Creating an Art Space

How to create a welcoming and nurturing space for making art and being creative.

 My wall of inspiration. Photo by Megan Bayley.

My wall of inspiration. Photo by Megan Bayley.

Artists often talk about "creating a space to make art". Whenever I would hear this phrase, I always wondered what that meant. Now working at this for several years, I've come to understand the meaning, and I want to share with you everything I've learned so you can nurture a space of your own!

What do I mean by space? If you want to be more creative, it's important to make space for making art in your life. I'll be talking about physical space a lot in this article, but it's also important to make space for art in your heart and space on your calendar. 

Making space in your heart meaning that you accept that practicing creativity will satiate your soul and bring you more joy in your life. It's a commitment between you and yourself, and nobody else! Make space for it in your heart, along with all the other things you love.

The next step is to take action and carve out time to actually create. I love to create in the early mornings, starting at 6AM. Others function best in the late evenings. Do what fits your rhythm best! Block out 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours on your calendar for making art. If you use iCalendar or Google Calendar, actually make a block on your calendar and add an alert. Any amount will go a long way to start! I started out just for an hour. The more I did it, the more creating came naturally to me, until it became a habit.

 An early version of my art space.  Photo by Megan Bayley.

An early version of my art space.  Photo by Megan Bayley.

Now let's dive into your physical art space.

I strongly believe that creating a welcoming space is essential to functioning creatively. The space needs to be completely yours, a place you can play in without any distractions, judgements, or limitations. It should be inviting, comfortable, and beautiful; a space that makes you giddy to show up to.

My first space was half of my desk. Then it grew to the whole desk, as I became more and more committed to my art. Your space can be a desk, the top of a dresser, or if you have the means, a separate studio. If you're just starting out, I recommend starting with a desk and then building up to larger spaces as your art grows. I have watched artists start in big spaces and feel crushed by the expectations of the space, so be careful starting out big!

Now that we have a space, let's dive into tips for making that space welcoming!

  1. Make it Beautiful. As William Morris famously said, "Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." Making a space inviting is an art in itself. I love natural light, so I keep my desk by a window. I also like to have beautiful objects on or around my desk: a plant or vase with fresh flowers, a candle, a favorite chachki that makes me smile. I'm particular about my sketchbooks, and buy ones that I think are beautiful to look at and to use. Even the glass I use for water on my desk is inspiring to me. How can you resist sitting down in this beautiful world now?
  2. Set Out Your Art Supplies. There's a saying that goes "out of sight, out of mind", and this applies to your art supplies! Make your art supplies shine and call your name by displaying them out in the open. I made a DIY supply holder out of a poster tube and a piece of plywood so I could see every morning what I had to work with. Set out your sketchbooks, paints, brushes, and anything else you love to play with so that they are in sight. If you need ideas for how to organize, I recommend perusing IKEA's office section or browsing Pinterest.
  3. Curate an Inspiration Wall. Early on I found making a wall of inspiration helpful for getting me to get into making. My inspiration wall had clippings from magazines, prints I purchased from other artists I admired, postcards, and anything else that I found interesting. Pin these things up close to your space so that you can see it. My inspiration wall is constantly evolving. I keep it fresh with new inspiration, and take down old clippings so the space stays inspiring and relevant. I sometimes purge the entire inspiration wall and build it anew. I believe it's important to keep your inspiration wall constantly in motion, responding to your evolving interests and art practice.
  4. Keep Collections. Whenever I have an idea for a project, I write it down on a sheet of paper, which I call a collection. Collections can be grouped by, and not limited to: medium, theme, or concept. I have a collection for drawing ideas, product ideas, and blog ideas. They are titled Drawing Collection, Product Collection, and Blog Collection, respectively. This is a great way to capture your ideas so none of them run away! You'll use these collections to refer to when you're not sure what to make. I have found that there are lots of ideas in my collections that I never made, and probably will never make. But that's ok, because that has helped me understand what I actually want to spend my time making!
  5. Pin Up Your Art. That's right, your art! While initially you'll want nobody to dare touch your sketchbooks, eventually you are going to start making things you love. And boy, loving your art is so important! I could write an entire blog post on that topic, but I digress. Be proud of your creations and put your favorites up. As you keep on creating, just like your inspiration wall, put new pieces up and take down the old. Pinning up your own art will help you watch your growth and progression in your work, inspiring you to keep pushing yourself to make better art.
  6. Keep a Separate Digital Station. We all spend enough time on our phones and laptops, so keep your art space analog and have a separate desk or space for your computer work. My computer and tech supplies are on top of my flat file to the right of my art space. In my digital station I have my computer, printer, camera, phone, and all the other gizmos I need to do digital work. In terms of your art practice, you can use your digital station to scan and file away artwork, journal, research, or find inspiration. Keep your art space digitally-distraction-free.
  7. Stay Organized. I am a nerd about organization. Keeping an organized art space has helped me stay creative and productive. I use a flat file to store paper, my artwork and prints, office supplies, and cutting mats and tools. I have a library cabinet to organize all the little things: tape, glues, stationary, thread, dyes, samples, tools. Keep everything labeled, and always return things back to where they belong.
  8. Set the Mood. Do you like to work silently or to music? Does a scented candle make you more creative? Set the mood for your art by being sensitive to your senses and inspiring them in the right direction. I alternate between working silently, and listening to calm and soothing tunes (Tycho is one of my favorite artists to listen to). Sometimes I put on a perfume that makes me feel fresh like a flower. If you work in the evening, lighting a candle might give your space a sacred and calming feel. Opening up other senses beyond sight will imbue your art with more soul.
 It's the details that count. Invite flowers, chachkis, and anything that energizes your space in a positive way.

It's the details that count. Invite flowers, chachkis, and anything that energizes your space in a positive way.

Creating a welcoming space is the first step to inviting art and creativity into your life. I hope this article has inspired you to create a beautiful space of your own to be creative. You'll find your space will evolve over time, and let it! Change is the only constant in life.

Did you find this tip helpful? If you created a space after reading this post, comment below and tell us about it!