Studio Space Outside the Box

July 16th, 2014


It’s About Space

In a 2010 survey that I conducted over 1500 artists said, SPACE,  or rather the lack of it, was the second most common problem artists face. Space to work, space to store supplies, and, especially (in my case), space to think.  Some of you are blessed with lovely, large studios, a place for everything, and everything in its place, but after talking to you lucky ones, I know that you, too, desire more space.

A studio is like a closet, the more you have the more you fill. And I’ve heard more often than once that no matter how much studio space you may have, your actual working area can be as small as 2′x2′ due to the piles and piles of materials and works-in-progress camped out on your work table. So, whether you work on the corner of the kitchen table or have a 2400 sq.ft. loft with a view, this article’s for you.

First off, I want to make one thing very clear. The amount of space you have to create in has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of the art you can produce. Granted, it does place a limit on the size of your work, like humongous canvasses or Michelangelo-sized sculpture, but, let me repeat, it does not effect the quality or quantity of your art.

I know this, because for the first 12+ years of my career, I have created art for countless magazine articles, class samples, shows and 5 books working in my bedroom, working on a makeshift table – a board placed on my bed. I learned early on that waiting until I had a dedicated space to create was really just an excuse. The drive to create was so strong, it overpowered any considerations I had over a lack of space. So I made do with what I had and never looked back.

Even getting a new king-size but lower bed that made working on the bed a big pain in the back didn’t stop me. I took a good hard look at how I was using the space in my bedroom and decided that I had a lot of wasted space on the top of my dresser. It was only accumulating knick-knacks and dust. A 30”x80” hollowcore closet door became my new worktable when placed upon the dresser top. The serendipity of the doorknob hole was the perfect place for electric cords to gather on their way to the outlet below.

Finding Space

You see, it’s not about the space or lack of it, it’s about how you use the space you have. Finding and using space is as creative an act as the mixed media collage you just completed. It involves thinking outside the box, looking at the world with new eyes and that quintessential question, “What if?”

We tend to view our homes from a traditional frame of mind. The living room should be kept clean and neat in case guests stop by. The dining room must be ever-ready for dinner even though you eat in the kitchen. A family room is for family and the bedroom is for sleeping. Well I say, whose house (apartment, room) is this anyway? It’s as much your space to use as it is anyone else’s who may live under the same roof. If art is important to you, then make, take, space for it.



Think Outside the Box

Here are a few creative solutions to get you started thinking outside the box:

  • Years ago I scored an old metal Vogue pattern cabinet at an estate sale for $10. It’s now the home for all my class samples, supplies and more.
  • Do you have space in the closet between the shoes and hanging clothes? Hang a shoebag on the door and replace the space with clear plastic storage drawers on wheels.
  • On second thought, use shoebags for fabric, paint, mediums, or found object storage on the back of every door.
  • Speaking of found objects – why store them? Create an artful, ever-changing arrangement out in the open. Still life at its best.
  • I know an artist who creates on her kitchen counter and stores her paints and supplies in her dishwasher! Makes sense if you do more art than dishes.
  • I used a large piece of wood for a solid worktable on my bed. At night I just picked it up and slid it under the bed. A piece of foam core is a lighter alternative.
  • Who’s living in your living room? Guests would be so entertained to see an actual working artists studio space set up in the corner, or better yet, the whole room.

Now here’s your assignment: Grab pen and paper and take a walk though your home. Find at least three new creative solutions to creating more working or storage space for your art. Happy hunting!

Share Your Ideas

Hey! Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you found. Sharing your discoveries may help thousands of other artists just like you.

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    Creative Image Transfer is in the House

    July 11th, 2014


    My book is HERE. It’s time to bring out the TAP Transfer Artist Paper again and heat up your iron. Along with some fabulous contributors, I’ve got new tips, trick, surfaces and ideas for you to play with.

