This week’s sneak peek is inside the studio of a painter I met in Asheville in the summer of 2011. When I walked into Brad Stroman‘s former studio (River Walk Asheville) I knew I needed to interview him for this series. I approached him because he was someone I could tell took meticulous care of his supplies, tools and space. There is nothing wrong with working in another way but Brad’s approach was visually obvious to me, he was practicing in a space that was open to the public at that time and the type of work he does is a reflection of his principals of zen living…or maybe his life is reflected in his work. Either way I was drawn to the Zen quality of his work and of his approach to working and I asked him if I could snap a few photo’s and explained my idea for this blog series to him…way bay then! He was kind enough to not only let me take photo’s but to keep up a correspondence over the last few years as I made my personal transitions and eventually launched this series. When I was finally able to invite him to participate he was in the process of building and moving into his new studio space. Before we check out his new space, here are a few of the pictures I snapped in his old studio.
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
BS::I knew at an early age that I had a talent for visually recording what I saw around me. I can remember drawing and coloring in sketchbooks as a child. As I grew older, my high school studies focused on any classes I could take in the art room. My father was a sign painter. My grandfather was a stone mason. An ancestor in the Civil War registered on the muster rolls as an artist. I suppose it is in my genes.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
BS::I concentrate today in acrylics to create my Zen nature paintings. But I also do oversized graphite drawings and colored pencil works both of which rely on visual reference from nature.
HKPS::Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
BS::I have always worked in a personal studio space whether it was in a basement, an extra bedroom, or a rented space. As of two weeks ago I work out of my own painting studio on my home property that was built to my specifications. It is 450 sq. ft.
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?
BS::Because I had worked in a myriad number of spaces, many with issues that could never be resolved, I vowed that someday I would work in an environment that was exactly the way I thought it should be for my own personal demands. The concept for my new studio came from my own designs and concerns as well as input from my builder, Steve Parrish, who is a fantastic eco-builder in the Asheville, NC area.
HKPS::Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
BS::I am a very organized person when it comes to my passion for creating art. I need to have order in my studio. Clutter does not have a place. Everyday life outside of my studio, I would have to admit, does not have those restraints. I have been known to mislay important papers or keys and stockpile correspondence until it begs to be sorted.
HKPS::Have you ever worked with another artist or gallery? If so did you learn any systems for organizing?
BS::In the beginning of my career, I did work with another artist, a painter and good friend who allowed me to work in the second floor of his home. His studio habits were the exact opposite of mine, so I can’t say I learned any good practices from him. If anything, it may have made me more determined to have order.
HKPS::How or where else have you learn your organizing habits and systems ?
BS::I taught the visual arts for over 30 years in a secondary public school. I had to maintain a system of organization if I wanted to be able to keep good inventory records for ordering supplies, be able to evaluate and grade students’ portfolios, and be responsible for an overall safe environment for my students in which to work.
HKPS::What types of schedules, systems, tools or processes do you use to help maintain organization in your studio? Would you like to share any tips?
BS::I keep a fairly disciplined work schedule but try to be as flexible as I can for unforeseen circumstances. I work in my studio four days a week, totaling 24-30 hours. Another day is devoted to business – email correspondence, phone calls to galleries or clients, errands to buy supplies, etc. I always keep two days free for my personal life. As soon as I finish for the day, I go over my studio, throw out any trash, clean brushes, put away paints I had used, and generally ‘straighten up’ the workspace. It is amazing how quickly one’s workspace can become cluttered and even dangerous to work in if a daily routine is not adhered to to keep it clean.
HKPS::What kinds of materials/tools do you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
BS::The one thing that could be a problem is the use of my #1 detail brushes. I’ve lost count of how many I have bought simply to replace ones that ‘escaped’ my eye during clean up.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
BS:: I tend to work on a drawing while I’m also doing a painting. And it is nothing for me to have two paintings being worked on at the same time (see photo above). I like the idea of ‘taking a break’ from the demands of trompe l’oeil painting and spending an hour or so on a graphite drawing.
HKPS::How often do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space due to space or other constraints?
BS::As I stated before, I do a daily cleaning of my workspace, taking time to throw trash out and put brushes, paints and drawing supplies away. You’d be surprised how energized you feel when you walk into a studio ready to start a new day and know that everything is in its place.
HKPS::Please describe how creative cycles of organization or dis-organization affect your creative process? Are there certain phases of projects that are more or less organized?
BS:: I think that the most influencing thing for keeping a clean work environment comes from the Japanese Zen Buddhist philosophy that I work with in creating my compositions. The practice of Zen leads itself to an uncluttered mind and an ordered life. It simply translates into my whole creative process.
HKPS::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?
BS::I paint for myself first. When someone appreciates what I have done with paints or pencils, enough to purchase that work for their own enjoyment, I feel rewarded for the hours I spent creating it. Because my paintings relate to our connection with our environment, I hope that my legacy will be that through my art I brought some attention to the fact that we must live closer to Nature and be more responsible stewards of our world. I keep visual records of what I feel are my most important works by having them professionally photographed and stored on CD’s.
Thank you so much Brad for waiting patiently for me to launch this series and finally for inviting us into your brand new studio space and providing us with the photo’s. Thank you for sharing some of your organizing methods and systems with us as well as the philosophy that drives your creativity, both on paper/canvas and in your studio practice. If you would like to see more of Brad’s work head over to his website, to see what’s available for sale. You may also want to sign up for The Zen Nature Painter’s Newsletter there. I’ll be back with another artist feature in the next few weeks! If you missed any of my previous Inside the Studio posts please go back and take a look
* Inside the Studio was my brainchild in 2011. There are a lot of popular studio features on the web and in magazines but I’m specifically interested in showing how organizational process influences the artists studio work. These photo’s are not styled and are typical of how the artists working studio looks. I request that each artist leave their space as it would be on a daily basis (just like I ask my clients). This series is meant to highlight how artist REALLY work rather than showing STYLED shots (popular in home and organizing magazines and blogs). I’m sure just like me, you are fascinated by the “behind the scenes” sneak peek into these artists working lives!