-By Dan dos Santos

ImagineFX magazine asked me to take some shots of my studio for last month’s ‘Artist in Residence’ feature. Since it’s now a back issue now, I thought I’d share those pics here. IFX has spotlighted some of my favorite artists in the past. So be sure to check out their website for free tutorials and back issues.

For a long time I rented a rather large studio in an old factory in a neighboring town. It was enormous, with high ceilings, tons of natural light, brick walls and beautiful hardwood floors. Seriously, it was a dream studio.

But once my Wife and I decided to have children, it just wasn’t worth it any more. Working late nights meant really long hours away from my family. Even if I had time to take a small break, it wasn’t long enough to drive home and back. So I ultimately decided it would be best to just move my studio home. We had a small room that wasn’t seeing any real use, and it seems like the most logical option.

Not only does having my studio at home save me a lot of money, but it makes it really easy for me to spend time with my kids. Even a 15 minute break from my easel can turn into play time!

The downside is, the space is really small, just an 11 foot by 13 foot room. This means I have to be really diligent about maintaining things. Everything in my studio needs to serve a purpose (or two!), or I simply can’t justify the space it would take up. This has led me to custom build a considerable amount of the furniture in my studio. I still feel like the whole thing is a work in progress, as I am always looking for ways to make things more efficient.

My studio windows are arranged in such a way that painting under natural light just isn’t a viable option for me… The light is too inconsistent. Instead, I paint under color balanced fluorescent lights. I’ve grown so used to them, that I actually prefer it over natural light now. I get no cast shadows, no variation in color temperature, and it also allows me to work at night, which is usually when I get my best work done.

Realistically, I probably spend 80% of my waking life in this little room. Needless to say, it doesn’t always look as clean as you see it here! More times than not, there are costumes laying about, unwashed brushes, half eaten dinners, and a ton of stuff that needs to be put away. But that’s OK. Because amongst that mess, you’ll also find markers, crayons, and a half-naked 5 year old coloring on the floor.

A: I am a certifiable art book junkie. I quite literally have a whole area of my house dedicated to them. The newest art books, or the ones I am currently referencing, tend to go here for easy access.

B: Audiobooks are great companions when you work late at night. I find music to be too hit or miss depending on my mood, but a good audiobook always hits the spot! Thanks to my friend Michael Whelan for loaning me some great ones. (I promise I’ll return them soon!)

C: Reference is absolutely integral to my process. I used to print everything out, but soon discovered it’s much easier to just use a laptop. Not only is it more cost effective, but it allows me to zoom in and out, adjust levels when needed, and most importantly, jump onto Google Images when I need to find something specific.

D: I paint quite large at times, and need a pretty hefty easel to handle the big pieces. I’ve made a few custom modifications to it, such as this sliding maul stick. Not having to hold my maul stick gives me a free hand to talk on the phone while I work.

E: I store my most frequently used paints in this french easel. I also keep my palette in here when I’m not painting. Because it closes fairly tight, it keeps my paints fresh for weeks. Keeping the essentials contained into a single box also means I quickly grab it and head out the door for a demo or life painting session with minimal packing.

F: This taboret is a real workhorse. just about everything I really need either gets dumped IN, or ON, this poor guy. Oil painting mediums can get quite messy, so rather than ruin the beautiful oak surface, I had glass tops cut specifically for every piece of furniture in my studio. This makes clean-ups a breeze. Even dried paint comes off with a quick swipe of a razor blade.

Digital Workstation to the left of my easel.

G: When you’re scheduling jobs 6 months in advance, things can get a little crazy. This little white board is the brains of my studio. Schedules, invoices, ideas, phone numbers…. everything ends up here.
H: Even though I paint my illustrations traditionally, I still need to do a LOT of digital work to help get me there. In order to alleviate some back and wrist problems, I mounted my Wacom Tablet to a swivel stand. This lets me easily pull the tablet into my lap, or up high if I want to work standing up.
I: Come on. What artist’s studio is complete without an energy drink or two laying about?

The flat files, just behind my easel, where my assistant works.

J: I collect a lot of art, though very little of it makes it into my studio. One of the few exceptions is this great drawing by Geoff Darrow.
K: My assistant, Lindsey Look, paints in my studio a few days a week (while helping me maintain some semblance of sanity). Things get crowded, but the company is fantastic. You can check out the finished result of Lindsey’s painting above right HERE.
L: I don’t know how I ever survived without Flat Files. Primed boards, unprimed boards, old paintings, sketchpads, prints, oversized books… everything flat gets shoved in here somewhere. 

My eldest son, Uno dos Santos, in the studio giving my work a close inspection.