Spring Cleaning – Studio Style

As my life has gotten much busier in the last couple weeks of my studio sabbatical in March, and has accelerated much through April, I’ve (unfortunately) relied upon my studio to become the dumping spot for unsorted mail, random scraps of unfiled paper, paid and unpaid bills, and miscellaneous boxes that have somehow accumulated from other places. It had gotten to a point in which I kept the doors closed so that guests would not be able to see the so-called “creative mess” behind them. There are messes, and there are creative messes, and this certainly was not one of the latter. The busy-ness of my life had crept not only into my studio time, but also into the physical studio itself.

Something had to change. 

I have a commission to work on, but I just could not get started while standing in the smallest clearing in my studio space. I brought out the trashbags, the shredder, and armed myself with some extra shelving units so that I could create spaces where things could be put back into their respective places.

Over the course of a solid two days’ work, I made a clear dent in the Clutter Monster that had taken up residence in my studio.

Any time I clean the studio, it’s on one of three levels:

  • Level 1: Surface Clean: throw things into drawers and make piles that look neat enough to be barely presentable to a visitor
  • Level 2: “Presentable”: Throw out some stuff, clean one or or two surfaces, but those things thrown into drawers and cabinets remain covered.
  • Level 3: Operation Deep Clean & Move Things Around: Make a thorough sorting, throwing out, filing, and reorganizing of the entire space, including moving furniture — and yes — finally clearing out the drawers and cabinets stuffed from Level 1

While it took a considerable amount of time to clean, I feel so much better, so much more creative. It also gave me enough space to clearly look at my studio and reevaluate how the space was working for the types of projects I currently work on. Previously, most of my paintings were between 10×10-16×20, easy enough to store in portfolios or a small rack I have. Now that my next series will be a bit larger (I’m thinking 30″ x 40″), I need to develop  a system of storage that works best for bigger paintings.



This is just a quick shot of my center work table, rotated on a diagonal, and also the shelving ridge on the wall to hold “works in progress” for evaluation off-easel. My easel is just off to the left (off-camera)

I moved a center working table by just rotating it 45 degrees from being square with the walls to being on a diagonal — and I might as well have completely renovated the whole space! That one simple change helped to make the space feel larger, and helped to add to a better flow in the space.

I also added some adjustable table legs from Ikea to an existing tabletop to create an area for photographing small works and packing and shipping orders from my Etsy shop, while doubling as storage for unused, blank 30×40 canvas underneath. I added a shelving ridge on one clear wall to serve as a “critique” area upon which any finished or in-progress painting can rest and be viewed from a distance for evaluating the next step in its painting progress. It’s an idea I’ve wanted to implement before, but I didn’t have the clear space at that point yet to make it happen.

I wish I had some “before” photos to show you exactly how it started out, but I’ll just let you imagine how the whole desk space in the photo below was covered in up to three inches in random papers, magazines, receipts and miscellany. Now, every time I look at the surface, I breathe in a deep sigh of contented relief and here the choir chime “Ahhhhhh.”


Now to develop a system that keeps the studio exactly the way I want it to remain…