Experiments and Developments in Studio Furnishings

Note: If you're looking to read things about the mysical/revered/ineffable creative process, there won't be much in this post for you. If, on the other hand, you geek out over minuscule technical developments and love seeing how other people function on a practical level in their studios, then read on!

The first big deal in the studio is that I replaced my many-years-old Liquin squeeze bottle solution. Backstory: I love Liquin, but I like to get it in the big 1-liter glass bottle, the top of which gets all gunked up over the course of opening and pouring and closing repeatedly. Plus, you have to shake it like an uncooperative ketchup bottle. I actually emailed Winsor & Newton a few years back, asking if they knew anything about Liquin's interaction with plastics, as it's a petroleate. They had no idea; I was on my own. So I got a squeeze bottle made of that sort of gummy soft plastic. And it worked fine, for a long time.

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

There was clearly some air communication through the walls of the container, causing a skin to form, but in the basement studio, where the temperature was really controlled and the air a bit humid, it wasn't much of an issue. Scene change to NYC, cue heat wave. The skin formed so fast that it was just a waste, and then the squeeze bottle split up the side in a final throe of death.

In search of a new bottle -- and quickly -- I came upon an almost-empty ketchup in the fridge, contained in the new Top-Down bottle from Heinz. Thank god for food packaging innovations (I'm only half sarcastic here). It's kind of perfect. The plastic is rigid, not gummy, but squeezable. (I don't know my plastics, but the recycle code on it is 1 and it says "PETE" below. Does that mean it's PET plastic? I don't know. I could probably google it, though. The previous squeeze bottle didn't have a code.) And of course it's meant to stand upside down so it's always ready to dispense. And it has a valve! Actually, the valve has been a bit problematic, because the Liquin has been wanting to separate lately, perhaps because of the heat, but I'm finding a good violent shake does the trick. And the best part is: no skin has formed yet. Even through our patch of 100-plus-degree days. I think I've found a winner.

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Second on the list of neat experiments is a custom oiling-out formula I put together. On the wallpaper painting, I was having a terrible time with glare on the darker edges. Even using my photographer's even lighting we couldn't get it to photograph sufficiently well. Furthermore, this is one of those things that I just have to troubleshoot because it becomes a problem on all my work. Not having had a very good technical painting education, I hadn't heard of oiling out. But, thanks to YouTube, I had subscribed to Gamblin's feed, and they had recently put out a video on the topic. (I was on a YouTube kick for a while, so I watched that, and about a million other things, including Art21's new series, which is totally worth a look.) A good artist-friend of mine had also passed along the tip that Lavender Spike Oil was supposed to reduce shine on dark areas when used as a medium. So I hodge-podged together a recipe for my own oiling-out solution, hoping for a finish would be even and maybe a little satin.

Collection of Painting Mediums

Collection of Painting Mediums

My recipe is as follows:

  • 1 part Odorless Mineral Spirits (1 small pour, maybe a tablespoon? two?)
  • 1 small lump Cold Wax Medium (lima bean size)
  • Smash and stir til dissolved
  • 1 part Galkyd
  • 1 1/2 or 2 parts Lavender Spike Oil

Then you brush it on evenly and rub it in with a cloth (cheesecloth, ideally) using circular  motion.

It definitely seemed to help considerably. Now the painting is at the photographer's again, and I'm awaiting results. She may still have to use polarizing filters to get it just right on film, we'll see. But I have high hopes. And already the in-person experience of it is improved, the colors glow and the corners don't glare. (Storing the leftovers in a tin can with plastic wrap, however, was a failure. I got a glass jar with a rubber seal for storing future batches.)

Development number 3 involved a trip to Ikea. The Brooklyn store is kind of a hell-hole, and that's not just because I'm partial to the Portland one. But we drove out over the Brooklyn Bridge, and coming back into the city the view was just beautiful, so the trip was arguably worth it just for that. It's funny to realize that there's a lot of the city I haven't actually seen, despite having traveled past/through it, because I'm so often underground. It feels like a strange treat to be in a car.

Anyway, we made the Ikea trip because I've had my eye on the Bygel cart since before I moved.

New Painting Cart

New Painting Cart

It's very compact, not too rickety, and only $30. Hard to argue. I also got some glass shelves to use as palettes. It's so nice to be mixing on glass again. Plus, I have my desk area back, now that my palette and brushes are all loaded onto the cart. I can't help but miss my old painting cart, with it's 4 swiveling wheels and hugeness, but for my current space this is a vast improvement.

The last and most recent development is that we finally got sufficient air conditioning installed to deal with this heat wave. And it's been glorious. I can finally paint without dripping sweat, and without my paint literally drying on the brush. Oh, a/c, how I love thee.

Brick and blue: a studio palette

The studio has been in some state of remodel/redesign since I moved in. No surprise there. Recently I've been working on pulling up the carpet (lots of carpet glue; slow work) and painting the floor, and generally making the space feel lighter and more finished. Hemming and hawing over colors...

For a while, sections have been a pretty strong yellow. "Butternut Squash." The thought was that, since it's a basement space with very little natural light, it needed some pretty intense color therapy to not be a depressing cave. But it turns out, it's just too overwhelming. Oppressively yellow.

