Setting Up An Artists' Studio

05-MAR-2020

Setting up an artists studio

Studio space: what works for you?

Landscapes and locations are great, but at some point, every artist needs their own space. A studio can be a haven, an engine room, or sometimes just a hiding place. So, what will suit your style, personality, budget and available space?

Jimmy Leslie, artists’ outreach manager at Winsor & Newton in the US, takes us through the options.

Bedrooms and painting

Ahh, the elusive studio space. Maybe mystical and symbolic, certainly huge and expensive, right? Not necessarily so. I have worked in an old woodshed, a garage, and even a spare bedroom. Based on my experience, don’t do the bedroom. It is important to keep your workspace and rest space separate. Sleeping in the same room where you use materials like solvents is not great for your health. It is also a good idea to stay away from the kitchen or dining room to avoid working where food is handled.


Studio rules: eating, drinking or smoking?

Every artist is different, but having some basic rules for your studio, especially when working around hazardous materials and equipment is recommended. My first rule is don’t eat, drink or smoke in the studio. I like to keep my drink in a closed bottle or flask and never open it with fingers covered in paint. 
I don’t smoke, so that is taken care of, but keep in mind that smoking around solvents just isn’t a good idea, so if you must – take that short walk outside. 

Studio size: Does it matter? 

As for size, it really isn’t everything. Unless you plan on working on mural size pieces, your studio doesn’t need to be large. A small studio often means you need to think about your environment more and how this can focus the mind or steer your work. The type of practice you have, the materials and the way you work can also determine the size of space. But being an artist is ultimately about creativity, and limitations of any kind often lead to wonderful results.

Keep it fresh

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on ventilation when you are working with oil paints and solvents, especially in a small space. An exhaust fan will help move contaminated air outside and taking frequent breaks to get some fresh air is a good idea as well.

Also think carefully about the materials you are using. A solvent like Winsor & Newton’s Sansodor with a PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) of 300 is a good alternative to mineral spirits (100-200) and turpentine (100). If exposure to solvents is a major issue, Winsor & Newton offers the Artisan Water Mixable range of oils and mediums that can be cleaned with water.

 

Making space work

In a small studio, it is vital to make the best use of space. As for storage, what do you do with any art that collectors aren’t lining up to buy? Unfortunately, this is a space limitation that’s tough to overcome. One solution is to hang as much as possible in the studio and then loan remaining pieces to family and friends. I also adjust to my environment by working smaller. Sometimes these restrictions can be positive and force you to think and work in new ways.

Let there be light

If your studio lacks natural light and there are few, if any, windows or you work at night, then try replacing standard light bulbs with full-spectrum lighting. It provides the full spectrum of sunlight to mimic natural light, helping you to see the true nature of your colours.

Check the label

It may seem blindingly obvious but to understand the materials you are using and how they may affect you, make sure you read the label.
For example, the label on Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour in the US may have the AP symbol, meaning it is an approved product “when used as intended” – that is, applied to a canvas or other such surface, rather than to the body. The CL or cautionary label may be found on colours containing lead, which can be a health hazard in large quantities.

In the EU, Winsor & Newton materials are labelled with pictograms and a signal word – either “danger” or “warning” – and hazard and precautionary statements. You can find out more about these by reading our guide to decoding hazard symbols.

Studio safety

This is a huge and wide-ranging topic but the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which provide important product information, are a good starting point. The most important thing is to make the most of what you have available in a safe way and in a space where you can pick up a brush and create without coming to any harm.


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