In today’s interview we will take a peek at art studio organizing with Andrew Guenther up in Brooklyn. When I was in NY in March I put a request out to meet up with artists who were available for studio interviews and was introduced to Andrew via my brother. It turned out to be kind of a reunion of friends who hadn’t seen each other in years. I felt lucky to tag along and be invited to take this sneak peek! These photos are not styled so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day.
Andrew Guenther Art Studio Organization-Part I
When did you realize you were an artist?
AG::I think I realized I wanted to be an artist when I saw a Bruce Nauman show at the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 80’s. I was drawn to the idea of making things that did not have to have a regular purpose or function. I was young and had always made drawings and other objects but the objects I made were not really art but functional objects. The exhibition changed my mind about the purpose of making.
Is making art your primary source of income? Do you have a partner who helps to support you?
AG::As for most artists, selling art is only a partial income. I have had years in the past where art was my main source but it’s not a particularly reliable source of income in general. I’ve worked freelance and part-time jobs to fill the gaps but when my wife and I had children I was at home with them more. I started a small jewelry business that has been doing pretty well and I would like to grow that at the moment.
How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
AG::I spend anywhere from 25 to 50 hours per week in the studio depending on projects and family obligations.
Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
AG::I work from the basement of my home. The space I use is about 15 x 18 ft. I’ve had studios away from home but I prefer to work here. I just left a dingy space that I was renting in the East Village when I realized I wasn’t using it very often. I keep a lot of my larger works in storage so I am able to free up space in the studio and I consider the storage rental my studio fee. When I moved to New York my first two living spaces were live/work lofts. This current situation feels a lot like that with better heating.
When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
AG::The space has evolved organically based on the type of work I make. When I find myself doing more sculpture I build a workspace for that type of work. Most of the stuff I am doing right now is very clean work. I’m working on a photo project and small metal pieces.
Do you use personal objects & memorabilia in your art? Do you collect memento’s, found objects or other ephemera, thing that evokes your childhood or playful nature=sense of humor (ironic, kitschy)? What is their Value to you? Do these collections ever overwhelm you and if so how and when do you curate-edit them?
AG::I collect a lot of stuff that I intend to use for art but most of it never gets in. The stuff that gets used in the space from street finds is usually shelving or small work storage. A lot of the ephemera in my workspace consists of props I made for other artworks or silly art joke pieces I made while working on larger things. I can’t throw any of it away if I made it so it ends up in boxes.
Do you work in solitude/seek out solitude or enjoy company (music, other people etc)?
AG::The only really consistent thing in the studio is WNYC, NPR radio. I used to listen to music in the studio but I prefer voices in real time because I work alone.
Do you set any self imposed limitations (to your schedule, material use etc)? Is there anything you intentionally don’t have in your studio due to distraction?
AG::Music became a distraction for me for a while. I got caught up in selecting new sounds to hear. Radio works because I don’t have to adjust it and it’s mostly background noise.
ARTISTIC LEGACY & PROCESS
How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall legacy you will leave behind? How do you store/archive your work or records?
AG::Everything is archived. Show cards are with show cards and press releases and press clippings are all together—though not always chronologically. I have always tried to make legacy files very clear in the way I store them. I could work on image archives but I would rather make new work. That’s the real reason why I’m doing any of this. I learn by making.
Do you notice cycles or phases of projects that are more or less organized in your creative process?
AG::If I leave a project for too long without working on it, then it usually gets scrapped or may feed another piece. I don’t like wasting materials but some things go too far out of control. I just took apart an assemblage that I started three years ago because I didn’t know where to go with the piece. I couldn’t throw the parts in the garbage because I see some potential.
How many projects are you usually working on at once?
AG::I have a lot of things going on at the same time. Sometimes I will drop a project and come back to it a year later. My studio practice revolves around six or seven projects at the same time.
Next week we’ll be back to share more of Andrews tips on time management, storage and art studio organizing. In the meantime, Andrew has both his Fine Art website and Eat the Leaf -Jewelry to check out online. Do you have any questions you want me to ask Andrew next week? If so please leave them in the comments below!
*The idea for the Inside the Artist Studio series began while attending an art retreat where I curiously observed the differences in the creative cycle of order and chaos and what that looks like for different individuals. I’m very interested in sharing how organizing affects the artist’s creative process. Some systems and order are vital to our creative PLAY and learning to find a balance that works to enhance your creativity is what I hope to share with you through these interviews.
Is there a particular artist whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to see featured? Leave a comment below and let me know!