Sharing studio spaces


Dear Artist,

Thank you for a year of such wonderful stuff in my inbox. Fran and Ann (not their real names) tried working together in the same studio. The honeymoon lasted a week. Fran thought Ann was cloning her work, and Ann thought Fran was poaching her paint (and her customers). They parted after three months and, believe it or not, the dispute has fallen to the Cookie Monster of litigation.

More recently, Cecile (not her real name) wrote, “For financial reasons I’m going to share my beloved retreat, my secret space, my crucible of creation where I have been working without anyone’s judgment but my own. My new roommate will be using it during the day and I’ll now use it at night. I’m worried that my meager and amateurish production will be there in daily view of a full-time artist living successfully from her work. What are your thoughts?”

Thanks, Cecile. Your system can be a morceau de gateau if there are a few ground rules. You can achieve privacy by establishing times of use and reasonable tidying up. If you’re concerned about influence, embarrassment, or merely the care and tending of fragile growth, work can be stored or faced to the wall. I know this might seem totally goofy, but if clientele are to be entertained, there shouldn’t be any evidence of another artist.

Sharing a space this way can have real benefits. One night-and-day couple, Federico and Daryl (their real names), leave each other gentle notes of encouragement and praise. Without daily face-to-face contact, the bond is kept, and the well-considered missives are a source of study and profit. Former lovers, they meet occasionally for Italian food.

The production of superior art requires a personal sense of uniqueness and an inclination toward rugged individualism. A persistent ogre in shared spaces is the coffee klatch where people come and go, clutter personal directions and generally waste each other’s time. I’m sorry, but creative production soars and careers are built in solitude. The lamentable in-your-face hook-up of Fran and Ann, both reasonably successful painters, has turned them both into Oscar the Grouch and poisoned their art for the near term at least.

Best regards,


PS: “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Esoterica: Some artists work perfectly well in a community. Some would never work at all if it were not for “Free Thursdays at Thelma’s” (her real name). Thelma sets out coffee and cookies in her large home-annex studio in Ottawa. Folks let themselves in as early as seven and don’t leave until as late as four. They bring their own lunch. Sometimes they have a guest demonstrator. A talkative member was once voted out. “We go for hours where all you can hear is the swizzling of brushes,” says Thelma.


Rules for getting along
by Ellie Siskind, Indianapolis, IN, USA


acrylic painting
by Ellie Siskind

In 1983 I agreed to share a studio space with a woman who is a printmaker and I am a painter. Shahe is 16 years or so younger than I and from Oklahoma, I am from Kansas. She loves opera, Opera makes me howl. I love bluegrass and country, she can’t abide them. We shared for seven years and are still very good friends. We each did work that is professional.

Here is how we problem-solved:

Problem: visual cross-fertilization — We had the landlord place a visual barrier between our two sides of the studio, leaving a shared space 1/3 the length, where she had her press and I had storage shelves built (space 30′ x 60′).

Problem: music — neighbor played NO MUSIC when other was present.

Problem: unwanted observations — No comments unless asked for.

Problem: She smoked — I didn’t. No smoking in studio.

Problem: Noxious fumes from acids used in etching — she agreed to install a ventilating system before I agreed to move in.

Confidence in your own work and willingness to take risks are part of being a professional artist. We learned well.


Husband and wife in the basement
by Lindell Stacy-Horton, Oregon, USA

My husband is a teacher of music in a small public school district, and he is totally burned out to the point where he is counting the days until he can retire (I think it’s down to 4 years, now, alas!). Over five years ago he stopped drinking alcohol, as well as smoking cigarettes, cold turkey, and very soon decided he needed something else to focus on. He resurrected his boyhood passion for slot cars, and has built over a hundred so far, and he has a great huge track in “his side” of our wonderful daylight basement. It is one big room, divided by several large pillars, but otherwise open. My side is where I paint, stretch canvas, build papier mache sculptures, and we share the sound system.

Most of the time, it works great, he goes off to school and I go downstairs to do my thing. The problems arise when he runs the little cars on his track. They make a dreadful (to my ears) racket, not too loud but annoying as hell. I am reminded of the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you’re liable to get it.” Once he is home all the time, when will I paint? I have considered moving my studio to another location, but that seems too expensive, and pretty harsh, since the reason we actually BOUGHT this little hundred-year-old Craftsman bungalow was so I could teach my violin lessons and paint here, thus avoiding the studio rent I was paying. I have tried working with other artists, but find it, well, challenging. I’m pretty solitary.

