or, "If I only had more room to spread out." I've never heard anyone say about their studio, "What I really would like is a tiny, cramped area with a small counter and minimal storage."

But you know, as much as we all would like more space, it's a myth that we need it to be creative or more productive.

I've been thinking about this a lot because I've been reading Julia Child's memoir "My Life in France." It's been interesting to discover how this woman who didn't know a roux from a moule when she got married, became the nonpareil of gastronomy in 20th Century America.

But what really intrigues me about her story is how she prepared these complex dishes and multi-course meals in such tiny French kitchens. She did not have granite countertops or an industrial stove. She didn't have fancy cabinets with roll-out drawers that shut themselves without banging. Even her Cambridge kitchen that served as the set for her PBS show "The French Chef" is pretty ordinary by today's standards. She hung those copper pots on pegboard for crying out loud. I can imagine a prospective buyer on one of those HGTV home-selling shows walking into a kitchen like Julia's and sneering, "Wow, this kitchen needs a lot of updating. We'd have to gut it; we want a gourmet kitchen."

What Julia did have were excellent tools (such as copper pots and sharp knives), fresh ingredients, the inspiration of Paris and the French countryside, and a mad desire to eat well.

Which brings me back to art studios. Yes, all these accoutrements of a dream studio would be nice. But necessary? No. In fact, when we posed a question on Facebook asking what the least amount of space you need to create in, we got some very small answers, ranging from "A TV tray" to "My head."

Now, I'm not saying that you or I would refuse a dream studio if the Art Fairy came by and offered one. There are some big, gorgeous, to-die-for studios in the Fall 2010 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors Studios, and I personally would be happy to move lock, stock, and glue gun into any of them.

But what I really love are the small spaces that sing with creativity. Like Annie Cesarz's mixed-media studio that's straight out of Harry Potter: it's literally tucked under the staircase. Or Gene Black's 6' x 8' stitch-and-paint niche. And Seth Apter and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer have both been able to become prolific artists in New York City high-rise apartments that are far from palatial.

Coming up in the Winter issue of Studios we will focus specifically on how to make the most of a small studio. If you have a very small creative space that you've cleverly maximized, let me know. Send me a few lo-res snapshots of your space at by August 23.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the Fall issue with 30 artist spaces, tips on how to keep and care for your vintage linens, and a tour of Halloween artists' spooky-and-spectacular studios.

As Julia would say: Bon appétit!




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