Daily Artsy

Dualities. A Tale of Two Studios.

As any artist will tell you, having a studio space to call your own is a privilege, a luxury.  Since Mr. F and I are moving from furnished rental to furnished rental as we travel, the options among rentals in our budget range can be slim.  And to be able to have a studio space to boot?  Such splendor!

I know what it is to work from the dining room table or a corner of a 500 square foot studio, right across from where we sleep each night.  So imagine how spoiled I’ve felt in our Idaho Falls and Ashland rentals, where I’ve had actual studio spaces from which to work!

While we are traveling, Mr. F & I often debate how we want to live and work when we settle down for good.  As my painting practice grows, the conversation around my eventual studio also increases.  Do we want to try to incorporate a studio space within the walls of our home?  Or a backyard building?  Or how would renting a studio nearby work for me and our lifestyle?

Paint table

Not everyone gets to try out their options before making such a monumental decision.  But lucky me!  I’ve had two separate studio spaces now and find myself comparing and weighing the pros & cons of each.  Since you may be on the cusp of making a similar choice, I thought I’d share some photos and how each space does and doesn’t work for me as an artist.


Finding a rental in Idaho Falls was more of a challenge than we expected, especially after coming off of renting in the Bay Area.  The little apartment we settled on was in a 1920s Craftsman triplex near downtown, admittedly not the nicest or biggest rental we looked at but what sold me on it was the tiny extra room on the front flooded with light– perfect for my studio.

Photo Oct 28, 11 38 30 AM

When I say tiny, I mean teeny tiny.  I think the space was about 50 square feet, the size of a small walk in closet.  But there was a desk and room for my portable easel  and thanks to the west facing windows, tons of sunlight.  And bonus– the historic nature of the building meant charming details like wide window casings and a coved ceiling.

Photo Sep 22, 10 05 11 AM IF apron Ashland paintbrushes Photo Oct 28, 11 34 30 AM

What I loved–

Ease of work time.  I could paint and sketch whenever I wanted to.  Early morning ( not usual, not a morning person ), in between freelance work/emailing, while doing laundry, while beginning dinner, late at night.

Keeping the work close.  Having my workspace in our living space keeps my mind in the work nearly all the time.  It helps with the germination process, the thoughtful process that happens when you’re examining what you’ve done and where you want it to go.  I like to take peeks at my work in different lights and times of day.  I find myself gazing critically and lovingly while passing through to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  That’s not weird or anything, right??

Proximity to the hubby.  While we were in Idaho Falls, we were camping in Yellowstone or The Grand Tetons every weekend but one.  But normally, I spend at least one weekend afternoon painting while Mr. F works on his CEUs or brews a batch of beer.  It’s always nice to be in the same space, even when we’re engaged in separate activities.  Lovey-doveyness and all that.

What I didn’t love–

Lack of separation between freelance work & studio work.  Because I used that tiny space as both my office and studio, it made it a bit too easy to continuously check work emails while waiting for paint layers to dry.  So instead of being totally in a creative headspace, my mind was often distracted.

Lack of space.  The extra room was very, very small.  There wasn’t much wall or floor space to speak of, which meant my work and supplies found themselves drifting out into our living space.  Not really ideal, especially when trying to find a place to put unattractive things like shipping materials.  Since the plan for our eventual home is a living space around 800-900 total square feet, studio space within such a small size would be minimal.  So in the future, especially as I paint more and bigger work, we might be dealing with these same issues.

Westward facing windows.  The west facing windows meant lots of light on overcast afternoons but on sunny days I was driven out of the studio around 3:30 due not only to the intensity of the light, but also how warm it got.  Our apartment was on the 2nd floor and fully 10-15 degrees warmer than downstairs at all times.  Sunny afternoons in the studio felt like being in a broiler.  The position of your light is something it’s easy to overlook but can definitely cause headaches.  Literally and figuratively.

I loved this little studio.  It holds a special place in my heart, perhaps because it is where I started my work for LATITUDE and my work grew into something I began to be truly excited about.  The architecture of the space felt very “me” and I loved keeping my work so close.


Every time we move, we head into the unknown, especially with our living space.  I was very nervous to give up my tiny IF studio and go back to working from a corner of our rental.  I never dreamed I would be gifted with access to a 400 square foot studio.

Photo Dec 08, 1 28 09 PM

So when I told our Ashland landlord I was a painter and planned to put up Dexter-style sheeting in a corner of our rental’s bedroom as my studio, he met my idea with a surprising offer.  Turns out the building next to our duplex housed his woodworking & blacksmithing workshop and upstairs he was finishing the building of– you guessed it– a painting studio.  Which he offered me use of, free of charge.  What??!!!  Talk about a god send.

