I know a lot of creative people and it’s always interesting to me that certain occupations and activities require difference physical situations in order to work as intended. I know writers that can make do with a laptop anywhere, and others that need a whole room with their references and the atmosphere they’ve furnished (literally and figuratively) over their career. I know visual artists that can create a finished, whimsical or formal, piece of art while they’re about town or riding the subway. Others need a full studio with all the proper lighting equipment and materials just so.
Generally, I’m among the latter. I can sketch or doodle just about anywhere, but I find myself being rather finicky about having the “right” space and setup for projects that are any more involved than mechanical pencil + paper. For the last few years, I’ve been in a space situation that doesn’t allow for the dedicated work area that I adore; but there are always ways to compromise!
- Get your house in order!
Make a plan according to your options, limitations, and supplies. I have a chronic difficulty with finding the right supplies when I need them. Whenever I start a new project, I need to accommodate my “stuff”. Do I have the room to keep my supplies in my work area, or can I make them relatively convenient to move from my working space to my storage space? If I’m working in the kitchen, it’s a bad idea to try to keep either the project or my supplies in a space that is so heavily used and often splash-y, grease-y, or otherwise inviting of potential mess and art-related catastrophes.
2. Bring Your Inspiration With You!
Need some music to get into the right mood? Need the company of your art buddy/ teddy bear (named Rembrandt, probably) to feel at peace in your creative space? Consider what you can do without when you’re taking your productivity “on the road” and make compromises as necessary. I actually brainstorm best when I have a plain white wall in front of me. My college roommates thought it was weird, but it’s what works for me, so I keep that in mind when I’m looking for a space to work. My mp3 player is also a great companion for distracting me from the less-than-ideal space and drawing me into my creative mindset despite environmental compromises.
- Managing Time and Expectations
A certain degree of flexibility in your creative mindset will make your situation way less frustrating. Keep an open conversation with the people that you’re sharing space with and make sure everyone knows what to expect and how to be flexible. Get a handle on everyone’s schedules so that you can plan to take over a common area when it won’t be an issue anyway. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to get the space prepped, as well as tidying up again after your work. A project that might have taken a month in a dedicated studio is going to take significantly longer, but you can use that time to plan other projects or finish smaller goals that don’t require as much space. Maybe this is a good opportunity to practice a new medium! Oil painting on bay-window sized canvas may be relegated to once a week, but there will be easier opportunities for watercolor painting in a journal or practicing your line art or compositional skills.
No lie? It’s still frustrating. I have a hard time making some of these priorities and then sticking to them well enough to be consistently productive. Just focus on making the most of what you CAN do, because you’ll still have exciting breakthroughs and maybe the change of perspective will lead you down an even more appropriate path.