Painting,  Studios

Studio – Carla Knopp

My entire house is a live-in studio, of about 900 square feet. The front room doubles as a viewing and drying area, the kitchen is also my winter wood shop and storage, one bedroom is filled with storage shelves, a design work table, and computer station, the other bedroom is my painting studio, 10′ x 13′. Sleeping area is a lofted futon in an alcove, with painting storage underneath.

It can be very charming. I share this space with three cats, and my house is surrounded by a garden and the “pocket” forest I planted about twelve years ago. The treetop canopy filled in a couple years ago, and I truly have a small forest area, about 80′ x 80′.  It’s all located on the east side of Indianapolis, where the surrounding neighborhood is sometimes peaceful, and sometimes very raucous. I control incoming neighbor noise by playing very loud music. Other times, I’m serenaded by birds, cicadas, or crickets. It’s a sonic (and psychic) crap-shoot.

I work within a fairly wide artistic range, and am set up to paint on the wall, on an easel, or on a wedge-augmented table top. I may stand or sit, use large gestural strokes, or use a maul stick for control. It all depends on the work. Lighting is an issue. I constantly adjust lights on and off when working and viewing. I pace around to view from various angles and often stand on a chair and view upside down. I do this a lot. This pacing also sets up rhythmic mental state, as does the music I play. It hadn’t really occurred to me before…….that I anchor myself in this agitation. It acts as a repetitive, controlled distraction, and helps me maintain a broad perspective as I work. Ideally, I’d like to mentally be aware of the (changing) big picture while losing myself in the minutiae of the painting moment. I want to stay alert and aware, while muddling blindly.

My best visual ideas come very quickly and unexpectedly. I like to work in short sessions of focus, usually 20-40 minutes, interspersed with episodic piddling. Focus, piddle, focus, piddle, all day long. Again, it’s rhythmic. I also take in short viewing sessions when not painting. My favorite pop-in time is when I exercise. I break for water, and run into the studio panting. The work looks very different when I’m winded, and I may look around and instantly know where to go next, on several paintings. It’s very beneficial to have my studio in my living space, where I can engage and back off so readily.

I use this space in two very different art-making capacities, which adds a layer of structural chaos to the process. I make my personal art paintings here, and I also run a mural and decorative painting business. The environment is continually fluctuating, both physically and contextually. I must frequently break down and set up for two different activities involving different supplies, working methods, projects, and ways of thinking. They also fulfill a different purposes. I’m very amused by the visual juxtapositions which often occur in my studio space, and have documented these ludicrous pairings, on my blog ( under “studio turf wars” label).

The studio itself is inviting, but is arranged solely for practicality. Even though I spend so much time fulfilling others’ decorative needs, I sport a “default” scheme in my own place, and especially in the studio. Several years ago, when I had a separate studio in the Murphy Arts Center, my current studio was a bedroom. I sewed monkey print curtains for a window in this room. Those curtains still hang, functioning, but well past their ornamentally relevant prime.

Other default studio arrangements are more oppressive, or they would be if I noticed. I have boarded shut the exit door, after a failed break-in attempt made the door unusable. This door previously opened onto my garden, but that was distracting anyway, right? I also have roughly boarded over a smashed window, the outcome of a later successful break-in. I have placed 2” x 4”s over the one remaining studio window (along with most of the other windows in the house). It seemed severe and depressing at first, but I barely notice now. I enjoy gazing through the bars at my forest. Most of the time, it’s weirdly idyllic here, and very conducive to working. However, as I am constantly made aware, anything can happen at any time. This is not antithetical to the process of painting, per se, but I sometimes wonder if I’m harboring an unconscious self-narrative. Am I being practical, or am I embracing the suffering artist cliché, or am I being a Pollyanna?

d) All of the above.

I am happy with how I’ve been able to work from here. My home/studio is brilliant in its functionality.  It’s also a thief-targeted shack. Some days I feel so lucky, and other times I feel really stuck. I will be making some sort of change soon, and just today, I finally had a mental glimpse of my next studio incarnation. It’s still in the imaginary stages, but I’ll keep you posted.

Carla’s webpage is here, business is here, and blog is here!


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