Wednesday, 23 January 2013

My work space: Studio in a box

Just thought I'd toss up a quick post about my painting workspace.  I've painted miniatures in all sorts of places: on the dining table, in a number of games stores, on home office desks, in my old studio, even on hotel room side tables (last minute revisions to contest entries at out-of-town conventions).  Really, there's only a few things you need to get half decent results while painting... someplace to sit, plenty of lighting, and access to paints, brushes, and other tools.  However, if you plan on making miniature painting one of your major time wasters (er, I mean, "hobbies and pastimes"), then you need to set up a place where you can paint comfortably.  You need to have a space where you can enjoy painting.

However, space is often an issue for most of us.  While I've had the luxury of having a dedicated art studio space back in my professional painting days, it's not really that easy when you're carving out a niche at home.  Especially when home is a fairly tiny "2 + den" 920 square foot condo (Vancouver is the 2nd most expensive place to live in the world based on average income... right after Hong Kong.  A 900sq ft plus change condo located in the far end of town goes for almost half a million dollars, and that's Canadian... which is doing much better than the US dollar most days. A detached home with yard in my neighborhood starts at about $1.2 million).

So, what does a married father do when he lives in a shoe?  Most people set up a temporary painting space on the dining table.  You spread a couple of newspapers down on the surface, clamp down some desk lamps, unpack all your supplies, and go ahead and paint until dinner time.  Then you box everything back up and tuck it all away in the back of your closet.  Often the set up and tear down take almost as long as your painting session.

If you are lucky enough to get a tiny corner of the home to set something permanent up, it's usually considered an eyesore by your non-hobbyist significant other.  Also, it's easily disturbed by children and pets.  Generally speaking, hobby knives and 4 year old kids don't play well together.  Paint is slightly more child and pet friendly, but your home might not enjoy being redecorated that often.

What I've got is something much nicer.  While not as luxurious as my old studio space, it works extremely well in my home.

It's a bit hard to make out from the pics, but I've got a corner wardrobe, configured as a computer desk.  It's set up in the "den" part of my condo (I use the term, "den" loosely... the space is half the size of most walk-in closets).  I've managed to cram two bookcases, the corner wardrobe, and a display case in there, with just enough room left over for two cat litter boxes.

Yes, I said litter boxes.  We've got two gargantuan cats the size of small beagles, one of which is diabetic.  That means he is in the room every few minutes, voiding his bladder.  Both of them are mongrels of some crazy combination of husky cat DNA (part jaguar, perhaps), and we also loved them with food a bit too much when we first got them years and years ago.  Yeah, it's one of the big drawbacks to the space, but I've learned to put up with it.

In any case, it's a miniature man/cat cave.  The wife is good with the setup, as we can close the door when guests arrive, and on top of that, I can close the doors to my studio in a box.  This keeps "the eyesore" out of sight, and also keeps my mess nicely enclosed and protected from the dust kicked up by the cat's litter boxes.

The great thing is that I spend a minimal amount of time with set up and tear down, since all I really have to do is open the doors up, swing the lamp arms out, and get painting.  Afterwards, I clean my brushes, turn everything off (lamps, airbrush compressor, etc.), and close the doors.  Simple, and quick.

I could easily see this kind of setup in a master bedroom or even a corner of the family room, if you don't have a spare space in your home.  If my bookshelves in the room were a bit tidier and organized, I daresay this space would be almost presentable (albeit with the help of some Febreeze).

I even keep an old laptop in the pullout drawer, along with a desk organizer I use for various tools (exacto blades, files, airbrush cleaning supplies, etc.).  The top shelves hold half finished projects, baskets of bits, spray cans, solvents, containers of pigments and mediums, and a few pods of really old paintballs (my other big hobby).

On the insides of the doors, I often post pics of things that inspire my current projects.  Sometimes I'll download a pic off the Net, print it out, then tack it to the cork boards there.  Other times I'll put up flyers of upcoming conventions and contests, along with the date I need to finish a certain project by.  My colour wheel is in there, for easy access and reference too.  And a few flashes (shoulder patches) from work, just to remind me where my real paycheques come from.

I'm also considering rigging up some sort of latch and padlock setup on the doors, so that I can really secure the wardrobe against unauthorized access to all daddy's toys.

I've also secured all the bookcases, display cases, and other tall furniture to the walls, in case of earthquakes (somewhat likely, as Vancouver is located on an earthquake fault) and monkey children (very likely, as my 4 year old loves to climb anything he can).

Anyway, I realize that I am quite messy and chaotic when I work, and my work space reflects that.  However, having a designated (and well defined) space tends to contain my mess... which is what my wife likes best about my setup.  It could be cleaner yet... perhaps some doors on my bookcases to hide the rest of the clutter, but overall it's much better than laying it all out on the dining room table.

Hopefully this post has given a few of you some ideas.  Our hobby is a demanding one, and no two people approach it in the same manner.  However, this way has worked out fairly well for me as a low-compromise solution.

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