    You can buy directly from me in my web shop in the TAP or Books section. Yes, Amazon has it but last I looked only 6 copies were left.

    Join the creator of Lesley Riley’s TAP Transfer Artist Paper and a cadre of talented designers, including several frequent contributors to Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, to explore exciting new ideas to create with TAP. With a sheet of TAP and a hot iron, you can transfer a permanent image onto almost any solid surface. Try 16 fun, new projects ranging from jewelry to home accessories and mixed-media arts. Learn to transfer images onto new surfaces such as faux bone, as well as fabric, paper, wood, metal, and glass; use with encaustic. Use the many techniques as a jumping-off point for creating your own TAP magic.

    Contributors include Pam Carriker, Seth Apter, Joanne Sharp, Lynn Krawczyk and many talented newcomers!

    Whatcha waiting for?

    PS Stayed tuned for some exciting giveaways after I return from my mini-beach vacation. Better yet, subscribe to the blog so you’re sure to to miss any.

    Easy to do – look in the upper right corner.

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      Is Yours a Peak Experience?

      July 9th, 2014

      TopWorldI now know what we are searching for when we make art – peak-experience.

      In a recent Painter’s Key newsletter, Sara Genn shared this informative quote by Abraham Maslow that really got me thinking
       about the allure, the draw, and the pull of artmaking:

      The person in peak-experiences feels himself, more than other times, to be the responsible, active, creating center of his activities and of his perceptions. He feels more like a prime-mover, more self-determined (rather than caused, determined, helpless, dependent, passive, weak, bossed). He feels himself to be his own boss, fully responsible, fully volitional, with more ‘free-will’ than at other times, master of his fate, an agent.

      I fell in love with Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and theory of self-actualization in my 20s. The first time I saw it in my psychology text book, I made up my mind right then and there that I wanted to attain self-actualization. You might call it the first personal goal I set for myself.

      I now have much more understanding of Maslow’s theory and life in general. I am still seeking self-actualization but now know it is a life-long process with a moving target. I love how you can read something at one age, and then read it again a decade, a year or even a month later and it takes on a whole new meaning for you.

      We are constantly discovering and creating ourselves and peak-moments are the rewards along the way. I may age, but I will never tire of searching for and creating peak experiences, whether through art, family, or my experiences of the natural world.

      How often are you creating peak-experiences? Are you an “active, creating center of your activities and expressions”? Do you recognize them when they occur. This is the aim of living and an artful life brings us all the closer. Agree?

      Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Email me or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I know you’ve got some good ones.

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        Paint Mojo – A (Story) Book Review

        July 9th, 2014

        PaintMojoI waited a few days to open my new book, Tracy Verdugo’s Paint Mojobecause I wanted time to savor it.  As I sat down in my big comfy, new chair, purchased just for afternoon reading breaks, I thought to myself, “I’m snuggling in here like I’m about to read a storybook, not a craft book.” I had to remind myself that this was a how-to book – pictures, techniques, great art.

        I was beyond thrilled to discover that it really is a storybook. Tracy has done what so few artists are permitted (by their publishers)  to do, and that is to teach and share her inspiration and process in story form as much as step-by-step technique. Did I say I was thrilled?

        TracyVerdugoI “met” Tracy back in June 2012 when I interviewed her for Art & Soul Radio. Listen here: Tracy Verdugo: Art & Soul Radio

        Back then the book was just a seed of an idea. To me it was inevitable.

        Fast forward two years, almost to the day and the book is now in our hands. Tracy’s across the ocean in her home of Australia, mine here near the Atlantic ocean, and many others in between, over and Down Under.

        I want to say that Tracy takes the mystery out of expressive painting for us practical realists, but in actuality she teaches us by her words and examples, how to access our own paint mojo. And it’s really quite easy.

        A large part of it is just being open to the artwork and tracy opens to door to that for us. 16 contributors (most names you will recognize) add their own insight into the creative process making this a rich storybook indeed.