Once again I start collecting paint chips. I have a whole ziploc baggie somewhere with probably a full pound of little cut out samples, but I have to start fresh for each project. This time around, the focus was mainly on blue... with a few samples of persimmon, coral (a color that's been on my mind for a while now).

The floor is going an almondy, warm white. Something bright, but not stark, with a satin finish. With only about a sixth of the floor (if that much) painted so far, it's already brighter, feels more like a legitimate space. But in need of color.

My attention has lingered frequently on the remnants of the old chimney that comes down through the middle of my space. My dad says remove it; it would open up the space so much more. And that's true, but there's something about it that I love. Between that and the dark, exposed beams, it becomes my own little (underground) New York warehouse art loft. (I've been looking for ways to restore it that don't involve caustic chemicals... have yet to find anything satisfactory.)

So, from there, I've come to a potential palette of antique brick and some sort of pale, warm or dusty blue. Not too primary, not too teal... something nuanced. Then, to Flickr for some inspiration in that vein:

Brick'n' Blue

seafoam brick


Red Bricks and Blue

bricks, seafoam green and windows

From Endings Come New Beginnings

I finally finished my commissioned painting. After months of hemming, hawing, loving, hating, holding on too tight, procrastinating out of fear of messing it all up, and taking leaps -- and despite predictions to the contrary -- it's done.

And I made a video so you can see it come together!

But now there's the trepidation (and excitement, of course) of a new blank canvas.

Oh, February, how you fly!

February's been trucking along at full speed so far!

On Super Bowl weekend, I printed up a set of wedding invitations for a bride in Texas. They were a customization of my country sunset design, and involved a gradient that was making a little nervous, to be honest, but they came out great. I'll have full pictures in a few days on the Phaedra Paperie blog but til then, here's a little peek into the printing process.

Then, I got back to the work of remodeling/reorganizing my studio. I know it's been a long time since my Remodel: Part 1 post, but it's an ongoing process. My studio has vertical beams that run down the middle of the space, and the remnant of the house's original chimney, which makes it hard to make the most of the space. Boxes and piles have a tendency to collect along the dead space around the beams. So I took that area and turned it into a work surface with storage underneath. It's not yet what I would call clean, but now at least I have a well-lit place to do small paintings, drawings, pen and ink, etc. without having to clear a spot and sit on the floor.

Capping off the month so far, yesterday I had Kate from Katie Joy Photography over. She's an up-and-coming photographer who will be shooting her first wedding in only a couple of days, and just got a new camera. We know each other from our day jobs, but it was great to interact with her on a professional level. I needed some professional/head shot type photos, and I also wanted to get some action shots in the studio. We looked through a few, and they looked promising -- the studio shots especially looked great. I'm so excited to see all the shots!

February Goals

Ok, so December wasn't a great month for getting things done, and January struggled a bit, too. But I pulled through at the end. (I'm including the first couple days of February as part of January, because it makes this list look a lot better.)

  • Submit to galleries that have January submission dates. Done. Well, to one. The most important one. (There were two with January dates, and the other I'm not as into, so it's cool.)

  • Send image of HSC painting to client. Discuss money, shipping, timelines, etc. Sent image and discussed money. Had previously talked about shipping, and touched on it again. Did not discuss timelines, because they're my nemesis.

  • Photograph valentines and get them out into the digital world. Mostly done. Sunlight has been scarce, but I did get a good photo day right at the end of January. I sent out an email or two about them, and put them on my Etsy, but never did a big email, and still haven't blogged about them.

  • Make confirmations for Bridal Screenprinting class and finish syllabus/materials list. Made confirmations -- the 27th of February at noon -- but still need to finish the actual work part.

  • Get laptop repaired. Got a new laptop for what it would have cost to fix the old one! Yay!

  • Give my truck some love. An oil change, maybe a new turn signal light. I filled the air in the tires (much needed) but still need an oil change and a turn signal.

  • Finish sewing projects for other people that I've had sitting around for way longer than is reasonable. Apologize for keeping them so long. Not done. I'm a jerk.

Ok, enough with the half-hearted accomplishments. On to February's goals:

  • This month is going to be mostly about finishing things I've started. A bulleted list, in no particular order, will suffice:

    • HSC Painting: gotta get it out of my studio

    • Sewing: shirts

    • Sewing: cushions

    • Class planning: materials list, order materials, syllabus, assemble necessary bits

    • Cards: blog about them, damnit... maybe do the card section of the website, too

    • Knotical Invitation Suite: print it, photograph it, post it

    • Gloriously Awash In Sin blog: post something, for crissakes

    • Taxes: this requires me to make sure I've caught up on all my bookkeeping...

    • I feel like I'm missing something... I'll add it when it hits me

  • A separate goal, but one that I hope will help the above, is to wear shoes when I'm working at home (as opposed to just being at home... ah, the challenge of trying to work and not-work in the same space). I've noticed that wearing shoes makes me more productive, perhaps solely for the fact that it keeps me from getting too comfy and curling up to nap on the couch. I wonder if that's just totally weird, or if other work-at-home-ers have found this out, too.