I think the head phone idea is a good one for us. Are there any suggestions we have not though of? We are gradually working out schedules so we allow each other our space, which also is working, sort of. He is a very good sport about it, and I am trying hard to suck it up and just deal with it.

There are 3 comments for Husband and wife in the basement by Lindell Stacy-Horton

From: Anonymous — Jan 05, 2010

Grin. This sounds like “can this marriage be saved”? Hahaha. But all retired folks face this problem. 1. Be glad you have a partner. Rejoice. Too often one or the other has to face retirement alone!!! 2. Conisider taking a guest room on upper level and turning it into a studio for yourself (our solution). My husband loves model trains and they make noise too. Put the fold-out sofa for guests in your old studio! 3. Be glad your husband HAS a hobby he loves. And yes, buy yourself an iPod with comfy earphones just in case the sound carried upstairs!

From: Sheila Cheek — Jan 05, 2010

Is it possible to build a wall between the halves of your basement? That would certainly contain SOME of the noise. With all the DIY projects on TV, you and your husband might enjoy this together!

From: tatjana — Jan 06, 2010

Yes, just rejoice…I often find oddest things in my studio and it took me a while to understand that those are just silent messages that he is here for me.


A harmonious arrangement
by Anne Campbell, Nanoose Bay, BC, Canada

I inherited a large studio space in downtown Kenora, Ontario. It was upstairs over commercial tenants and consisted of a very large room, a small kitchen and a bathroom. When I first took it over there were just 2 of us and we each had a key and came and went as we wished. Occasionally together, but just as often alone in the studio. We both enjoyed both kinds of time and eventually started meeting every Wednesday for supper before going up to the studio.

As rents went up we added a few more until there were about six of us, still under the same informal arrangement, and still meeting for supper every Wednesday. We all enjoyed the gatherings and supported each other as we worked. A few of us used the room alone and liked that too. The only rules were simple: pay the rent on time; turn off lights and heaters when you leave; and the last was that the art books were there for everyone to enjoy, but not taken home.

The place was too hot in summer, and often cold in the winter but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and we became good friends as time went on. The landlord fixed the important things like wiring and bathrooms, we looked after other things ourselves. There was very little friction, just a couple of personality issues that were solved before too long.


Fire takes artist’s studio
by Vivian Ryan

On Christmas we got a call to say that my studio had gone up in flames. The reality of the situation is gradually sinking in. I am a textile artist for the most part and lost my extensive library, all of my recent work, all but one of my machines and a huge list of fabric, beads, wool, leather, paint, face mask, the stuff of textile art. All gone. No insurance. My neighbour, an artist, was quoted in the news saying that I had lost my life’s work. The funny thing is that there had been a similar fire not far away and I had taken some things home that I really would not like to lose. Sadly I took them all back to clear our apartment for Christmas. I am pretty sure there is a lesson here.

There are 7 comments for Fire takes artist’s studio by Vivian Ryan

From: Sharon — Jan 04, 2010

Oh Vivian: I am so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine your pain! I am unable to get insurance for my studio as the cost is prohibitive. At least you now have a new beginning!

From: Roy — Jan 04, 2010

How did the fire start, do you know?

From: Geeta — Jan 04, 2010

Hi Vivian,I am sorry about your lost. It is a terrible thing for an artist but the important thing to remember is that all these works exist inside of you somewhere and you can build on the experience of making these works to go on to more wonderful things.Just let it go and start again,turn the negative loss in the positive energy that comes with doing and you will surprise yourself.

From: Helen — Jan 05, 2010

Many years ago, a close friend had a fire in his over-the-store studio. He too lost everything and was devastated, but out of the ashes rose a new direction for him and his work. It was a real struggle to overcome the hardship but in the end he said the fire had been a gift because of the changes it brought in his life that he wouldn’t have made otherwise.

I hope for you that good things will come from your great loss.

From: Cristina Monier — Jan 05, 2010

I have no words to express my sadness about your immense loss, I hope you will overcome your grief and a better and stronger painter will raise from the ashes, sincerely, Cristina Monier.

From: Jim — Jan 05, 2010

Perhaps you should consider buying insurance for your next studio.

From: babe — Jan 06, 2010

Ah, don’t worry, those are just things. Remember Kipling’s words and build it all over again. In the grand scheme it doesn’t make much difference, I know, I immigrated into another country with a couple of suitcases and almost no money. We carry our value in ourselves.