        VerdugoPaintingAnd did I say it was full of juicy-colored art by Tracy and her contributors? Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

        Lisa Sonora Beam’s recipe for artful travel
        Tracy’s palette print method
        painting a memory
        unfolding dreams with Louise Gale

        It’s an experience I tell ya, a refreshing approach to a how-to book and serves double-duty for artists who love to read – even if you don’t think you want to be a painter. Get it.

        Tracy Verdugo is an Australian painter who employs mixed media techniques to create bright, contemporary and abstract painting that are truly magical. They just draw you in. Tracy’s art is a true representation of her personality and character. Coming to art and painting later in life, at the age of 33, Tracy quickly learned how to truly create art that reflects her soul. I’m not the only one drawn to it – people are clamoring for her classes in both Australia and the US.

        ComposeButtonComposeButtonComposeButtonRedThreadButtonOH and one more thingRegistration is NOW OPEN for my first international Red Thread Retreat in AMSTERDAM! Check it out! I be posting more about it later this week.

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          Winner Announcement and Another Giveaway

          July 2nd, 2014

          Alternative Art SurfacesThe Winner is the randomly generated comment #11 which was submitted by: Donna Joy. Donna, you are the winner of the fabulous book,  Alternative Art Surfaces.

          Many thanks to those that entered the drawing and left such insightful comments about finding awe and aha. I was in awe at the responses I received and am so happy to hear that you know how to pay attention and seek the awe in the everyday. You know where it is and how to find it.

          One thing I am wondering about with you is how do we help others find what they are yearning for? The majority of the world is looking in all the wrong places for the experience of awe and aha. What can you and I do to let them know that what they yearn for is right before their eyes, within reach – that you just have to be looking. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have.

          How can we make that difference in another’s life? Click on comments below and let me know.

          June - MeOn a lighter note, it’s time for the monthly Printed Fabric Bee giveaway. Susan Purney Mark was the Queen Bee last month and her theme was INDUSTRIAL.  If these fabrics make you drool, pop on over to her blog and leave a comment to be entered into this month’s drawing. Hurry! It ends July 10th.

          Here’s a bit about my fabric this month. Years ago I created a 1 yard+ of rusted canvas cloth using a two-step process of iron paint and rust patina. I’ve been hoarding it for years. When I heard about Susan’s industrial theme I instantly thought of the fabric and wanted to send it to her. It’s a bit heavier than the usual cottons we swap in the Printed Bee and might even break the rules, but in my opinion it’s to die for beautiful.

          Here are two journal quilts I created several years ago using this fabric. The Journal Quilt Project was an exhibit at the Houston International Quilt Show spanning five years. I am proud and honored to say the set of journal quilts these two quilts were a part of was acquired by Quilts, Inc. for their permanent collection.

          Journal Quilt




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            In Search of. . . + a Giveaway!

            June 25th, 2014


            You and I and everyone else on this planet are in search of something we can’t define. We aren’t sure what we are looking for but if lucky, we know it when we find it. You have such a hard time finding it because it’s not a thing you are looking for. It’s a feeling. Whether you realize it or not,  you are in an unending search for the experience of awe and Aha.

            You want to be wonderstruck.

            As little children, we spend our first five or so years in awe and Aha. Everything is new and exciting to us. At some point, usually when we  enter school, we tend to shut down our wonder. We want to fit in, act “cool” and pretend we know everything. We create a shell of sorts to protect our fragile desire to experience awe. Our Aha moments become suppressed.

            Years pass and sadly, many of us stop looking for or noticing the awe and Aha moments. We pass them by like cars on a freeway, hurrying someplace, maybe even in search of that something, that special feeling, that is buried deeply in our heart and memory.

