Thursday, May 17, 2012

Occupy Your Studio

My good friend and fellow artist, Ranjini Venkatchari, asked the following question earlier in the week.  I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post, and an opportunity to share a link to her amazing artwork.

I would love to know how long you have been doing daily painting? How did you start on it and what makes you work every day? I find it extremely difficult to get into the habit of working every day but I would definitely like to get into this habit sometime soon. Thanks!”

How it Started…

In March of 2010, my good friend, June Davis, and I decided to rent our own studio space, Golden Point One Fine Art Studio.  We had been students of Master Pastelist, Deborah Bays, for a few years prior to that and had access to her teaching studio.  I was going through some real drama and trauma when I joined the class, and I found that having the studio to escape to - changed my life and my mental state.

JunieB, which I affectionately call her, and I inked our first lease along with a third friend.  The third friend ultimately didn’t work out.  So instead of paying a third of the rent, we were now paying half of the rent. It’s not a situation we regret as JunieB and I find we are totally compatible, honest, supportive and productive with just the two of us.  At this point we won’t be adding a third person.  Plus, it’s a really tiny studio.

I muddled around for the first 10 or so months, doing some larger pastel work and entering competitions, but the sales were just not happening, and my bank account was suffering. I walked into the studio one cold December morning and JunieB was oil painting this huge canvas. It was about the size of one of our studio windows.  She was having company that weekend and she needed some “fresh” art on her wall – a story or two in itself.  It looked like so much fun, and I decided I wanted to try oil painting - which I said I would never do.

My first 4 x 4 “daily” oil painting was really bad, but I put it up on my Etsy shop, Littleton Studio, and it sold.  OK - I’m now HOOKED. 

"Lime and Cranberries"
4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord

How Often?

I can’t say I paint every day, but I still fall into the category of “daily painter” by producing 2-3 paintings a week.  Last year I averaged about 3 paintings a week.  This year it’s more like 2, but I’ve also been working in pastel since March and they take a bit more time. The pastels are selling well even at a higher price than the oils. I’m working in pastel because I have one more pastel workshop for the year and I want to make sure I’m not rusty.

I try to be at the studio at least 3-4 days a week from 9am-ish to 1pm-ish. JunieB and I prefer to paint when we can both be in the studio, but that isn’t always possible.  In the beginning I literally had to mark studio/painting days with a big X on my calendar.  I started scheduling anything not related to the studio in the afternoons.  I’ve had to give up a few things to make time for painting like book club, morning coffee dates, morning doctor/dentist appointments, etc. 

On weekday mornings, I get up, get dressed, check email, and stop at the local Starbucks as I’m on my way to the studio. If I didn’t get to the studio the first thing in the morning, like this morning, I wouldn’t get there at all - life intervenes and I get distracted. The one day of the week that I don’t paint is Tuesday, which is the day my husband and I entertain our youngest granddaughter, Emma.

My Motivation…

Paying the rent on the studio! There is also a sense of accountability when you paint with someone.  If you say you’re going to be there, you usually try your best to show up.  Sometimes I show up at the studio and don’t get any painting done for an hour or two.  I have a mantra – “At least I’m here!”

And, oh yes, I’m a showoff – I love to post my work after a good painting day.

4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord

Today’s Nitty-Gritty Nugget:
       Occupy your studio as often and as long as you can.

What’s Next?

1.      Find a place you can call your studio, whether at home, or off-site.  It should be a place to escape to not a place to dread.

2.      Make yourself accountable to someone to actually occupy your studio.  I’m accountable to JunieB, yours could be another artist friend that you check in with daily for awhile.

3.      Find a motivation.  Mine is $$. Decide how much money you need to keep your studio operating, or how much you need for a vacation, supplies, etc.  Money can be a very motivating factor.  You don’t produce? You don’t get paid!

4.      Pick a consistent time to be in your studio, not “just whenever you can find time.”

5.      Find your trigger/routine for beginning to paint. Mine is an iced venti skinny vanilla latte, putting on my black apron and putting some tunes on the CD player.  Once the apron goes on, my body knows it’s time to get down to business.
Thanks Ranjini for the opportunity to share!


  1. Thank you so much Cindy!!! It's very intimidating for many to get started on daily painting mainly because it is definitely a big commitment. But your ideas are very helpful. Thanks so much for sharing a link to my site and for answering my question in detail! You're a big inspiration for me:)

  2. Yes, this is very important and I am going to have to set up a new routine for myself...very very soon! ;)

  3. Love this post Cindy. Kelli and I have done the same thing with accountability and it's helped us a lot. At our studio we have some gallery space and a classroom so the other thing we did was post our open hours in a free listing in our local paper's weekly magazine section - that way we have to show up. :)

  4. Very clever, Carlynne! I once heard modern master oil painter, David Leffel, respond to this question "What do you do if you don't have north light to paint by?" David said, "You move. It depends how serious you are about your painting..."