Artist in residence
World of art The Californian painter shows us around her bustling studio space, where her art shares first billing with her homelife
California-based Vanessa Lemen opens up her studio.
I usually have several paintings going at once. It’s important that they’re surrounding me because the studio is the world that my paintings and I live in together and carry on an ongoing dialogue.
My husband, Ron, and I are both artists, and living and working go together hand in hand. I would say that our whole house is a studio space, but the second floor of the house is especially set up for the purpose of working and creating.
The room I mostly work in at home – and what I call my studio – is a good-sized, open loft at the top of the stairs; the walls are covered in WIPs. I put small shelves and ledges up on one of the walls, so that I can interchange my work easily, to and from my easel. I can put wet paintings there to dry, and have them out so that they’re there in my surroundings.
In other areas of that studio space, I have clips that hold smaller paintings in nooks and spaces – wherever there’s room to store more wet paintings and have them around and visible to me. I also have a kitchen dish drying rack to place the smallest paintings in, which keeps them nicely separated if they’re wet.
Music is also a big part of the creative process for me, and it’s important to have it in my space while I paint. There’s a nice
comfy couch in my studio that’s usually occupied by our dog, Zoe, who stretches out on it while I work. The couch also becomes a great communal spot for studio hang-out time with Ron and our friends, and is a good place for me to sit back and take a look at the work that’s surrounding me in that space.
I find that a dish drying rack is great for setting small paintings out to dry. It keeps them separated and organised. There are paintings clipped to my bookshelves and practically any place I can stash them to dry. On my easel you’re likely to find a current WIP, maybe a recently finished painting, and other artworks clipped to it where there’s room. At my desk, I’ve got my Mac and Wacom, an extra monitor (with a ton of Sticky Notes all over it), and a Cintiq, plus my speaker and printer off to the side, and a webcam for online instruction, tutorials and meetings. Sitting down to play the keyboard helps to clear my head for a bit. I sometimes use a small folding table or my taboret to lay paintings flat if I need to add either splatters or marks that require the surface to be flat, instead of upright on the easel.
I have various dry paintings stacked next to the couch, as well as in other places around the studio. These ledges are great for placing larger, wet paintings out of the way, but where I can see them. I have small paintings clipped in random places on bookshelves throughout my studio, to let them dry and to have them out around me. To say that we have a lot of books is an huge understatement. This is one wall of our first floor living room, and the books are basically what fill most of the walls in all the rooms of our house. We have a nice chill-space on the patio in our back yard that’s a cool spot to hang out and sketch. I’ve been known to take up the dining room table and work there on a project. The two kittens are Mazzy and Rey, and they’re constantly exploring. The fact that our house is one big studio space makes for a good amount of adventuring for them.