Here, the accomplished artist offers a peek into her studio and creative process.
The word that best characterizes my studio is flexible. Since my work ranges from large projects (like Marden Peony, After the Rain) to intimate drawings (like my Hill/Hole series) and from the walls to the floor to tabletop, I need my space to adapt easily to whatever gross- or fine-motor pieces I’m working on. To accomplish this, in addition to a desk and a tucked-away designated gessoing/sanding area, I have three work tables consisting of hollow core doors (30″ x 80″) which sit on pairs of IKEA trestle legs. Because the tabletops are lightweight I can easily lift and move them by myself and create whatever configuration I need. Often they are in a U or L formation, but sometimes I bunch them together in the center of the studio to create one large work surface. Or I might store one or several (which is easy to do because the legs stack nicely) and occasionally I’ve broken them all down in order to work on the floor.
No matter the scale, the drawing medium is, almost always, India ink. I use a plastic drawer insert to organize my various pencils and brushes, which I buy and use up by the handful. If I’m working on small drawings at a table my work space shrinks to a few square feet. I use paper towels as blotters to get the correct load of the ink/water mix on my brush before making each stroke. When working on a large piece on the wall I create a pad of several paper towels and lightly attach it to my wrist with a rubber band for easy access while standing. I don’t have a huge “inspiration” board or wall but I do have a flexible corner area with a changing display of cards, drawings, notes, invitations, etc., of my work or of others’ whose work I admire.
I hate overhead lights and for many years refused to turn on the fluorescent lights, relying instead on task lights and the natural light from my two large windows. Now that my eyesight is fading a bit, I’ve succumbed and find that I work best with all three types of light on – the task lights always focused in on the small area where I’m actually drawing no matter how large the piece. I’m fortunate to have two good, long walls on which to work, and a concrete floor that can take a beating. Along these walls I have nailed small nails not quite all the way in at 10″ intervals. I use tiny magnets on these nails to easily put up, take down, group, and rearrange drawings in progress or finished series.
I’m lucky to have a studio that can accommodate many different approaches to drawing so that I don’t feel like I have to put limits on the type or scale of work that I make. It makes me laugh when visitors to the studio think that my space is so neat and well organized! When I’m mid-project I’m not very good at picking up as I go and I allow the space to get pretty junked up. The final step to finishing a project is cleaning up and putting away—clearing the field and making space for whatever’s next.
Meg Alexander joins Lynne Harlow in the two-person exhibition How Little is Enough? at Drive-By Projects in Watertown (thru 5/26). Her work Marden Peony: After the Rain (pictured above) will be included in the show The Power of the Flower at Concord Art (6/14-8/12), and her work Fallen Tree (pictured in-progress, above), will be included in Trees II at Gallery Kayafas in June/July.
Images: all images courtesy of the artist.