An Artist’s Workspace: my studio

For the last two weeks I was cleaning up and organizing my studio prior to starting on my next big piece – actually make that two big pieces that I have lined myself up to do!

It made me think about studios or in my case the 5×5 space where I now work in our basement and how personal it is to each and every person. We organize our spaces so that the things we love to use the most are in easy reach and so that we are in a space that is conducive for us to create.

Mid-2020 I got excited about studio space and had a room painted the whitest of whites. Those who know me will know it is my least preferred room color. My house is a riot of different shades from yellow, jade greens, pale greens, orange-red through to many differing shades of blue. I chose white because I felt that it would interfere with the artistic color choices the least. I chose that room because it had lots of light, a window with a lovely view of trees and grass and my garden. I did not use that room as I felt separated from the things I loved, being with my family as we relaxed in an evening. My studio had no space for my significant other or my pets and there was nothing to do there except create.

My studio in one of many layouts I tried. Nice and spacious, a lovely room, but separated from the life of the house.

Needless to say, the white room is no longer in use as a studio, long since converted to multiple other uses – including a sewing room for the occasion when I sew myself or my significant other a new top or pants. I have now moved myself to a small square in the basement which has become the entertainment complex in our house. My significant other has room for his hobbies, there is an old big tv and I have positioned my desk such that I can watch while working should I so desire. The room is the darkest color I have used in the house – a nice boathouse blue and thus I find it restful and calming.

There is a spot on the floor for the dog and spots on the daybed positioned against the wall for the cats. There is even room for a small office for myself.

My tiny work studio. I love it! It has everything I need close by and I am with my family as they do their own things.

I love working here. It is cramped and tiny but everyone can join me and we can be together while I work. The nice thing about using beads is that the materials I use can be used around others as long as I take the appropriate precautions – windows open and air purifier on should I use silicone. Gloves when using apoxy sculpt and tacky glue – no particular precautions required as I use non-toxic glue.

Initially when I moved down to the basement I had items strewn everywhere. But this is slowly changing! My drawing materials are under my desk. The beads are organized in rows on the wall using a system I designed to keep them there. My substrates are in a box stored elsewhere as they need infrequent access.

For those who are interested in how I created my bead storage system: steel wire attached to nails embedded in studs. Beads were then packed into ziploc bags and attached to the wire using thick jumbo paperclips.

My bead wall! My significant other did not mind when I commandeered the wall. I think he was happy they were off the floor.

In a small bookshelf to the side are my many colors of apoxy sculpt and my original jewelry making tools and beads I used when making peyote stitch bracelets – these often come in handy in all sorts of new ways!

You can see a collection of acrylic paints spilling out below, still to be homed.

And in a small container on my desk are the tools I use every day. Screw drivers, tweezers, exacto knives, scissors and pens and pencils, not to mention what I will require for my latest project, beads loose and strung. I usually only do one project at a time so this set-up provides me with all I need to happily create!

Until next time….

Maximilian: My first commission piece

Let me introduce Maximilian the 11 x 14 inch bead mosaic. He is based on Max, a most famous Pug and is my first dog bead mosaic. Max the Pug is the wonderful companion of two friends of myself and my significant other. Last year, our friends came to visit, saw my bead mosaics and mentioned how special they were. I mentioned that one day I would have to make one for them. Shortly after, they sent me a picture of their pug and Maximilian the bead mosaic was born. I have done my best to do justice to Max’s spirit, and feel that I have captured at least one of his expressions (green beans anyone!), even if my mosaic is not an exact replica of the Max I know.

I asked member’s of my bead mosaic group on Facebook what things they would like me to discuss regarding how Max was made. Three elements were mentioned over and over: shading and values, bead placement and my use of 3D components. I will address each of these below. But first I am going to start first with how Maximilian came to life.

Maximilian was created based on the original photo of Max that was shared with me (it will not be posted here as it is not my photo and I do not have copyright). It is not a great drawing, but it was good enough for me to get an understanding of how Max’s shape flowed and the key elements that are Max and to give me the base plan on which my mosaic could be created. It also captured the element that to me was the most important part of the piece: an expression that was part of Max’s personality. By drawing I gained an understanding of the subject matter and how I wanted to treat it when creating the mosaic, and intend to do this for all my major pieces going forward.

I wanted to give Maximilian a 3D component to make him seem like he was jumping from the page and looking at you directly. I had done this before and liked the style. Before I placed anything on the glass substrate, I took the time to explore the elements that I wanted to make 3D. The most successful method I found for this was using tin foil. That’s right, easily molded, it allows you to see how various components would look if raised from the page. Once happy with my selection, I recreated the look using Apoxy Sculpt, adding in any corrections I wanted to make based on errors in the original drawing. I actually succeeded better than I anticipated and have included images of the finished work on the side so you can see how the 3D elements worked out side on.

With my bead color selection I did my best to select a palette of colors for Maximilian, but as always I was limited to what I had available in my collection and what was available to purchase. The palette was chosen by picking a color that I wanted to use for the “sunny” side of Maximilian and the best corresponding color I could find that would be used for the “shady” side of Maximilian. This meant that when referring to the photo (and that is all I had to refer to), I would know which colors to use when.

In addition I broke colors down into light, medium and dark values – I think of this as the depth of grey present in a black and white photo. A dark value would be for elements of dark shading and the lighter values for lighter elements in the photo. This imbued Maximilian with depth and perspective.

I used color also as a perspective element for the background. I wanted to make Maximilian look like he was in the foreground with mountains and a time-lapsed star scape behind him, yet to do this I needed to create a sense of distance. Based on paper mosaics I had done previously (see below!) I knew that color can successfully be used to provide a sense of distance. So I used the same technique with Maximilian, darker in the foreground, lighter in the background.

Finally I angled the lines of the plain so that it created a sense of perspective and a line to the horizon. (Another technique used by artists to create a sense of distance).

Which brings us to the idea of bead placement. How did I determine which way the beads should go. For this I let Max be the guide! His fur all grows in a certain direction, and I knew that if the beads followed his fur I would give him heft and definition, making him come alive and letting the sparkle of the beads help give that gleam of life that might otherwise have been missing. And thus Maximilian was born.

If you need further details, still have questions, please leave a comment below and I will address them in a new blog post! However, tomorrow Maximilian the bead mosaic goes to his new home, which is why I am writing this tonight (just in case there were any last minute photos I needed to take). I will miss him. I have had much fun creating Maximilian the bead mosaic and I hope he gives his new owners much joy!