I’ve always placed a lot of significance in having an area designated for making artwork. In the past, some of my living situations were sometimes more “art studio with a bed in it” than an actual fleshed out apartment, and I’ve always been fine with that.
My wonderful better half has thankfully been very understanding to this quirk. I’m not too messy, and (usually) not too temperamental when I work, so until we started having kids I usually just worked in the living room so we could talk and I could listen to the tv with her.
Once we had a couple of little dudes running around the house, I found myself corralled off into a separate room, and even then I had to worry about little hands sneaking in and helping me out when I was in the bathroom or grabbing a coffee.
When we moved here to Washington I got it in my head that the empty barn near the house would someday become my studio. It took us almost 2 years, countless hours and way too much money,but we eventually managed to get it all built into a pretty sweet studio space. I’ve been working in here for a little over 2 years now, and over that time I’ve continued to modify and adjust things to make it as conducive to making stuff as I could.
One of the first posts I made on MC was just as I was moving in here, and so I thought it might be cool to do a follow up where I could cover some of the set ups and tools i’ve found to be especially useful.
Il throw it out there again and admit I’ve put an almost obsessive amount of time, effort and expense into having a space which almost every aspect is dedicated to making my creative efforts easier. Sure some stuff could be seen as overkill, but I think for me it’s a combination of a modest upbringing and years of having to work in less than favorable conditions thats compelled me to put so much attention into the studio area. My reasoning is that I spend not only my work day out here, but also a good amount of my free time out here too, so it only makes sense to make the place as comfortably well suited to that purpose as possible.
View walking in from the front door. Its cluttered, but kept. Items in this shot that I’ve found to be useful: A) I have a bunch of track lights, each head puts out 1250 lumens and 4k neutral temperature. I have I track in the front area and two tracks running the length of the painting bay, which gives me a lot of flexibility as far as setting up and positioning my lighting. B) Ceiling mounted air filter! I have three large dogs that practically live out here so its important to keep dust and hair in check. I run it a couple times a day and it’s really surprising how much less dust there is in here. C) Shop vac…Literally cant count the ways I use this thing. Essential if you make stuff.
Recently upgraded to a Hughes easel, and its been fantastic. This one can hold up to an 8 foot vertical support, and it’s a counter weighted set up that makes it a real joy to paint on. I had a best Santa fe 2 for almost 20 years, and while it was a great easel, this thing is on a whole other level. Also cool that you can put a bunch of small paintings on it too!
Storage/work sink area. A) Bought these extra tall rack poles so I could open up the middle area large enough to store up to 48” tall panels within it. This provides a huge area for storing larger panels, frames, and in-progress work. B) I like having my brushes hung up so I can easily find what I’m after. Also have a couple of dollar store tool racks for storing larger brushes. C) A mini fridge is absolutely essential for storing wet pallets and brushes. Dramatically extends the usability of paint. And it’ll keep your drink cold. Can’t imagine not having it. D) Hanging power cable for my painting cart allows for movement wherever without tripping/rolling over cords. E) Shop sink WITH foot pedals. Again you would not believe how useful it is to have foot pedals for washing brushes. Hell, all sinks should have foot pedals.
PAINT CART! Heavy steel uline rolling cart could probably carry 1000 pounds and survive a nuclear blast. A) IKEA buckets fit perfectly and hold all the paints I’m using at any given moment, knives, etc. B)battery powered work lights with polarizing film are great for shooting paintings in particular C) tempered led free glass panel purchased from a place that makes sneeze guards for restaurants. super clear and like a quarter inch thick, it makes for a great mixing surface D) Lint free shop towels for when your’e in a pinch. I usually use old clothes for paint rags, but sometimes you need something clean and dust free and these work great. E) IKEA drawer organizer for holding wet brushes. Amazing how well this works and think I paid like 2 bucks for it. F) Laptop and reference monitor on adjustable arms makes it easy to position things optimally. Since its on a rolling cart plugged into the ceiling it can be moved wherever its needed.
Notice how almost everything is on wheels. Makes the space more useful and much easier to keep clean. Also you know you like my crackhead wrapping paper covering that door window and the transom above. The rest of the windows have blackout curtains that make it dark as hell which comes in handy for controlling the lights and shooting work.
Picked up this AFMAT long lead pencil sharpener when I saw Chuck Pyle post about it on facebook recently and DAMN! Highly recommend. Holy moly it works well. Also copped this adjustable podium last year that I just use the crap out of. Its great for holding my palette when easel painting, but a lot of times i’ll just pull it in front of the tv and it works GREAT! Super adjustable. Kind of a simple thing purchased on a whim that I use literally every day for one thing or another.
A)24” paper cutter, because if you use paper, its nice to be able to easily cut the stuff. B) industrial food container to feed your 400 plus pounds of dogs that you share a studio with C) ROOMBA!! I run this thing at least 3 times a day. it’s a lifesaver, especially with those aforementioned dogs, but just in general dust is the painters mortal enemy so anything you can do to help control it is a plus. D) vintage star wars toys that I’m so glad I asked my mom to keep (thanks mom!)
Reverse view looking toward front entrance. A) I’m a tv watcher/listener. I grew up drawing in front of the TV. Im not even gonna apologize or pretend to be one of those high falootin’ cultured folks who puts classical music on when they work like freaking batman or Morgan Freeman or something… I love me some FORENSIC FILES or the news, or crappy action movies when I work. But nothing too good because I dont want to keep looking up. B) CLIMBIN’ POLE…I love climbing, its super good for the hands. When not recovering from a broken finger like I currently am, we try to climb at least 2-3 times a week. This works well on short breaks. Kids love it too. C)second easel is really nice to have for working multiple pieces at a time D) Dogs are the best. Sorry cats. No disrespect. I know Dan has clearly stated no politics so I’m sorry if I’m stirring the pot here. But I mean, come on. LOOK at these guys. 😛
Including a couple of shots of the bathroom because in addition to it being kind of a rad bathroom, it’s a fairly large wet room which is awesome for varnishing paintings. After removing all towels and rugs, ill use the hand held shower head to spray down most of the room, which almost completely eliminates any floating dust in the air. I’ll carefully apply the varnish and then let it set for a few hours until its cured enough to move. Works really well. A) Individually adjustable color led lights in the ceiling, can create surprisingly versatile lighting scenarios for shooting reference. B) floor squeegee is essential C) Old school lockers make rad storage closets.
The upstairs level is where keep the digital set up. Lots of artist friends hanging along the way for inspiration.
Upstairs is airy and bright during the day. it’s a bit more of a straightforward “office” space.
I have two workstations: A) Dual GPU PC for 3d related work. B) Been using the VR headset a bunch lately for work. it’s really great for mocking up quick environment ideas. C) This is my Mac set up that I use for digital painting and most other things.
kitchenette/lounge area for preparing/consuming snacks. I dont use it too much, but the kids like this area lot. I should probably water that plant…
Obligatory desk view. Electric adjustable desks are the best. If you spend hours in front of the computer, it’s really worth the investment.
Justin Coro Kaufman is a west coast based illustrator, Art Director, and fine artist. He is the Owner and Art Director of Massive Black, an art collective specializing in concept art and pre-visualization for games, film and emerging technologies.
Recent clients include Google, Amazon, DARPA, and Intel.