            Being a creative, an artist of any sort, places you in a position to be close to the awe and Aha, but even still, you might fail to notice or forget to look for it. The opportunity to be wonderstruck is everywhere, all the time. You may find it in the evening’s sunset, the way the clouds drift across the sea. You can find wonder in the beat of your heart, the way a pastel crumbles color onto your page. The smooth flow of ink from you favorite new pen (Uniball Signo 207), the way your companion’s eyes twinkle when you make them laugh.

            Aha! As I write this, one of my favorite quotes comes to mind:

            You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen.
            Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary.
            The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked
            it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
            Franz Kafka

            What you are in search of is all around you. You just have to be looking. . .and reminded to look.  It’s savoring and noticing the little things. Sometimes I just sit and stare at my hand. I am in awe of both what it does and what I do with it.

            Pretty awesome isn’t it?

            Alternative Art Surfaces


            BONUS BOOK GIVEAWAY! I am in love with the techniques in Alternative Art Surfaces by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Durran Wilson. 

            Leave a comment letting me now if this blog post resonates with you.

            When are you wonderstruck? I’ll choose a randomly generated number from on Wednesday, July 2 at noon. Good luck!

            P.S. Listen to a most fun interview I did with Darlene on Art & Soul Radio HERE.


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              Last Chance for Inspiration!

              June 13th, 2014



              When this time of year rolls around, I always open registration for 52 PickUp again to extend the opportunity for 1/2 year of inspiration and motivation at 1/2 the price.

              Today is the last day to sign up. Make the rest of the year as fulfilling and productive as possible by staying inspired and motivated to do the thing you love – your ART!

              Go HERE to find out more, see sample PickUps and SIGN UP NOW!

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                Personal Retreat Part 2 (the story of the chair)

                June 11th, 2014


                Chair? What chair? Read on and I’ll tell you…

                Two weeks ago I began to tell you about my personal retreat experience. I intended to continue my story a day or two later, but true to form, God/the Universe/Karma filled these last two weeks with the fruition and results of past and recent efforts and a few (good) surprises - meaning that I was super, super busy.  I’ll be sharing it all with you but that’s for another post, or two or three. Suffice it to say it’s all good and will take this little dream occupassion of mine to a new level. Stick around for the ride, as always, I’m making room for you, too!

                Let’s get back to the retreat

                After art and reading, it was time for a walk. The retreat center is surrounded by woods, so I set off to explore.  The seasonal natives were thoroughly excited to see me and proceeded to surround and accompany me on my walk. I’m talking gnats, folks. They were horrendous. There went my idyllic plan of an inspiring commune with nature. I didn’t change my plan, I changed my attitude.

                Waving them off (constantly) I continued on, journal in hand, seeking ideas and inspiration. Some downed trees exposed an interesting pattern of root structure and texture. A sketch was out of the question. I needed my hand, my only chance at keeping bugs out of my eyes, nose and ears. I persevered, looking, up, around and finally down. Covered in dried mud sat a little hump of a turtle. I haven’t seen one in years so I was as excited as a 4 year old. “Can’t sketch, so I’ve just got to take a picture!” But in my no-technology efforts, I had left my iPhone back at the house.

                I ran back, arms still flailing at gnats, to get the phone after noting my exact spot in the woods. I never did find him again. (I think it was a him because he looked like a grumpy old man.) I’m pretty sure he had his own agenda to attend to. I went back and started a journal page to recount the effort and list all of the things with me on retreat: turtle, bumble bees, stink bugs, GNATS, a spider. And then, pausing, I turned my attention to the good things and I wrote birds, and then pulled together these words from my earlier found poetry snippets:


                Yes, it does make a difference what you think, doesn’t it? I can easily get so caught up in the gnats of everyday life, my to-do lists and un-done lists, that my energy and attention become scattered and drained. This wanting everything to be perfect, quickly attended to without interruption and complications is too high of an expectation. The gnat and turtle opened my eyes to quite a few things I needed to change in order to truly be present, content and grounded.

