“I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me—and remembered feelings of them, which, of course, become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would like more to paint what it leaves with me.” — Joan Mitchell
I’m a mid to late bloomer in finding my footing as an artist and deciding to be a professional artist. I started my daily art practice in 2015. I was 38, my twins were 18 months old, and I was exhausted and afraid I was going to lose myself inside motherhood if I didn’t acknowledge this creativity in me and keep it alive. It was just 20 minutes a day that I committed to, even looking at art and honing what I was attracted to and why or why not. These conversations I’d have in my head while going about everyday things really kept me excited about art and from going mad; they still do. I knew I wanted a creative career as an artist, but I didn’t have a daily practice up until that point, and so committing those 20 minutes was the first step, and everything grew from there.
At the time, I was block printing fabric and sewing it into clothes, designing my own fabric to use in my home projects and sharing it on social media. I shared consistently, and I had the goal of designing fabric. Later that year, Andover Fabrics got in touch with me and offered me my first fabric collection; those block prints I had been working on during naps and breaks are what became my first fabric collection.
The following year, in 2016, I started painting on canvas and fell in love. It quite literally feels like the early stages of falling in love when you find something that just fits so right, and you think about it all the time. I was obsessed, fully committed myself to painting, and when I told my husband that I was going to be a painter and sell my work, he wasn’t so sure and told me I wasn’t ready. I was so upset during that conversation, but I left thinking, “Ha! I’ll show him.” We are both creatives and have very honest conversations around our work and creative goals. So he’s not a jerk, and he wasn’t completely wrong, to be honest, but I’m so glad I didn’t follow his advice. I had my first solo show the following year and sold a lot of work. That was so validating and really showed me that I can do this, that this is the creative career path for me.
When I imagined how I wanted to spend my days as an artist, it was here, at home. My children are young. I want them to experience my artist life as they grow up. But I wanted space to grow my art practice, hire a studio assistant at some point, and paint big! We had already converted our attached one-car garage into a space that was my studio for about 5 years. I rented a studio outside of the house in downtown Sacramento, Arthouse on R, for about 8 months. That was fantastic for the community vibe and showing my work. But working from home fits my lifestyle more; I’m a total homebody. I also need to take breaks and rest throughout my day to balance my energy.
One day I was standing in the backyard, and I just said, “What if instead of me paying rent on a studio outside the house, we build one here in the backyard? Rent prices are going up fast.” I wanted a space I won’t grow out of, something I’ll enjoy spending the majority of my time in. Let’s build a beautiful space that is an investment in my career and benefits our family in so many ways.
When I get an idea in my head, I can’t put it down. I met with an architect the following week, Gen Muñoz of Studio Oxeye, who is local to me and was recommended by my friend and photographer Amanda Bellamy, who took these photos. I came up with what kind of square footage was my bare minimum; 600 square feet was the smallest I wanted to go. Gen asked that we dream big to start the design and then whittle down to fit the budget. The ground floor is 635 square feet, and the loft/office is 200 square feet, so 835 square feet total. The most important thing besides having the square footage was natural light; skylights were a non-negotiable, and I have 5 skylights total, 3 skylights over the main floor that provide a nice diffused light and 2 venting skylights in the loft. Other must-haves were a bathroom, lots of windows, and a high ceiling (ours ended up being over 15′!).
Building my own studio is a huge privilege, and it’s also hugely stressful. Making all the decisions that will impact how I’m able to work in the space for years to come is a lot of pressure. But by making it open-ended, the space can evolve along with me and my work. Rolling out a large piece of gessoed canvas on the wall and just putting the paint down never gets old. Also, having 10 canvases I’m working on at the same time is how I like to work. If a few paintings are too wet, I can move on, and when I come back, the others are ready for more paint.
Biscuit, my 2-year-old Boston Terrier, is my studio dog. He hangs out with me most days, sleeps on a sheepskin rug while I work, and snores very loud. If I’m sitting at my large drafting table, he insists on sitting next to me on a stool.
My goal as a working artist is to dig deeper in my work, taking longer chunks of time to dive deep into exploration and finding that thing that sparks a whole new series. I do my best work when I get obsessed with an idea and dive deep into the exploration of, say, mark making or the different hues of blue, how I get a wonderful visceral response to certain polka dots, the texture of fabric, the weave and how it makes me feel. I am experimenting more, not worrying about a series of work all the time or sharing it but really having more privacy in my practice.
I’ve experienced such burnout over the last couple years, my studio time needs to be a comfort more than ever. So I’ve brought more play into daily practice. Paper, pencils, charcoal, sketchbooks, collage—no real idea in mind, just experimenting. All these things can really spark some great compositions or ways of working. Not being careful at all, really letting loose on a piece of paper or canvas, that feels so, so good.
As for the bigger picture of my studio and the work I put out, building the licensing part of my work is a goal for the next couple years. I love licensing my work to companies for their products, and I’m dedicating more time to that. I want to continue painting and showing my work. Having a studio that I can hang work in similar to a gallery setting is powerful; I’m grateful for that.
I love creating items that people want to live with, whether it’s a painting hanging on their wall or the fabric they choose to make a quilt with. If my art helps others express themselves and their style, then I’ve done my job well.