The ‘open door’ system
by Marjorie Moeser, Toronto, ON, Canada


acrylic painting
by Marjorie Moeser

I shared studio space with another painter for many years without any problems other than we outgrew the space, as we both continued to produce more and more paintings. We bounced ideas off each other. We gave constructive criticism when needed. Presently we both have separate studios in the same building along with other artists… 10 of us in total. And, although we each have our separate spaces (studios with doors that we can lock if we wish), all of us operate with an open door policy that works well. If our door’s open, we welcome visits. If the door’s shut, no interruptions please! As a group, we often meet in one or the other’s studio and have lengthy, stimulating discussions on almost every topic you can think of, and more often than not we get input from one another about a specific piece we may be working on. NO ONE is afraid of ideas or styles or techniques being stolen. Thank God, we do not suffer from that paranoia. Truth be known, I have never feared sharing ideas or my techniques with other artists. In fact, I rather enjoy teaching what I know. And, after all, doesn’t the cream always rise to the top?

There are 2 comments for The ‘open door’ system by Marjorie Moeser

From: Mary Carnahan — Jan 06, 2010

In my experience two artists can take the same technique and the same subject and probably never duplicate each other’s work, even if they’re trying to. Paranoia is useless. And as far as subject matter goes, it’s similar to story writing in that there are very few stories that have never been told.

From: Scharolette Chappell — Jan 08, 2010

Works for us too! By the way I have a painting titled “Fiesta” as well. I’ll send it to your e-mail, great work!


We get to close our doors
by Stefanie Graves, Paducah, KY, USA


watercolour painting
by Stefanie Graves

My husband and I shared studio space from the beginning of our moving in together in 1996 when we both had day jobs. He did both pottery and batiks at the time and I painted watercolors. We mostly did our creative work on weekends, and I remember being intimidated by his presence at first. Then I went to part-time work several years later and had the studio to myself during the day, I found a lot of freedom in that. Fast forward six more years and we moved to Mexico where, by necessity, we once again shared studio space, in much more cramped quarters. I had to steel myself against his presence, to focus on my painting and learn not to worry or think about his being in “my space.” We learned each others’ working habits and developed rules of “play.” No up-beat music to upset the focus on the creating of art. Constructive criticism welcome when handled gently. We became each other’s best sounding board but it took time. We also became each other’s best motivating factor — if one of us was in the studio it spurred the other to work.

We’re now back in the States and living in a house with separate studio space for the first time. I have to say that it’s a wonderful thing. I learned a lot from sharing space with my husband but I enjoy even more the ability of doing my own work without worrying about distractions. We get to close our doors, listen to whatever music pleases, or just have the quiet as solitude. My cats are my companions now. You can have a shared studio, I’ve learned. But it takes adjustment and a fair amount of compromise. Isn’t that life?


Working with others? — not permanently
by Collette Renee Fergus, New Zealand


mixed media
by Collette Renee Fergus

I usually paint alone and enjoy the solitude even to the point of having no music playing as I like the silence at times. I do, however, occasionally join a friend in his studio and we paint together for a day. We share tips and ideas on technique although not often and generally just get on with what we are doing in our own space. Having completely different styles helps I guess, as we don’t then get influenced from each other’s work. Being able to talk to another artist and hear that they do stuff like you do, feel what you feel and can understand where you are coming from is magical.

I don’t think I could work permanently with another artist, though. Your letter clearly points out the pitfalls of such an arrangement and my experience of sharing an exhibiting space with a group of artists in a cooperative where we shared the bills, the workload and the takings was more than enough to make me see that artistic temperaments are not always going to work well together!


Get your own space
by Susan Holland, Bellevue, WA, USA


“The Spirit in the Wood”
wood sculpture
by Susan Holland

I shared my pleasant studio in Issaquah, WA, with a handful of painters and a shared model for regular workshops for years, and it was a very amenable arrangement, with others bringing their gear (sometimes leaving it in a corner of the studio for the next session — not a problem at all), but the studio was MINE most of the time.

This is a great deal different from having the studio being the main workspace for more than one artist. In my experience, making art is as intimate as making love. One doesn’t need a menage a trois if one is interacting with one’s one and only. And the magic of the moment, of the hour, or of the year, is marred by the intrusion of a person from “out there.”

