Welcome back to another Inside the Studio interview! I’m sorry it’s been a month since my last sneak peek, it’s been a busy spring! This is going to be a 2 part post because Susan’s work is in both Encaustic Paintings and Clay…today we will be focusing on her Encaustics and her home studio in CA. Next week I’ll be back with the Cone 10 Studio sneak peek and her work there. Susan and I met many years ago when I was visiting Charleston and a friend took me to an art opening of her show at City Gallery…after moving here I re-discovered her through that same friend and caught up with her on one of her frequent visits back to Charleston.
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
SG::Age 6 was when I knew that’s what I wanted to be but I deviated at times throughout my school years.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
SG::I paint in encaustic (beeswax with resin mixed) and incorporate mixed media: carbon, charcoal, graphite, pastel and faux gold leaf on wood substrates.
HKPS::Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
SG::My studio is at home in a small room on the side of the house. It has been great in that there is climate control(previously I was on a porch in South Carolina which got stifling hot even early in the morning as my griddle/palette is kept at 240 degrees)yet I feel detached from the rest of the activity of the house-which I think can be critical for a wife and mother in the home. I do have to walk through our bedroom to get there and I usually straighten it before I work so the mess doesn’t nag at me. I also have a distant ocean view and happy garden plants around me which is very pleasant.
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?
SG::Previous spaces were almost entirely ad hoc and in basements or on porches. As I wasn’t outside(thankfully), here I had to consider cross ventilation-which is still very primitive but the windows dictated where my work table would be. Then I set up my desk and office components opposite of that. I actually purchased a desk, painting storage/palette cabinet and some other elements. This is the first time I planned my work space with that much intention. It felt good to think about things first and lay out a plan, even if a very simple one.
HKPS::Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
SG::Not exactly but I’m good at multi-tasking and a very functional person. I usually operate in controlled chaos but am pleased when I get back to some more tight order. Office wise, I have piles and lists to tend to usually. I’m pretty good at throwing things away or clearing as I accomplish which helps me to visualize completed tasks or ones needing attention. My studio houses my office/business which provides a work space for dealing with my own business as well as elements within our home that need managing. I try to balance those.
In terms of my creative life, I try to start organized and then give myself the liberty to let the storm roll through, knowing I’ll reel it in when I get to a good stopping point. I often surprise myself with the mayhem around me that I so easily ignore. I do believe you have to surrender to the process at times otherwise you’ll be constantly distracted by the looming clean up.
HKPS::Have you ever worked with another artist or gallery? If so did you learn any systems for organizing?
SG::Many moons ago, I worked as a gallery manager. The work I represented was completely different than my own and I can’t think of anything specifically that helped me in terms of organization but I did get a gist for how things can operate on the other side. I now work with/ share ownership in cone 10 studios. We are artist run and pretty casual but it keeps me straddling both worlds pretty well.
HKPS::How or where else have you learn your organizing habits and systems ?
SG::I have worked in many group environments through ceramics, not painting, but in that experience I have seen how good tools, clean space, beautiful objects, and nice light facilitate working.
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?
SG::When I start a painting(s), I make sure the space is clear and relatively clean, I pull the colors I intend to incorporate from my palette. I Make sure I’ll have enough medium and other materials because it is deflating to have to run across town for supplies when you have allocated time to make art. I sometimes mock up the piece I’m making on a smaller drawing if it’s multi-paneled or larger. It’s a good reference to use to keep me on course with concept and color otherwise I can drift into autopilot of habits.
I also will jot words down that I associate with the theme, concept, and mood. Sometimes that’s on a single piece of paper to hang on the wall with mockups but more often, it’s in a little notebook I carry daily. Often, ideas or solutions to work bubble forward as I’m on the train or walking, etc. I find words can sometimes hone my intention better than illustration, even with color palette. If I find myself lost later in the piece, I sometimes refer back to those to gather my thoughts. My life is pretty disjointed so if I can document these moments, they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
HKPS::What kinds of materials/tools do you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
SG::When I am working, I am constantly losing my paint sticks, incising tools, and brushes. I don’t have any tips there. I think it’s a product of feverish work but I do try to stay aware and keep them in some designated pile just to deter frustration. It’s such a waste of time to search for things.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
SG::When I’m painting I often have more than one piece that I’m working on. I usually focus on one primarily and then set it aside just as I start another. I think giving it ‘some space’ allows me to more successfully address its completion. Usually the other is related in the series and working on the one might inform decisions for its counterpart.
I also work in ceramics and that studio is outside of the home. I rotate when I work in each studio based on the time I have while my son is in school, pressing deadlines and with clay, when the process might dictate attention.
HKPS::How often do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space due to space or other constraints?
SG::I usually return to painting after I’ve previously been pulled away elsewhere. Honestly, once I’ve finished pieces I tend to just walk away with maybe cleaning my brushes. Freshening up the space happens as I’m set to start the series. I clean the table surface of the old newsprint and put new down. Pull the paints that I know will be part of this palette and then set the others in the cabinet. I make sure all of my brushes are clean and then the wall or easel is clear so that I’ll have a space to set the piece to view from a distance. If I’m feeling really frisky, I vacuum or sweep the floor as well.
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?
SG::I try to start fresh and then let myself go into the process. My painting spells usually begin with clean up and preparation before I can get into the work.
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?
SG::I find it important to create archival work mostly as respect to the process and craft that is art and the traditions taught. My background is academic and that was impressed upon us. I do dream that my work might travel into the ages and resonate still somehow but it is not in my daily cognizance. Mostly, I just keep moving forward, creating as my story suggests. In the last 10 years, I have found more concept in my work and consistency in palette and technique. I had some good criticism from an instructor that I needed to focus more on that element. Once she said it, I knew it was true. Good criticism can really lead to breakthroughs.
I store paintings in my studio and on my own walls in my home. I try to limit ones in the studio to those that correlate with my current body of work. Many of my larger pieces can be disassembled into panels and I can tuck those into boxes. With records, I just bought a little file cabinet off craigslist for $25 and it has been life changing. I previously had a stack of papers on the floor ‘to be filed’. It’s so silly but the simplest things can really make space feel more welcoming and accommodating to creative process. I’m not sure why that’s so hard to remember but I finally seem to be getting it. I also keep a wall calendar with all life events on it including submission deadlines as well as my son’s school events, etc. It keeps the juggle going.
My greatest wish is that through seeing how other artist work we can learn from one another. There is no ONE correct system or way of organizing. There are as many creative systems as their creative makers! My aim is to highlight these unique makers in each interview. A HUGE thank you to Susan for inviting us into her studio, via her photo’s and sharing her personalized systems and how organizing affects her creative process. Please check out her work over at her website and please check back with the blog next week for her ceramic work at Cone 10 Studio!
* 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!