The Key To Working in a Small Art Studio Space

It’s been many years since I’ve read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, but the title alone claimed a permanent place in my psyche. I believe that it’s important to have your own bonafide space, especially if you share living quarters with family or friends. I’ve never lived alone, so after reading this story during college I felt determined to make sure that I had my own creative space. That space has changed, as happens in life; we moved into a new house this year, and one of the first things I did was scope out the rooms for my own use. Alas, the space that works best is in the unfinished part of the basement, but I decorated it with a wall mirror, an oriental rug, and a large tapestry that I hung from the rafters to block the less-than-serene view of the water heater.

It works. Recently, I hung up my “Come in, we’re open” / “Sorry, we’re closed” sign on the door to let the entire family know whether they can interrupt me. I’ve said this before, but in case you missed it, my children are familiar with the phrase “blood or fire.” It means they’re not allowed to come in unless there’s blood or fire. I’ve been known to ask how much blood.

Art studios are sacred spaces. Magic happens there. Mixed-media artist Sue Pelletier recently moved into a new home also, and had the challenge of adjusting from a large art studio to, for now at least, a small section of the main living room. But her spirit cannot be contained. Scroll down to read how she adapted with flair.

Sue’s DVD, Textures for Collage is included in the Interweave Store’s overstock clearance sale.
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features Sue’s DVD, and more.

"I moved and downsized, like, really downsized: square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, coat racks, vintage bowling pin stash—but most importantly, my art studio space. My previous home had a two-story attached barn, and I used the second floor space as a studio. My new home has one large living space, where I have sectioned off a part for a small studio for now. I may rent a studio space later, or I may not. So what do you do when you’re used to creating art that’s whatever size you want, but you find yourself in a space that is not conducive to that?

"When I had my large space, I probably only used a section that was the size I’m working in now; there was a lot of space but there was also a lot of clutter. I would find myself using a 24" x 24" table space. Downsizing studio space and working small didn’t necessarily mean that I had to create art in a different way, but it meant that I needed to change my setup. Now, I really need to be organized. I have to ask questions like, do I really need four jars of half-empty gel medium, or one ready to go on my work space? Rather than having my paints all over the place, can I keep them close at hand and ready to use?

"One thing became perfectly clear right away: I knew I needed to work smaller. So after the initial unpack and setup, I decided I needed to just jump in and start painting. I set up several 5" x 5" canvases (I like to work on several pieces at a time), and I began. On my journey I’m finding out a few things . . . oh, I still layer, I still scribble, I still go into the pieces with graphite, inks, and paint, just on a smaller scale. The key is to treat the small paintings like they’re larger-than-life paintings.

Artwork by Sue Pelletier

For the series featured here, I found myself using the same process I used when working much larger. A huge part of that process is something I call 'dancing around the canvas.'When I paint I work (dance) my way around the canvas with paint and mediums. If there is periwinkle on my brush I add a bit of that color in areas all around the canvas. They may eventually be covered up, but that’s how I work. I found myself doing the same thing in my new art studio space, but just on a much smaller scale. A little texture here and a little texture there. I 'danced' around my canvases, but did so around several smaller ones at the same time. The pieces instinctively became cohesive, and they work together on their own or as a group.

"I wanted to paint flowers, big bold flowers, the type of flowers that say, 'Bloom where you are planted,' the message I wanted to hear, the message I needed to hear. So I put all other thoughts aside, and I painted, I painted BIG, they just happened to be small paintings . . . for now it seems to be working. Paint where you are planted." ~S.P.

Don’t you love the imagery of Sue dancing around her canvases? Just the idea makes me happy. If you’re also inspired, click here and share this art and Sue’s quote, “Paint where you are planted,” on Pinterest and inspire others.

Keeping it real,


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