It’s not possible for people who don’t make art from their bones to understand this, I have found. Explaining it to a non-artist will only result in puzzled faces wondering why a hobby can be such a PROBLEM to the hobbyist. Really. Unless you have created awe (i.e., made a name for yourself so that people feel a little star struck) you are just an eccentric who dabbles. So, my conclusion is that you shouldn’t expect others to “get” that you need that exclusive space where things are conceived and nurtured. It would be great if the two artists were Siamese twins and never knew individuality. They would know nothing else but collaboration. Short of that… I say, plan to find your very own space and guard it as the main tool you have to do your calling.

There are 2 comments for Get your own space by Susan Holland

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jan 08, 2010

Thanks for offering this explanation for why most non-artists just don’t get the studio thing. Most friends think it is a junky room and wonder why I don’t clean it up. Artists friends can’t wait to be invited to go up and look at it – see the things I have pinned to the wall, the spatters on the wall, the work in progress. Other than creating art, getting a studio is the one thing that occupies an artist’s mind more than anything else.

From: Mary Lewis — Jan 08, 2010

Yes, yes, yes! I grew up in a large family and am pretty used to having people around me no matter what, but now as an “older” lady, I have my own studio with wonderful artists around me… We mostly use the closed door system, which works very well. It can be my “sanctuary” or not! I LOVE MY PLACE


Building a happy environment
by Kit Hevron Mahoney, Denver, CO, USA


Brushstrokes Studio-Gallery

I began sharing a space with now gallery partners John K. Harrell and Anita Mosher at least 10 years ago. I have never had so much fun, laughter, support and friendship as we have experienced. Our space has become a refuge for each of us as we have experienced what life throws our way… fires, death of close ones, divorce, financial crises (not art-related). Each of us has been supported by one another through the trials that life has thrown our way. Everyone respects each other, their space and things. We share ideas, growth and become powerful when 3 heads are combined to find exponential new ideas and creative endeavors.

Eight years ago the 3 of us signed a 5 year lease (we are on our 2nd 5 year lease now) and opened a working studio-gallery, Brushstrokes Studio-Gallery, LLP, here in Denver in an historic neighborhood in Washington Park. We have had nothing but great success in our business venture and continue to thrive in spite of what the news and economists tell us is happening in the world around us. Instead of petty jealousies we revel in the sale of one another’s work and successes, each of us knowing that there is enough for everyone and that the sale of one has not taken away from the other. We continually brainstorm to find new ways to market ourselves and keep our business successful.

In our 8 years together at Brushstrokes it has been like a marriage, and there have been tense times, but we have all learned that when we talk and communicate about what is bothering us we are able to transcend the difficulties. We all have experienced “bad” partnerships in the past which gave us the wisdom to know what we wanted to be successful in this partnership and business. A good partnership requires honesty, integrity and trust which only happens with open communication and a willingness to listen and allow one another to be heard and express their ideas. Passion, along with determination and dedication to honor one another and the business is also required.

We share not just a space, but friendship, creative growth and continue to stay open to one another’s ideas. Our great energies combined has created a space that we love to be in but our customers and collectors continually give us feedback of how they love to come through our doors!

There is 1 comment for Building a happy environment by Kit Hevron Mahoney

From: Sandy B Donn — Jan 05, 2010

A lovely, inspiring letter. No petty jealousies. . .I’d say you’ve all achieved something that “glows and hums” rising above the ordinary. Your work must follow in the same vein, as it’s the natural law, isn’t it? Kudos!


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A Moment in Time

acrylic painting
by Zidonja Ganert, Chilliwack, BC, Canada


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Sharon Alama of Boston, MA, USA, who wrote, “Years ago I shared several art spaces/offices with a colleague and friend. We loved it. We got along very well. We both did graphic design, advertising and later fine art. Rarely did we have a ‘hissy fit.’ As years went by, he would come in early and I would come in later in the day. When our time overlapped, we still had a great time. I must say that I do get more done now that I work in solitude, but I do miss having a trusted observer nearby to get a ‘fresh eye’ on my work. He’s retired now and we still are close… pretty unusual, I know.”

And also Sarah Hollier of Lennox Head, Australia, who wrote, “We can tell when silence descends that everyone is concentrating on their work and also we all seem to be able to tune out of the chatter when we need to.”

And also Nev Sagiba of Katoomba, Australia, who wrote, “Do not share your space with a relative or a parent. I recall as a 10 year old repeatedly being told to ‘clean up my mess’ by a non-empathic, non-artistic, non-creative parent. Eventually I stopped painting altogether. It’s best to do art alone. It’s a private matter!!!”