                Lessons from the Long Walk

                Yes, the long walk. The previous day’s gnatty experience didn’t deter me from embarking on my planned adventure deep into the woods. The urge to discover was greater than the inconvenience of gnats. This time I had both my camera and a smaller notebook. I literally walked over the meadow and through the woods, in search of…whatever. As you may have guessed by now, the discoveries I made were more mental than physical. And yes, there were gnats.

                I remembered that bugs will often fly to the highest point, so to keep them away from my head, I continued my walk,  arm and a notebook raised high above my head. It worked and enabled me to continue on.

                I was hoping to come upon a breathtaking vista overlooking the river below but that was not to be. I saw a deer and some wonderful vines hanging from tall, tall trees. I soon realized that no matter which fork in the trail I took, or how well I marked it, that again, what I was really searching for was not new sights, but a new awareness. Once you open your eyes to it, the Universe delivers.

                The annoying gnats were a part of the process. I had learned how to handle them in order to move forward with my goal. While preparing to set out I realized I had no portable container for water so I had to adjust my thinking and timetable to account for that. Not being able to fulfill my vision of sitting in the woods to journal, I opted to break my no-technology rule again and employ both my video camera and voice recorder to document my thoughts, (listen to my thoughts here!)  

                I gave up adhering to rules that no longer served my best interest. This retreat was really paying off with new insight and awareness. The benefits were clear now and yet nothing like I expected.

                Reading (and the Chair)

                After 27 retreat hours, I set aside all my self-imposed rules and requirements and began to be totally in the moment. I became grounded in the experience, fully present and open. After a tasty lunch it was time for my always and forever favorite activity – reading, or (as I just now realized), knowledge gathering.

                photo 1-10I have an incessant need to know stuff. I’ve spent most of my 61 years trying to figure out life and the urge to create. It’s my passion, my occupassion, and every little Aha moment brings me great joy. My pleasure is doubled by sharing it with you.

                Up until the retreat, I viewed reading as a guilty pleasure, designating it to a pre-lights out activity. The older I get, the harder that has become. My mind and eyes are just too tired for more and a few pages.

                Gone are the days when I would stay up all night reading. I gave up novels many years ago because once I start, I cannot put one down and they were seriously cutting into my creative time.

                RetreatTeadingNotesI had taken just 2 books with me to read yet this one was there at the retreat center and I was called to pick it up. I snuggled into the comfy couch in the sun room and spent the rest of the day with the book. Not word for word, but choosing just the parts pertinent to my present needs. Do you notice that when you read, fiction or non, that ideas start flowing? For the first time I opened my notebook and started writing my thoughts and ideas on the left side of the spread and copied notes, quotes and info on the other. It was then that I had my realization – reading is part of my job! It is a pleasure, but it also serves a purpose, a practical one. I now had my own permission to read during the day.

                RetreatChairAs I curled up deeper into the corner of the couch enjoying the sunlight and breeze streaming through the window I realized I’ve always wanted a comfy reading spot. Probably 90% of our upholstered furniture is my parents Williamsburg style hand-me-downs, slipcovered and reupholstered as necessary over the 40+ years of marriage and six children.

                Before the retreat was over I made the decision to invest in just the kind of chair I’d always wanted. I would put it in the double-windowed corner of my sun-drench bedroom and schedule a reading “break” every afternoon. This chair and I will be together the rest of my life. It will serve as a reminder of my retreat, acknowledgement of the value I place on reading, and as days pass and the pages turn, it will be the spot where inspiration and I get cozy.

                None of these were momentous moments yet all were life changing. I just had to slow down long enough to become aware of the answers, insight and solution that are there waiting for us to find them. I hope this helps you look at the little things a bit differently. Let me know, OK? And please, do me a favor, share this with a friend. You never know what may change a life.




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                  Fabric Giveaway Time!

