The sun is shining, summer is here and Melbourne has survived a second Lockdown which felt like it would never end. This experience has taught some valuable lessons about how important it is to be adaptable with your creativity and creative space in difficult times. I hope my experience may be helpful to others.
One thing that I found very hard to do during the stress of lockdown has been to write for this blog. I have sat down many times to put ideas in my notebook or start posts on the computer only to finding it too difficult to concentrate and getting nothing done (I’m still not finding it easy). It was impossible to do anything for too long without getting distracted.
Luckily working on visual artwork and experimenting with mixed media was more successful. I had fun trying out mono printing, drawing with some new polychromos coloured pencils and ink painting, as well as revisiting painting with acrylics on canvas and drawing with oil pastels. Moving between mediums seemed to help with my inability to focus.
Using various types of media often requires different types of working surfaces and equipment. I find it best to paint on canvas standing at an easel, drawing and painting on paper on an angled drawing board at a table and using a flat surface for mono printing and watercolour works. Luckily our studio is large enough to accomodate these facilities, but using the space efficiently is important when two people want to use the room for creating different types of art and craft pieces.
I thought that our studio was well organised until I was forced to spend months at home and some things started to bug me. Ellie also needed a sewing machine area for sewing Covid face masks, clothing and textile art. Previously her working table was next to my computer desk but this meant that if she was working at the machine and I was at the computer our chairs would run into each other. Not something that would make for a harmonious environment, especially when you are siblings. Not only that, but Ellie bought a new quilting machine and wanted to have both sewing machines set up so she could move between them for different techniques. She needed a sturdy table to hold this heavier machine. Another addition to the already crowded studio required a lot of reorganisation to make materials and equipment more accessible and to maximise our working surfaces (there are photos of how the studio used to look in the October 20, 2019 post).
Sometimes you just have to get rid of items to reconfigure a space so that it is workable. To accommodate the new flat pack table for Ellie’s machine and an office chair she already possessed, we moved her wooden trolley and an old wooden chair to another room. Her workspace is now on the other side of the room from mine so we don’t drive each other crazy. I also removed the old Apple computer from my desk as it was cluttering up the space and put it in another location (It’s a design classic and we want to keep it as it still works).
The tall table is now in the centre of the room with Ellie’s easel on her side and mine at one end on the other side in front to my wicker trolley. This means that you can walk around the room from either direction so that access to our respective areas is not blocked. I can do messy acrylic work or place my paints and palette on the table for working at the easel and sit down at my other table by the window to draw at the table easel or do watercolours on the adjacent area where I keep my watercolour brushes and palettes.
You can often repurpose an unused piece of equipment so that it does not just waste space. I am not using my metal vertical tapestry loom at the moment and I attached a pin/white board to the frame so I can write reminders and pin up colour swatches or artwork for reference.
Equipment that you use but is just getting in the way of your work often needs it’s own spot for efficiencies sake. Our cutting mat and guillotine were on the central table which limited the working area so we moved them to the side bench. Now each of us can cut paper and card without getting in each other’s way.
Display areas for artwork and inspiration material are always useful in a studio. We had three pinboards that were kicking around and we finally put them up on the walls above our respective areas. This got them out of the way and we can feature our own work in our space.
If you paint on canvas storage can be a big problem. There is a narrow shelving unit behind a bamboo screen to hold blank and completed works. I also have a large bolt of linen canvas that was stuck behind my window table where it was inaccessible and I moved it behind the screen. This made it easier to stretch several small canvases, but I needed more room in the shelving to store them. There were several framed paintings taking up space so I put them up in other rooms of the house. Storing works on walls was a good way of decluttering the studio and now I have more space for new works.
Having the time to work on artworks and reorganise the studio has been very beneficial for our creativity. I enjoyed experimenting with materials and Ellie made some very comfortable and colourful face masks. Ellie was also able to completely clear out her small study, which was full of junk and was blocking her from doing any artwork. She now has access to her art supplies and has started doing works on paper.
While stressful and not something we would want to go through again, lockdown has given both of us a chance to to reevaluate our creative methods, try new techniques and work in a more efficient manner.
Wishing everyone a creative, healthy and happy festive season. Let’s hope 2021 brings brighter and better things.
For a bit of fun here is a very silly Aussie version of The Twelve Days of Christmas by Bucko and Champs. Most Australians don’t really talk like this!