And also Nick Vladulescu of Guelph, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and many other positive things from Roumania.”

(RG note) Thanks, Nick. And thanks to everyone who sent seasonal greetings and wishes for the New Year. We’ll do our best. It’s my sincerest wish that everyone has an enriching and positive 2010, and whether you’re in a crowd, in a pair, or alone with yourself, you’re able to nicely get along with the other guy.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Sharing studio spaces



From: Faith Puleston — Jan 01, 2010

First I want to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Successful 2010!

Now I’ll “have a moan” on the topic of sharing working spaces.

For me the simple advice is DON’T!

In my early days as a painter I once entered into such a deal. The lady in question decided she wanted to be a painter, too, and offered me a share of her newly installed studio, a former pigeon loft on the grounds of her house. The light was good and no sign of any pigeons, so I moved in. I stacked my existing paintings along a wall, set up my worktable and an easel, and carted all my painting equipment up the rickety stairs to my third of the workspace.

This is great, I thought, and in fact I think the experiment worked for a month or two, especially as the colleague did very little painting herself and often didn’t turn up at all. Then one day, as I was working at my easel, a visitor came and started looking along my stack of paintings. He seemed surprised to find me there. My “colleague” looked a bit flustered. I think I like this one the best, the visitor said, lifting one of my paintings out of the stack. How much do you want for it? he asked my colleague. She’s good isn’t she? he said to me. Can you paint, too?

I painted that, I replied. No, that’s Mary’s painting (name changed), the man insisted and Mary said nothing.

When the visitor had departed, I challenged her about the situation. Well, she said, if people like to think I painted them, there’s no harm done, is there?

But this is a workroom, not a gallery, and claiming my work is yours is as good as stealing it, I told her.

Others had also been given the impression that my work was hers.

I had removed all traces of my presence in that studio within hours!

Lesson learnt.

From: eleanor steffen — Jan 01, 2010

i have had some positive sharing studio experiences. one was when i finally met a partner in a loft when he was painting days and i was painting nights. his jaw dropped and he said i thought the painter of these canvases was a much younger person. yea. i interprted his comment as a compliment about the energy he saw in my work.

From: Darla — Jan 01, 2010

Sharing studios is probably like having a roommate — it can be great, or it can be hell. It all depends on whether you are compatible and like each other, and whether you both accept the same ground rules. Kind of like marriage, too, I guess.

I’d really like to find someone to paint with, whether it was in a shared studio or elsewhere. In the new year, I’m trying a group of “Tuesday painters” in my area. Might be fun.

From: Bonnie Hamlin — Jan 01, 2010

I share my studio with 3 cats, or rather they share their studio with me (much better than sharing with mice). Less complicated than sharing with people.

Have a wonderful New Year

From: Peggy — Jan 01, 2010

Over the years I’ve had the occasion to observe many couples who’ve gotten divorced as well as many successful second marriages involving divorced persons. I’ve noted that in the majority of cases where a relationship

doesn’t work, one of the persons has a serious personality or character disorder while the other person does not. People with such disorders, including narcissism and passive-agressive personality, are very adept at making other persons feel that they are the cause of any problems. Unfortunately, persons with character disorders can be very charming and many unsuspecting normal persons end up in emotionally devasting relationships with such disordered persons. Joint therapy is generally useless as these disordered persons are very unlikely to change. Therefore the only solution is for the other person to get out as quickly as possible.

Let me give a made-up example to make this more clear. Perhaps you, an artist, don’t like other persons to rearrange your art materials. If a significant other persists in doing so, you kindly ask them to stop. Nonetheless, they persist. You complain. They accuse you of having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Or they make slight rearrangements and then deny having done so. If these examples seem implausible count your lucky stars!

While it is possible that both Fran and Ann have contributed to the problem described, it is statistically much more likely that one of them (and not necessarily the one immediately obvious to outsiders) is the real source of

the difficulty. Best wishes to Deborah.

From: Kit Hevron Mahoney — Jan 01, 2010

I am writing in response to your story on “Sharing Studio Space” to let everyone know that sharing studio space has been AWESOME for me and without it I doubt that my career would be where it is today, and that is lucrative and highly successful.

I began sharing a space with now gallery partners John K. Harrell and Anita Mosher at least 10 years ago.

I have never had so much fun, laughter, support and friendship as we have experienced. Our space has become a refuge for each of us as we have experienced what life throws our way…….fires, death of close ones, divorce, financial crises (not art related). Each of us has been supported by one another through the trials that life has thrown our way.