                  June 3rd, 2014



                  It’s time for the monthly Printed Fabric Bee giveaway. Lisa Chin was the May Queen Bee and her fabric design theme was typography. I hand-dyed my fabric, used deColourant and my own handwriting for the background text and then played with some enlarged lettering in a favorite script font for the top layer of TAP (Transfer Artist Paper) transferred text. I LOVE it and am glad I have some leftover for myself. But hey! I can always make more.

                  You too can add your name to the pot to try and win a piece of not just my fabric, but 6×6″ swatches of all 9 of the Printed Fabric Bee members typography fabric. And there are some beauties.

                  Just hop over to Lisa Chin’s blog and leave a comment there – not here, to enter your name for her June 13th drawing.

                  Lesley Riley Surface design

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                    Considering a Personal Retreat? Read This First

                    May 28th, 2014

                    Found poetry

                    A personal retreat is where the expected meets the unexpected. Before I left I wrote down my intentions and daily schedule for the 3-day retreat. It’s always good to have a framework from which to leap, a place to return to when lost or confused. Just as I suspected, allowing for the possibility of leaps, wandering and detours is key to having a productive and meaningful retreat experience.

                    DAY 1

                    I was excited to get going on my big adventure but the Universe wanted to play a few games with me first. The first roadblock appeared before I even got off the farmLiterally, it was a roadblock. I opened the front door, looked up the driveway and realized I wasn’t about to go anywhere anytime soon. A horse trailer was parked 1/2 way up the driveway waiting for a horse to load and make a return trip back to the track after some R&R. It could be quick or it could take a while. Horses do not like to enter small dark spaces. It is fun to watch the stops and starts, so I did just that, sitting on my front stoop to enjoy the show. Fortunately it only took a few attempts and then I was off.

                    Or so I thought. A warning light came on on the dashboard – check tire pressure. I was about to drive 25 miles  down the highway to be alone in a somewhat remote area. I wanted to be safe, not stranded. So next stop was the gas station and air pump. The sign said it was out of order (as I thought might be the case given how the Universe lot a good joke).  There was air coming out, just not consistently, so I was willing to give it a try.

                    And try I did, but my weak arthritic hands could not get the nozzle off the tire valve stem. One tire, two tires, none of them would budge and there was no one to ask for help. I called my husband to see if he thought I was safe driving since the tires looked ok and after he assured me, I took a leap of faith and continued on.

                    photo-324I knew the Universe was testing me and knowing this, I didn’t let it upset me. I mean really – doesn’t something  always g wrong when you leave on a trip?

                    I arrived at 10:30, just 1/2 hour later than I intended. The weather was glorious and I was alone, all alone. I settled in, tuned in a Liberia album via my iPhone and sat down to journal:

                    “It’s going to take me a while to relax and calm down to feeling serene. The music is helping. I am also anxious to watercolor the book pages I brought so I can start the found poetry. So that is up next. I cannot force the process…nor do I want to.”

                    I was pretty antsy most of the day. I realized that keeping to my intended schedule


                    was totally over-ambitious and that it would best serve me to go with the flow. I’m not sure why I felt the need to regiment myself, but I do think it is wise to have some sense of structure so that you do accomplish everything that you dream of doing as you’re cooking up your ideal retreat experience.

                    I painted my book pages and set them aside to dry. Next up?  Scavenging text for something I could do all day, every day – found poetry. Here’s an explanation of found poetry from

                    Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

                    A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.


                    I love the serendipity of it. I start by thumbing though one of my favorite source books and just cut any line, phrase or word that speaks to me. When I have 20 or so, the fun begins. It never ceases to amaze me how a beautiful poem full of meaning can be created from random phrases. I believe it’s the randomness and being open to letting the process take over that allows for the magic. It is just another example of what I believe to be true, that if you truly trust the process, the process won’t let you down. That goes for anything, not just found poetry.

                    This is getting bit long so check back in a few days when I share my walking adventures from Day 1 and 2, along with another message/joke from the Universe. Things didn’t go exactly go as planned but again, it was better that way. All part of the process and insight I was there to discover.


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