Monday, May 16, 2011

Tips and Tricks and your suggestions #3 - Workstations

By John Jude Palencar

In the previous installments of “Tips and Tricks” we’ve covered Brushes and Palettes.. There were some great suggestions/ input on palettes provided by the readers of this blog. Thanks for your tips. Next in the chain is the “workstation”. I’m not talking about your studio per say but the immediate area surrounding your painting or illustration. In my early days I had a small drawing table that my parents purchased as a gift. My youngest son, Kit, is currently using it. While they were well meaning, the drawing table was not what I was looking for. It was not very well made. Trying to adjust the height and angle was difficult to say the least. It also had the annoying trait of swaying like a drunken sailor on a weekend binge. I did use it for a number of years in art school until I could afford to purchase one that fit my requirements... My side work table was a narrow metal shelf that I found in someone’s garbage. It was sturdy but never quite held everything I needed to have on hand. Purchasing good equipment is essential to your work flow. Just like having good brushes and paint to produce professional results, having an area that enhances your work flow makes it easier to concentrate on the creative side, not to mention completing a piece more quickly. You’ll know you’re a candidate for purchasing a workstation if you are always looking for and / or rummaging through countless shelves, boxes. Worse yet, if you have to get up and endlessly hunt for an item. Trying to afford good equipment can be difficult, especially when beginning your career. Quality is never cheap, but rest assured that it will pay for itself in the long run. Even if you have to delay your purchase hold off until you can get the quality piece you’ve always wanted. The years of service a quality piece provides will out weigh what you paid for it. in the long run. The list can be daunting.... taborets, side carts, drawing tables, easels, paper shelves and general storage will all be required. It took me several years to acquire my studio furniture. Pacing my purchases put less strain on my wallet. Knowing when something is a good deal and jumping on various sales, closeouts and garage sales are helpful strategies to save if your on a budget. If your lucky the occasional estate sale can produce a beautiful piece of antique art furniture for your studio. While I’ve done my share of dumpster diving there’s nothing like unwrapping a brand new piece of studio furniture. Knowing it’s exactly what you’ve dreamed of and was selected after careful research in regard to your requirements. 

Here’s my general setup - Work Area #1: Drawing table in the center, two side work/ supply surfaces with multiple drawers. Palette on the right side (left if I'm feeling lucky). My small flat panel television patched into my dvd player and cable tv, stereo speakers mounted on the wall behind the drawing table. One of the work units contain brushes, paint, and mediums and the other holds mostly dry art supplies... pencils, chalk, various angles, mechanical compasses and french curves etc... This is what works for me. Since I mostly sit while I work the “U” shaped configuration of this setup is fine. When I stand to paint, another configuration is required. The side units are made by Studio Craft and can be custom configured to your needs.

I’d enjoy seeing and sharing some of your setups on Muddycolors. Please send your jpegs to: Note: RGB jpegs @ 72dpi - no more than 500 pixels on the longest side I’ll try to post some of them in the next installment of “Tricks and Tips” Til then - Happy painting!


  1. Hey John,

    Great post, here is a link to some of the things on my blog along these lines, one is the taboret I just put together not too long ago,



  2. Yay, another JJP post! Having your Origins book, there was a photo I think of you where in the study you had a live model during one of your painting sessions. (It was the model referenced in the Someplace to be Flying illustration for the Charles deLint book cover) I was wondering if you have a designated area for when you need to bring in models?

    Estate sales are dangerous where I live. Those things are serious business for some people! But they do yield unique purchases if you can beat the stampede. I found what was basically a wooden baby changing station that folds up. I had my brother help me mount it under an old table to prop up when I needed quick-reaching shelf space. It was the best jury-rigging ever. I'm hoping to do more of that when I have the additional space and tools to do so.

  3. When I come across something frustrating in my workspace or work flow it triggers a "wouldn't it be nice if I had a..." thought. I just keep adding those thoughts to my wish list. I purchase things as I can or when I figure out what could be the best solution to a particular stumbling point.

    So far I've gotten most of my resources up off the floor making room for tools. I still have a lot to check off my wish list. It's kind of fun figuring it all out.

  4. Can you link the previous two parts?

  5. Hi Tracy - Nice solution. I had something similar a few years ago.

    Hi Kelly - Yes I have a dedicated area for reference photo sessions and for live models to pose. ( This will be the subject of another post in the future. ) Currently my youngest son's setup is there. So I have to adopt a motor home method... moving things around and having dual purpose functionality.

    I've missed a number of great art items at estate sales too. I did however get a beautiful set of 19th century paper drawers, antique T-squares and assorted art supplies for a $100.00 at an artist's estate sale. New paper drawers this size would have cost in excess of $700.00. These antique drawers are oak with cedar lining and include a base with four legs instead of the modern pedestal configuration.

    P.S. Thanks for buying my art book! : )

    Hi Christine - Just pace yourself and never stop looking and using your creative side to solve your needs. Surprising things can be found at garage sales. Driving around the neighborhood during garbage collection can yield surprising and adaptable items as well. Try your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store. My oldest son found a nearly brand new transparency scanner for ....$12.00 dollars! It works perfectly and matches my Power Mac G5...Oh yes!

    Anonymous - You can always refer to the older post link on the main blog pages to find previous subjects. They're all just a couple clicks away.

    Brushes -

    Palettes -