Ashland easel Ashland paint table Ashland studio apron Ashland studio

What I love–

Space, space, space!  To go from the tiny studio in Idaho Falls to a space in which I could really spread out was a dream.  I have the space to work on the larger pieces I had planned for the LATITUDE show at Art & Light and to be able to see all the pieces for the show as I’m working and allowing them to influence what’s on the easel.

Close but separate.  The studio is next door to our rental, so I can pop over when I need to, but preserve the separation of living and work spaces.  Mr. F doesn’t see as much of my process, so it leads to a fun “reveal” moment when I take him over to the studio to show a finished piece.  I also leave the laptop at home, leaving with it the tendency to multi-task between freelance work and painting.

Freedom to work dirty.  Even though the space was newly finished, my landlord assured me that it was OK to let the paint fly.  So no putting up sheeting or worrying too much about drips and splats.  It definitely helps keep my mind on the process when I don’t have to fret that I might be getting paint anywhere but the canvas.

What I don’t love–

Shared space.  For an introvert like me it is hard for me to work in a freely creative way in a shared space.  While I usually have my painting studio to myself, I have to walk through my landlord’s workspace to get there, which means– gasp!— small talk.  He is perfectly nice and lovely and I do enjoy our interactions, but my little introverted brain just wants to go to my studio and work.  For the first month, I had the space upstairs completely to myself, but part of the space is now being utilized three afternoons a week for music lessons.  Which puts a kink in my schedule but also means that there are eyes on my work when I may not want them to be and I can’t spread out in the same way as before.

Less than ideal use of space.  While the space is large, it isn’t totally mine and there are fixed furnishings whose placement wouldn’t make sense for a permanent studio, at least for me.  In the middle of one wall is a giant flat screen over a gas heater/stove.  While the stove makes things cozy, the placement of the tv and stove in the middle of a large wall limits the usable space.  There is a separate utility sink and sink in the studio bathroom, the utility sink taking up usable space in the studio when it could have been placed in the bathroom.  A space that’s not your own will always mean compromising your ideal way of working.  A disadvantage to renting a studio away from home.

Separation from my work.  I miss not being surrounded by my work.  After finishing a painting, I go through this kind of honeymoon period where I want to gaze at it and analyze it.  Not being able to see the work whenever I want to makes it a challenge to keep it dominating my headspace, important when working on a cohesive body of work for a show.

Separation from the hubby.  As I mentioned above, Mr. F and I often spend a weekend afternoon engaging in separate pursuits.  I do miss being close by while I paint.  Yes, it’s just a few steps away, but it feels much farther because it isn’t our space, if that makes any sense.

I feel incredibly blessed by having access to this beautiful space.  If it were my own, would I change some things?  Absolutely.  But do I pinch myself every day I use it?  Definitely.

Would love to hear what type of studio you’re working from and how it works for you!

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  • Maz Dixon

    I’m currently weighing up the pros and cons of my current studio situation. At the moment my setup is similar to your old in home studio. It’s a narrow little sunroom at the back of our flat that faces west – not great during summer! But I love having such a short commute to work, and as most of my work is small scale the size isn’t too much of an issue. However I’m looking at doing some larger stuff for a show later this year so I’m weighing up my options. Affordable space is hard to find in Sydney so maybe the dining room will have to do!

    • Artsy Forager

      Maz, I totally sympathize with your west facing pains! I know an artist who converted a rarely used formal dining room into a painting studio– sounds like a good option to me, unless you actually eat in your dining room, that is!

  • Margaret Sloan

    I work in a room that’s downstairs. The first real studio I’ve ever had. Before that, I always used the living room.

    I love having a separate space, but I have to go outside and walk down a path to the door. Nice during the day, but a little scary at night. Bears and mountain lions live here! I also miss having the work easily accessible for those wee hours when I can’t sleep.

    But best of all is the freedom of messy, cluttered work that can stay out even when we have guests.

    • Artsy Forager

      Thank you for sharing your studio story, Margaret! My favorite permanent studio option is a backyard studio, but since we’re considering settling where there are bears, moose, mountain lions, etc. I definitely understand the nighttime scaries! But I agree that having the work out of the way of every day living space definitely has advantages!

  • I currently work in my home studio and I love it. For all the reasons you say and it’s great to be able to do things when inspiration strikes. Since I now have 3 small children, it helps that they can be home with me here and I can still work. (It’s hard, but doable). Just another thing to keep in mind if you have children in mind for the future. Some don’t; so then it’s moot! Also, it only works if there is enough space. We are refinishing the old 2 car garage in this house and turning it into my studio (can’t wait!).

    • Artsy Forager

      Hi Megan! No kiddos in our future, so no worries on that front for me. 😉 The space issue is definitely in the forefront of my mind with an in-home studio. Congrats on your new space! I’ve seen a lot of artists use either attached or detached garages– definitely a great solution to the studio need!