Everyone respects each other, their space and things. We share ideas, growth and become powerful when 3 heads are combined to find exponential new ideas and creative endeavors.

Eight years ago the 3 of us signed a 5 year lease (we are on our 2nd 5 year lease now) and opened a working studio-gallery, Brushstrokes Studio-Gallery, LLP, here in Denver in an historic neighborhood in Washington Park. We have had nothing but great success in our business venture and continue to thrive in spite of what the news and economists tell us is happening in the world around us.

Instead of petty jealousies we revel in the sale of one another’s work and successes, each of us knowing that there is enough for everyone and that the sale of one has not taken away from the other. We continually brainstorm to find new ways to market ourselves and keep our business successful.

In our 8 years together at Brushstrokes it has been like a marriage, and there have been tense times, but we have all learned that when we talk and communicate about what is bothering us we are able to transcend the difficulties. We all have experienced “bad” partnerships in the past which gave us the wisdom to know what we wanted to be successful in this partnership and business.

A good partnership requires honesty, integrity and trust which only happens with open communication and a willingness to listen and allow one another to be heard and express their ideas. Passion, along with determination and dedication to honor one another and the business is also required.

We share not just a space, but friendship, creative growth and continue stay open to one another’s ideas.

Our great energies combined has created a space that we love to be in but our customers and collectors continually give us feedback of how they love to come through our doors!

Kit Hevron Mahoney

Brushstrokes Studio-Gallery, LLP

Denver, CO

From: Jason Gould — Jan 01, 2010

The book of Letters, which came yesterday on the last mailing day of the year, is a positive wonder. Where did all this wisdom come from? There has not been anything before like it, nor will there be anything like it in the near future. It is a brilliant resource that ought to be on every artist’s shelf. Thank you Robert for this, and may your (and our) New Year be filled with more of your fresh insights.

From: Brigitte Bize — Jan 02, 2010

This subject is pretty tender to me. I have just lost who I thought was a good friend after I made the decision to get a studio on my own rather than sharing with her. It was a decision I made after a lot of thinking. I had come to the realization that at this stage in my art career (big word), I needed a space of my own. It was painful but I am sure I made the right choice.

From: Sarah Phillips — Jan 02, 2010

I have been sharing my studio for over ten years and all has gone well. My friend and I share the space and open the studio as a teaching studio( two days a week). I have students that come at 9:30 and leave around 4. They bring their own lunch or someone brings soup or dessert for everyone. We find that it is stimulating. We have others to critic our work, encourage, and inspire. It has become an extended family for some.

From: Deirdre McNeill — Jan 02, 2010

Although I can imagine the possible dilemmas that could occur while sharing studio space I have enjoyed a year of shared space in a Vancouver Eastside studio with my adult daughter. I have a home studio and was finding it distracting and she had very little space to work in her apartment. Finding an available studio with a years lease during the annual Eastside Culture Crawl we decided to give it a try. She had mornings available and I had afternoons, we had hoped to spend some time together painting but it never quite worked out. We kept a journal going through the year which I treasure greatly. Each time we came in to the studio we would quickly read the others entry and add our own intent, thus we have a years entry of ideas,work,reflections and support. We have given the studio up at this point due to her inability to access the time as she tends to her young son and I have come home more disciplined,focused and appreciative of a studio available without the drive. Both the experience and the book that recorded it are now part of our painting life and I believe have added greatly to it.

From: Joe Hutchinson — Jan 02, 2010

Recall that Picasso and Braque, and many other artists, shared studios. As a result, the creative atmosphere and experiences produced great art. They were not fragile individuals and no doubt had heated but great dialog about their art. My wife, Debbie, and I can spend hours working in the same room without speaking to each other except when we break for a cappuccino. We work in different media which gives us some latitude but we critique each other’s paintings, share ideas, give suggestions (seldom taken), and give support when we falter. It is about being self assured and having confidence in one’s art.

Thanks for your wonderful letters.

From: Davis Manning — Jan 02, 2010

First, thanks for being just like on old friend giving me such fun stuff to think about. My mother was a painter and I inherited all her supplies when she passed away. I have always drawn and doodled and played with pencils and pens but have never tried oil paints or water colors. My plan is to use up all her stuff on little canvases and just see what happens. My mother and I never got along and maybe I’ll learn to love her as I use up the many tubes and absorb your sage advise and wisdom. Your grateful recipient, Davis

From: Veronica Stensby — Jan 02, 2010

Our group of four has just begun, 4 monthly meetings so far, 3 to 4 hours on a Sunday morning. We chat, sharing ideas, source materials (books and supplies) do some drawing and/or painting. We’ve seen a major exhibit together here in Los Angeles. All are showing work in various venues. We allow time for some critique, although we are getting to “know” each other as we go. So far it’s all-female and we are bonding quite nicely. We have many a good laugh and are VERY supportive of each other artistically.

