A room of her own

Laura Courtney - Paris studio

Even if it’s a small space with no natural light or a cupboard under the stairs - like Russell Drysdale reputedly painted in, it matters not. What’s important is that you have a place that is yours and you can set up your things and make work and most importantly you can shut out the distractions that keep you from working. Some people love working at home. I do not as I constantly find things to procrastinate over, more laundry, cleaning the dishes. There is endless value to finding the zen in any activity but for me if I have to exit the house and travel even a short distance to my studio, I tend to stay for at least 6 hours and make the most of it.

Build shelves and a table by being resourceful. An old plain door is pefect for a table top and people throw things out on the street that are sometimes astonishing finds and exactly what you need. As long as you have a secure, dry room with a light bulb and ideally some sort of window for ventilation, you can make art. I have worked in all sorts of spaces, from the dining room to the bedroom floor, to old unused garages or storerooms.

I have also had the wonderful experience of being in artists enclaves like my current studio in Montreuil, Paris where the atmosphere exudes a serious dedicated drive to make art and it is a regular thrill to just turn up and get stuck into it. While an affordable space to work in is ideal, it’s definitely good to have studio goals. Here is Monet in his gloriously large studio and a painting of his studio boat, yes studio boat! 

 Monet's palette

The value of stillness and rest

One of the best decisions I ever made was to learn to meditate when I was 20. In fact I became a teacher of Transcendental Mediation years ago and I meditate every day, twice a day for 20 minutes. I do not know who I would be without it, or in fact how I would cope with the ups and downs of life. Regardless of the modality you rely on to rejuvenate and reach inner quiet, be it a nap or meditation or yoga, it’s great to have even a small area in your studio to sit or lie down or do some stretches, especially if you have to commute to your studio and are doing long hours in a run up to a deadline or are just in the zone and going for it.

For painting I much prefer the shade side of a building and mostly artificial lighting. You can turn all that off and see your work in lovely soft or mood lighting when you want, but I figure if my work looks good in harsh fluorescent light, it’s usually going to look utterly fabulous in flattering light.

Make your space an inspirational haven with images that enthrall you or remind you of a particular idea. I pin up notes about picture making, colour samples form broken pots or old second hand paintings that have some lovely bit of sky. I collect art postcards because the quality is often good and I dont have to hunt in books for the picture. I do have a computer in my studio but I have a rule about being on it. Once a day I check email if I know something is time sensitive but apart from that I only use it too look up something art related or to listen to podcasts or audio books while I work. All these things feed us and inspire us ever onward, reminding us why we are making art.