Today’s Art Studio Organization interview is with Stephen Elliott Webb who I met as I was a panelist for a talk on organizing as part of the creative process. He has an show opening this Friday at Mitchell Hill and in order to help spread the word about his new work, I wanted to share his interview, now while you can go see his work in person! I’m thrilled to share this sneak peek into Stephens new “tiny” studio and have him share more about his process and creative space. These photo’s are not styled so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day (go see for yourself next time you are at Redux!).
Art Studio Organization with Stephen Elliott Web-Part I
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
SEW::When I was 10 years old. I asked my mother, a professional artist, to paint a painting for my 5th grade teacher as an “end of the year” present. She said “Why don’t you paint it?”. I did, my teacher loved it, and the teacher across the hall commissioned me to paint her one just like it for $10!!!! Sweet ! I was big time, now, Baby!
HKPS:: What materials do you work with?
SEW::I use an array of different media on each painting: Watercolor, acrylic, latex, enamel, oils, caseins, gessoes, matte mediums, glues, soap, Windex, denatured alcohols, mineral spirits, water. Right now, I am sculpting with resins.
HKPS::Are there specific tools or materials you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
SEW::I do tend to have everything out in plain sight. I am a very impulsive artist. If I can’t find what I need that moment, the moment might slip away. I consider preparing to paint or sculpt like getting ready for a date: if everything isn’t ready before-hand, you might just blow it!
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
SEW::This is an interesting one…up until the very end of 2015, I was working with the luxury of 3000 square feet to raise hell in as an artist. Extreme moisture issues, in the form of almost rainforest-like condensation, made me take whatever studio space I could to keep working (a solo show was only 2 months away).I contacted Stacy Huggins of Redux Contemporary Art Center and she made a seemingly forgotten about “Archive” space available to me. It was 129 square feet. I took it, and over the course of 2 weeks, moved everything out of my old studio into Redux and into an equal sized temperature controlled storage unit. This has made me a very space-conscious person. My studio is very streamlined and purposely designed.
The environment here at Redux is incredibly creative and collaborative. I feel as though an awakening has begun in me as an artist since the day I moved in. I wish I had known what playing well with others was like years ago. I am very grateful to Stacy Huggins and Greg Colleton of Redux for making this happen.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once?
SEW::I prefer one at a time, in order to have a sense of completion, more often, but my new space makes more sense to work on several at once. One of the things I did immediately upon starting to transform my 7.5’ x 16’ space was to create drying/storage racks for canvases. One is a worktable 48” deep x 80” wide that stores up to 10 36” x 48” canvases in whatever state they are in. I repurposed hollow-core doors from my old studio that were tabletops and room dividers in the office I had there and made and made this piece. It is located at the end of my rectangular studio. The 11” beside it and the wall serve as vertical or standing storage for my larger canvases, up to 4’ x 6’ (see photo below). Directly above this storage table, I used 6 telescoping photography studio poles and mounted them in horizontal pairs, 3 pairs high. On these I can slide up to 18 canvases, as large as 4’x4’ each.
HKPS::When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically?
SEW::I realized that step 1 was make this place “Highly Functional” or it would never work. I realized that step 2, because I am cursed/blessed with being concerned with the aesthetic qualities of my surroundings, was make it inspiring and inviting. So, having lots of equipment from my previous space, a 16’ stretch of 90 watt LED track light heads (see photo above and below) went up, completely transforming the light to what I like to paint with. Original artwork, carpeting, and a desk with two stools helped round out the comfort levels.
An added bonus of a microwave and my prized Nespresso machine were just icing on the cake that help keep me in the space and not always leaving for food and caffeine. Tool storage racks and a dry erase board were soon installed and the pièce de résistance was installing my sliding / telescoping 4 head photography lighting system to the ceiling and a wall of black felt for shooting great shots of every piece that this little space can help me create.
HKPS::Is making art your primary “job” or source of income? How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
SEW::Yes ! Thank God. I probably spend 50+ hours a week in the studio.
Thank you Stephen for for sharing how you use and organize your new tiny studio space! Next week I’ll have more from him about his creative process and any tips and advice he has to share…In the meantime, come out for the First Friday art walk and see his newest series “SHELL SHOCKED” in person! He’s also doing a live painting event as a part of Charleston Wine + Food festival this weekend! Learn more about Stephen’s organizing habits in Part II of the interview.
*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!