In today’s artist interview & sneak peek we are back with the second half of our visit In The Studio with Susan Irish. Susan is a Charleston SC artist, gallery owner of Fabulon and former teacher. I mention this because she still teaches and has the heart of a teacher! I’m so grateful for the artists who invite us to visit their studio! We can learn so much from each of these visits. Susan is organized in spite of her many medium and interest in using found objects, these photos are not styled so this is typical of what her studio space looks like on an average day.
In The Studio with Susan Irish-Artist Interview & Sneak Peek-Part II (See Part I here)
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
Susan:: The best advice I ever received was to “work on more than one painting at a time”. But I literally work on several paintings at once. The wax dictates that you stop and allow it to cool so instead of rushing the process I work on another stage of a different painting. Typically 6 at a time.
HKPS:: Do you ever find it challenging to locate certain things when you’re ready use them? How so?
Susan:: This was once the bane of my studio practice and greatly cut into the inspirational flow. So now I try to have all that stuff near me, semi organized and contained but still visible so that I feel like it is there waiting to be incorporated.
HKPS::How do you store tools and materials you use frequently to make your process easier?
Susan:: I like vintage metal industrial bins and jars and cigar boxes. I have a giant apothecary or library type cabinet with many drawers. Metal scraping tools are on a magnetic knife strip. But I got a great idea from you to use those for the metal bits I like to work into pieces so now they fight the tools for space.
HKPS:: How or did you learn your organizing habits and systems?
Susan:: Lots of trial and error. Lots of packing and moving. Mainly from being a classroom art teacher managing lots of stuff for kids. Despite a chaotic appearance, I know where everything is most of the time. Being an art teacher involves a lot of materials, supplies, and visual aids. In the classroom I rely heavily on plastic storage totes for specific lessons. Environmentally, this makes me feel bad. I try to counterbalance by using as much recycled materials as possible. I paint on scrap wood and use plastic lids for palettes.
HKPS:: Do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space on a regular basis?
Susan:: Yes, because I am constantly handling it, the purging happens naturally. However there are a few things that I have held and moved for 3 states.
HKPS:: What tips can you offer regarding your use of schedules, systems, tools or processes that help you maintain organization in your studio?
Susan::Art cloud is beneficial. Trying to coordinate with all that google has to offer. But I am still a bit old school. So I just take a day or a chunk of time to dedicate to the record keeping, photographing, and entering shows. Then when I can get back to art making I feel like I have been away and the need to make up for lost time makes me create without editing as much. A folding table that can be tucked in the attic and easily retrieved gives me an alternative space to spread out. And I have lots of drawers each for a different purpose.
HKPS::Do you use sticky notes, or make lists? Are these digital or on paper?
Susan:: I make an idea web or an info graphic, a graphic organizer chart in my planner or on big sheets of paper. This too I learned from teaching kids. Then the sticky note for an emergency or immediate to do. Then I rely on the camera phone if I need to have a note to carry but do not want to take the whole planner.
HKPS:: Do you notice cycles or phases of projects that are more or less organized in your creative process?
Susan:: Most definitely. The frenzy of painting creates a bit of a mess. Somedays I cannot get coordinated. If I attempt to clean up my studio, I end up sorting through my treasures or books and then I see something that sparks an interest in something. Then I go back to painting. It is definitely a cycle of creativity, chaos, and organization.
HKPS::Do you think your creative success and or your process is helped or constricted by discipline?
Susan:: When I start to get stiff and sore, forgot to eat lunch, or the dog needs to go out, I realize I need to take a break. I use to cloister myself away and would only allow myself to shower and eat when I had created something. I have learned to be more kind to myself.
I am finding the balance between my intuitive process and creative flow by making sacred time to honor my inner artist. The more careful and organized I become the more painting time I will have. And I acknowledge that the “purging” process is an integral part of the cycle that leads to more creativity for me.
HKPS::What kinds of limitations to you impose on your schedule, material use or in your process?
Susan:: Everything appeals to me and I want all the stuff at the art store and a pottery wheel and a loom and… but I cannot afford it. I know that encaustic is my real place. So I work the techniques into my work with the wax.
I have a very large kitchen island and I spread out there for assessment purposes. Something’s need to go back up to the studio. But nothing can stay there. Because I would spread out to every part of the house. I need to have places designated for other missions and artmaking free zones. We have spontaneous house guests and I do not want to have to excavate a guest room to accommodate someone.
HKPS::How do limitations and boundaries fuel your creativity?
Susan:: Fleeting time keeps me from editing or worrying about what I am doing or what I am going to paint. I just paint because I am running out of time. Intuitively something comes out of the process.
HKPS:: How important is legacy to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and what you will leave behind?
Susan:: I started making snapfish books of my work for my sons. I want them to have a record of things I sold and the older I get the more I want documents of everything. Now I need to add stories.
HKPS::How do you store/archive your artwork and records (photo’s, inventory systems etc)?
Susan:: Yikes, this is a job for Heather Powers (yes, let’s!)! I am in the process of using Art Cloud for the business part of it. The paintings not sold are hanging all over the house.
HKPS::How do you feed your curiosity or learn new creative techniques? Do you attend workshops, retreats or classes online to help you evolve both creatively and in your art business?
Susan:: Many of my books have been with me for a long time. I read and reread them for visual stimulation. But a workshop when I have time to attend will fuel me for a really long time. Immersion is my favorite way to learn. When an idea gets in my head, I play with it for a long time. I make a lot of process paintings verses a sketch book. Then I paint over them when I am ready to move on.
HKPS::Where do you show your work?
Susan:: Fabulon and I recently had a piece at Marshall University. I was in Lake City the first 2 years.
*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 le