Today’s Artist Interview is with Rob Maniscalco who I met at a neighbor’s party. We got to talking and I asked him if he would want to be featured on my blog, time got away from us but we reconnected recently since he’s just released a new book from his Quench Project. Rob has a FROG studio space inside his home and I’m thrilled to share his studio organizing tips and have him participate in this interview. These photo’s are not styled in any way so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day.
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.
Interview and Studio Sneak Peek Part
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
RM::I grew up in a household full of arts. My father was a professional portrait painter and was always in the studio working. I sat on his lap while he painted, while in the other room my brother played Rachmaninoff on the piano. I was always painting or playing my clarinet or singing. You get the picture. Ironically, I was the only one of four kids that went on to be a professional artist.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with and are there specific tools or materials you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
RM::I’m primarily an oil portrait painter but I sometimes work in pastel or watercolors. I do a lot of sketching with charcoal. My pants are all in a central location, stored in my taboret. I don’t line my colors up in a row or organize my brushes but they’re all right there ready to go when I want them. I must admit I keep a lot of material that were passed down from my father, which I never use. I keep them around because they inspire me.
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
RM::I have a studio in the FROG of my home. The space is more than adequate for me to create what I do. I am very happy that I have high ceilings (& great light), which were absent in my previous location. I’ve been in my North Charleston studio for about a year. I miss my Marshview which inspired me in my previous location on the Ashley River.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
RM::The majority of my work is commission portraits. The work comes and goes. Some months I may have many projects and then some months will go by was no commissions at all. None of this is dependent on the constraints of space or organizational systems. My fine Art, that is the art I do strictly based on inspiration, may be affected by physical constraints. But I think it has more to do with the constraints in my mind that sometimes say “why bother?” It’s then I remind myself, I’m painting for the ages and not just a quick sale in a gallery. (BRAVO ROB!-We all come back to this at times)
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? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
RM::This FROG was an entertainment/family room before we moved in so there is 106 inch surround sound entertainment center that I work around. But it is not distracting. The first thing we did was paint the walls a warm salmon color instead of the bright green from the previous occupants. Otherwise I adapted my set up to the space. It’s not ideal because of the lack of view, but it works well for me. I like to have a view so that I can divert my eyes from my work every so often. It’s important to clear the pallet. Now I have to settle for the occasional block buster.
HKPS::Is making art your primary “job” or source of income? How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
RM::My primary job has been an artist for the last 36 years. In recent years as the market has become more unstable so I’ve been integrating other related facets, such as videography, photography, Quick sketch art, court room sketching and teaching to help fill-in the financial voids. I tried Uber driving but I didn’t like people telling me where I should drive:). Once in a while I get the urge to find a real job, during the sometimes long period between commissions and sales. But I’ve found not many companies want to hire a middle aged man with no “work” history. Of course, we know, nobody works harder than those who are self-employed! I work about 10 hours a day (being an artist) and I spend 90% of that time in my studio. About 40% of the time is spent marketing and doing office work, like book keeping, etc. The rest of the time I’m writing (blogging and books) or painting. I spend a good amount of time in research and development, meaning I’m planning my next painting or body of work for projects. I think I need to get out more and connect with people. That’s always been my weakest link. My favorite use of time is spending it with my wife Cate and the kids.
Inside the Artist Studio::Rob Maniscalco
HKPS::How or did you learn your organizing habits and systems? Do you consider yourself to be organized?
RM::I don’t consider myself fastidious but I do like a neat studio. I have a photographic memory so I am replaying pictures of scenes in my mind. If my scenery is filled with clutter that means I have more information to process which is a distraction. Dali painted in the studio with nothing but white walls everywhere. I’m somewhere between him and the crazy hoarder down the street. I’m organized in as much as I know where to find most of my materials when I need them.
HKPS::What tips can you offer regarding your use of schedules systems tools or processes that help you maintain organization in your studio?
RM::I have several databases programs that I use to organize my contacts and client base. I maintain my own website and have a very large email following. I use mail poet on word press which does a pretty good job. I’m finding it difficult to organize my clients into effective groups so that I can contact them more specifically about what interests them. I have an ACT database, but I’ve been using for several years and updating. It records the history and appointments so that I can keep my schedule straight and plan marketing strategies. I try to focus on what is important followed by what is urgent. I have things on my to do list that of been there for several years, that I simply don’t consider urgent or important. I’m trying to integrate my smart phone and centralize all of my programs so that they work together but so far I haven’t been very successful.
HKPS::Do you purge clean or do you clutter your supplies – and space and a regular basis?
most some people I wait until it becomes overwhelming then I purge and clean. But my work space is relatively neat most of the time.
HKPS::Is there anything you keep in your studio strictly for fun or inspiration? Is there anything you intentionally don’t have in your studio due to distraction?
RM::I keep a few inspiring books on my shelves and a few sentimental artifacts. I’ve always fantasized about having a studio filled with fascinating things to paint and draw but I always think what will I do with it after I’ve painted it? I try to keep a few things around for my students to draw. But I have them working mostly with organic objects so I could probably use a plant or two now that you mention it. (& see his comment about his father’s materials-kept for sentimental inspiration).
HKPS::Do you know the cycles or phases of projects that are more or less organized in your creative process?
RM::Since I got Photoshop I’ve been able to plan paintings much more efficiently. But as far as cycles or phases I’m not sure what that means. My materials are pretty much right here ready to go when I need them. I guess I wish I had a wet bar or sink near my studio but you can’t have everything. I could wait a long time for my set up to be ideal. I don’t have that kind of time.
HKPS::How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value in the overall legacy you will leave behind? How do you store archive your work or records?
RM::I used to keep a metal box with all the slides of every painting I ever did. Now everything is digital and can be found somewhere in my computer. I say “somewhere” because if I were not here to find it I doubt anyone would be able to find my archives in my computer. This is probably something I need to fix pronto.
HKPS::What if anything did you learn about your organization process through this interview?
RM::It did reveal areas of weakness, particularly in my archiving. Most of my computer files are buried deep in my documents somewhere. It’s not very intuitive. I do have a good backup system. Surprised you didn’t ask about that. The other thing I was hoping you would ask me about was how I organize my palate? That I think is my proudest piece of organization. My palate is called the power palette and a temple of my palette is available on my website for sale. My palate is organized by value, which I consider the most important aspect of any color I will ever use. I think it’s very important a person should find, develop and use a pallet that is consistent and dependable usable under any known number of circumstances. What I learned in this interview is that I am organized in the most important areas of my profession. I’m organized in the way I think about, plan and execute paintings. That is, after all, why we are here.
Thank you Rob for sharing with us a bit about your space and how you work! Please see more of Rob’s work on his site and in his new book from the Quench Project! If you are interested, Rob also flipped the table and interviewed me on his blog here! That was very fun, thank you for that lively conversation Rob! It’s in many ways a continuation of this interview.