Designing a studio space to meet the needs of living with disability requires time, lots and lots of time. Then it requires trial and error, loads of trial and error. In fact in February 2021, I wrote my first blog about my studio space. Little did I know then that my studio would be in a constant momentum forward towards the best possible workable space to meet my needs living with disability. As my painting practice has developed and established within my new lifestyle, as too has my studio set up, working spaces, materials and storage. A natural progression into functional stations throughout my studio space, with accessible storage and supplies thus being paramount to painting with ease. Let us take a look one year later how I made the space more functional.
Why is it a different kind of studio ? Some artists may have a pencil which they use, they can walk from one area of their studio to another to grab their pencil and bring it back to where they are working. For me this is a waste of energy, I have pencils located in all areas of my studio wherever I may find myself to be working. No wasted energy. A pencil for creating freely with ease and an awareness of energy output. Let me share with you a bit more about my studio which is set up into four functional stations for ease of use and functionality.
For painting panels, I have an adjustable easel on wheels with side drawers and a storage shelf. This easel allows me to sit or stand both ways supporting my needs. My easel is always set up to paint with a panel. Alongside of my easel stands a large sturdy cart also on wheels, with three deep shelves and a covered palette filled with my current colour palette ready to use at all times. I use the top of the cart for colour mixing, storing brushes, paint tubs and water containers of which I have many to create less need for water changing. The shelves on the underneath of the cart are for storing materials such as gesso, containers for water, paper towels, extra brushes, palettes and panels. My cart has all the materials which I use at my easel, set up and ready to mix paint like my easel itself. I had Brandon hang up my mom’s chalkboard behind my easel, I will likely write a quote up, an affirmation or a mantra. In fact, I believe ‘peace and love’ will be apropos for now. As painting gives me peace and with each painting being filled with love.
An original deep window ledge which is a built in desk is where I have a placed pieces of tempered glass overtop of the wood to be used for drying surfaces, applying gesso to panels and to take sun filled photographs. Having an area for drying became important as I was able to begin working on multiple small paintings. For ease I needed an area where I could at any time place a wet painting. I also purchased a children’s puzzle rack to dry paper studies with space for 12 papers at a time, this is super easy to use and doesn’t take up much space. If I work on small 5 x 7 paper I have a hanging rack with clothes pegs on top of my puzzle rack to hang small papers for drying. This area connects to both my easel and art table workstations for easy use when working on paper or panels.
Ikea to the rescue, an adjustable standing desk has become my art table with a desktop computer and printer at one end. A hub for a variety of purposes including painting my paper studies and doing sketches, this area can be always at perfect height for whatever I am working on. At this station I have a small cart on wheels for dry materials like pastels, markers and pencil crayons in easily removable baskets for quick use, stored underneath my table. Everything from print paper to scissors to packing materials for shipping is stored at my art table. Materials for my art table and easel are different and I have worked at setting up these two workable areas with separate materials at hands reach, easy to use and tidy up. When I go to work in an area I have no need to leave to get supplies, conserving my energy for the task at hand. My super supportive, ergonomic chair provides excellent support when working in a sitting position a purchase and can move between my painting areas, I recommend highly for people living with disability.
My husband Brandon helped me to set up more storage within hands reach at my art table with small wall shelves and a storage rack given to me by my late mother. It seems fitting that it made its way back into my studio which was my childhood room and then my mothers once I left home many years ago. By getting materials up off my desk within hands reach I created more surface for painting and the shelves are perfect for housing my fluids, acryla gouache and inks. This made room for all my paint pens to be organized by brand, colours and stored tabletop and within reach when I working on paper studies. Watercolours are nicely tucked away should I have a hankering to use a specific colour. My art table is super accessible, ready to be used at all times, with lots of useable surface and always tidy.
My fourth workstation isn’t a work station at all. It is a resting station with a lovely sofa filled with pillows, blankets and a heating pad. In between paint drying I am able to sit and rest comfortably. I even have a pencil on my side table in case I should need one. I am always on the ready for anything, painting or rest. Whatever it may be, with ease. I am always at my bodies command.
The importance of all of this is so I can paint. I don’t have energy for tasks that waste my time, I am not of ability to spend time tidying or setting up before I work. This is a waste of time and energy task for me. A simple chore like changing my water and cleaning brushes is a task I have to set aside time for when needed, sometimes asking for help. This is why I keep so many containers of clean water in my studio at all times in both of my work stations. I also have a caddy to put my brushes and water jars into making it easy to carry and allowing me to hold a surface if needed while moving between the studio and the sink.
This by no means will be the end to setting up a workable studio. In fact, I welcome more modifications as it means more time and energy spent on painting. I love using social media to search for studio solutions, as artists often post their studios or hacks that help them, it is such a wonderfully valuable resource. I would love to hear what others do to make a studio work for their disability needs. Painting makes me happy and peaceful.
peace & love