Cassady the cat recently joined the group but only stayed long enough for gestural poses….

From: Margaret Rooker — Jan 02, 2010

Thank you for this one. I happen to be one whose discipline is greatly aided by the commitment of meeting with a group. One wonderful group of artists share a model once a week. There are always between 10 and 20 artists and there is coffee and snacks. The rule is simple. The moment we have a pose there is absolute silence. I do agree that most of the hard work of creating art requires solitude, but I have been so fortunate in having made friends with such generous artists! Generous with encouragement, with information, even with supplies! Their motto: “There is enough art for everyone!” I do agree about the chatter! I can’t focus listening to words…but I’ll pass on a tip to those sharing space: Put on the earphones and listen (or pretend to listen) to music. This works well for plein aire painting too.

As for studio sharing….I think that would be very hard.

From: Marilyn — Jan 02, 2010

Re sentence in the last paragraph “a persistent ogre in shared spaces…” Oh, my God! The Montrose (CO) Visual Art Guild will begin meeting in a community room beginning January 4, a come and go, coffee, bring a brown bag lunch, etc. This, after meeting for 2 + years at the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home! (I boycotted the meetings in the last 8 months). I realize now the reason I did not go to “paint days” was because an insufferable loud mouth (woman) was in the group and she reveled in “critiquing” everyone’s work. Your letter today confirmed my decision to paint alone at home. Thank you.


From: Brad Greek — Jan 02, 2010

For the past year and a half I have shared showing and studio space with a local favorite artist. Through him I have learned about marketing to the public, how to make a living as an artist and someone to share stories with about our favorite artists of past and those that we personally know today. As far as painting goes we share coloring tips and things of that nature but we have very different styles so there isn’t a conflict of interest. He paints there on location in his kiosk while I plein air paint outside or through the windows on bad days. It has really worked out well I believe. I think that we feed off of each others’ energy and show equal respect for each others work. We don’t hide anything and we are painting out in a crowded public most of the time. Sometimes I think artist get way too hung up on details that don’t amount to a hill of beans. For instance things like what type of lighting they use, certain brushes and paints, and for someone to see the work before it’s finished. I say…..create and don’t sweat the small stuff.

From: JoAnn Clayton Townsend — Jan 02, 2010

In Alexandria, Virginia, there is a successful arts center, the Torpedo Factory (yes, converted from a munitions plant). There are 82 studios for arts of all kinds. They serve as effective studios and galleries. Currently, I share a studio with two other artists. We all admire oneanothers work, and we all make an effort to do our share in the work involved in sharing a studio/gallery. I have been in other galleries where pettiness prevailed, but now know what a great arrangement sharing can be. We have plenty of space (with a view of the Potomac River) and we are able to keep the gallery open most of the week for sales. Yes, there are interruptions by clients and lookers, and it probably takes a special personality to enjoy this. I suspect any arrangement depends heavily on the personalities involved, and every sharing arrangement is unique.

From: Debra Naylor — Jan 02, 2010

Good news of the holiday season: a Christmas gift I received this year was a copy of your book. And, I mention this because it came from one of the painters with whom I share a studio.

Your recent letter highlighting studio sharing made me feel fortunate to have the situation we currently have. My two painting buddies, Jenny Brake and Barbara Pace join me each Saturday morning for painting in my studio. They have keys . . . the first person to arrive lets themselves in. We each have our own space to work in. Coffee flows, we paint, we chat, we critique, we help each other and often we just work quietly with, as you say, only the sound of brush on canvas. And, we all paint separately as well.

