You have always wanted to learn how to paint.
Sketching was fine, but you still want to take a brush in hand and slap some paint around.
The moon and stars are in alignment, and spare time and a little money are available.
Unfortunately, even though there is some cash, a bit of free time and you have decided on classes, there is one thing missing.
There is just no space to store your supplies or room to in which to create. Never fear, you just need to apply some ingenuity to create a studio that is storable, portable and gives you the ability to pursue a dream.
Supplies – What Do You Need?
There are things that you need, and things that you want. If you are working with limited space, there may be little room for too many items from the want list. As a beginner, you also do not want to invest extravagantly, lest you find the medium you chose is not the type of painting you want to do.
Paints And Mediums
Purchase a small selection of the basic colors, as recommended by the syllabus of your class. Do not get impetuous and buy all the pretty colors. You do not need them, and they take up space.
If your medium of choice is watercolor, there is little else to buy. If you are using acrylic, buy a medium and be done with it. Do not be impressed with all the different types at this point. Keep it simple.
Working with oil requires paintings to dry for a long period. They need a place to remain untouched, and this takes committed space. Oil painting also involves oil, turpentine, cleaner, varnish and proper ventilation. For all these reasons, oil painting is not the best choice for a student with limited space available.
Brushes are one of those impulse purchases that artists just cannot seem to stop buying. There is always a new one to catch the eye of the unwary shopper. Do not be taken in by all the pretty colored handles, shiny ferrules and promises of flawless brushstrokes. Three to six brushes is plenty for a beginner, and more are easily purchased if there is a need for specialty styles.
Do not go crazy buying additional gizmos right away. Get comfortable using your tools and see what you really need. Get a palette, if you want. Alternatively, you can use a Styrofoam meat tray or inexpensive plastic plate if you wish. All those extras take up room that you may not have.
Do not buy a paint box until you have purchased all your supplies. It is a piece that you may use for a long time, and a container that barely fits your initial purchases will quickly need to be replaced. There are wonderful art supply boxes available online and at many art and craft stores. Check them out, but do not stop there. Check home improvement and hardware stores for suitable toolboxes and plastic storage containers. Segmented, layered boxes are useful to keep items segregated and tidy. A compartment long enough to accommodate brushes is important if you plan to take class and need the ability to easily carry all your supplies.
Do not feel that you have to get a major piece of furniture when you buy an easel. If you are limited for space, a simple three leg, foldable easel will suffice. They fold flat and take only a few inches of space against a wall or in a closet.
If you prefer painting from a seated position, you can purchase a foldable table easel. These take up very little space and when folded flat can be hidden almost anywhere. Watercolorists may not even need an easel, as dripping may not be part of the composition. Watercolor paper is taped to a Masonite board, which, when not in use will slide under a bed or behind a piece of furniture.
If you are painting a small format, the table easel works very well. If you are working with a very large support, a floor easel is preferable. However, many beginning artists will find that smaller sizes are less intimidating and store more easily. If attending a class, carrying smaller supports will be less cumbersome. A canvas tote or sling will make transporting works more manageable.
Where To Set Up Shop?
After acquiring all the necessary supplies and equipment, you need a studio. If you cannot afford a drafty garret in a London tenement, you can always commandeer a portion of a room in your house or apartment. It may have to do dual-duty as a kitchen, bedroom or living room, but there is space somewhere within those walls you call home.
Look around your rooms and decide which one is a most likely candidate.
Is there an area or corner that could be taken over with your studio supplies? If so, perhaps a screen could be used to camouflage the area, blocking off the worst of the clutter and works-in-progress. Is there adjacent storage or room for a storage container to put away all the supplies between uses?
Sometimes, judicious sorting and organizing can free up a closet, or at least the majority of one. People have been installing closet offices in cramped quarters for years. A little measuring and browsing at discount and hardware stores and second hand shops might find small, easily moveable pieces. Small plastic rolling carts, a stool and a fold-up table can be pulled out from the closet, or used in place within. It is just a matter of thinking outside of the box.
The least palatable option is to set up and take down your supplies each time you wish to paint. The setting for this is oftentimes the kitchen. If this is the case, so be it. If the only other option is not painting at all, it is a small sacrifice to be able to pursue your dream. Others have done with much less, and accomplished great things. If this is the option, then it makes great sense to keep everything compact and portable. This is no different from taking your equipment to class every week. In fact, it is easier since you do not have to lug it to and from the car and trudge to the classroom.
Does the area have adequate lighting or is there facility to set up some lights? If you have been relegated to a corner or a closet, make provisions for adequate lighting. A table lamp or a floor lamp can be positioned to give adequate, if somewhat artificial lighting. There are lamps with specialized bulbs purporting to give off a more natural light. If your budget allows, you may want to check into this type of light. You will also need lighting to illuminate still life setups you may wish to paint. This can be a lamp borrowed from another area of the home.
Keeping the area tidy makes your studio less of an infringement for others in the household. Floor covering is important to prevent staining or damage to the permanent flooring. Canvas tarp is inexpensive, not slippery and available in many sizes. It can be tacked in place if necessary with double-sided carpet tape.
Starting your education in painting is a great adventure. A challenge like limited space is a mere inconvenience. The important things are the experience and the chance to learn your craft. Think big, but start small.