We have not had any wars, I am relieved to say, but perhaps it is because we are so different in temperament, personality and approach to painting. We each value the views of the other . . . and do not take anything like “oh my God what are you doing” comments with bruised feelings . . . . knowing that perspective from someone so different can help us from becoming too encrusted in our own approach. Solitude is good and I make plenty use of it and, I know some of my best paintings have come from a long stint in my own ‘zone’ . . .but I would be a lesser painter (and person) without the past 7 years of Saturday mornings with these two artists. Best wishes to you for a Happy 2010

From: Andrea Pottyondy Stoffer — Jan 02, 2010
From: B J Adams — Jan 02, 2010

The New Year’s letter mentions some of the problems with shared studios. The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia is a perfect example of how well the sharing works without problems. This art complex is not for the shy or those who must have complete quiet, away from the public, but has three floors of shared studios where everyone works together in the common goal of selling their work. Each studio may have one, two, or several artists sharing the variety of studio spaces. If any artist wishes to be left alone to concentrate, he or she can close their door. Then the public can wander through the halls and see the artists work through the windows and doors that were built for that purpose. Otherwise the artists leave their doors open, while working, and talk to the wandering interested person. This is a community of artists in many mediums that find the sharing, a benefit to their expressive yet commercial lives.

Washington, DC

From: Miep Bos — Jan 02, 2010

For some years my friend Ineke and I share her studio once a week. And we love it and see forward to it every time.

And….Happy New Year from the Netherlands! I am artist and spokeswoman of the European GMO-free Citizens

From: Ken Graning — Jan 02, 2010

I live in the boondocks of Michigan and work in a home studio/gallery which I refer to as my “fortress of solitude” I am a former illustrator who has morphed into a painter/designer/digital artist and have acquired these skills over the course of a 43 year career which was preceded by a formal art education at a rather funky Bohemian art school in California know as Chouinard Art Institute. Chouinard has long since morphed into the California Institute of Arts. About one year ago a painter friend of mine turned me on to the Painter Post web site and I have been reading your twice weekly posts since that time. I also put your recently released book on my Xmas list and my wife dressed up as Santa and placed it under my Xmas tree so I am now slogging through all ten pounds of it and have determined to finish reading it by December of 2010. This is my new years resolution.

I have a question for you but first I’ll give you the setup. Over the years I have observed that most artists, even some of the best are much better painters than verbal communicators and speak through their art. You seem to be an exception to that rule. I often finish reading one of your posts and find myself thinking I have never looked at that particular method, technique or way of explaining some of the fundamental rules of creating art quite that way. Little eureka moments occur which lead me to reexamine my own methods. I also find myself sometimes thinking “Wow..I do that but I just never knew it” or perhaps “Gee..I used to do that but don’t do it anymore and maybe I should reintroduce a forgotten technique back into my working method.” I am also very entranced by your paintings and especially enjoy studying your compositions, design ability, and command of shape and form. I have always been a shape guy myself and I think I know a well designed shape when I see it.

Here’s my question? How did such a highly skilled painter get to be so articulate?

From: Pat Kochan — Jan 02, 2010

Naomi Brotherton and I have worked in the same studio for over 20 years. we respect each other “stuff” and we have created our own styles. We each teach class in our own way and have no problem with decision making together and everyone does their part.

From: Frances Tanner — Jan 02, 2010

This is so funny. I am an artist, my coworker Ann is not but she is one of my main encourager’s in my fairly recent found talent. We work in a clinic and produce x-ray images. We often kid about being the Ann and Fran team. Thanks for the chuckle…didn’t think this reply really relevant to your regular newsletter comments.

Thank you so much for your newsletters. I read them without fail and they have been such an encouragement to me. Didn’t pick up a paint brush until age 50 and am plugging along with the goal of being a full-time artist upon retirement in a few years.


Fran (of the Ann and Fran Team)

From: Barbara Mason — Jan 02, 2010

It is impossible not to be influenced by someone sharing your space. I belong to an artist owned gallery and for the last 17 years have been influenced by those other 14 artists. We give each other critiques when asked and encouragement all the time. Our work does not tend to look alike, influence is different that duplication. Most artists will try something someone else has done but build and change on on it to make it their own.

From: Maureen Shotts — Jan 02, 2010

Great advice, as always! It is impossible for me to be creative in the company of others.. the ego thing is like the elephant in the room. I learn so much from your posts, Robert. Keep them coming. By the way, we almost crossed paths last year when we were traveling Italy, Greece, Turkey, Vienna and Prague!

Happy New Year, good health, prosperity, productivity and peace..

From: Virginia Ann Stith — Jan 02, 2010

A big “Thank you!!!” for the book! I told my sister that this was what I wanted for Christmas, and I when I received it, I was thrilled. I love it and enjoy revisiting it over a cup of tea and finding points to ponder. I am so thankful for the twice-weekly letters. Just wanted to say I look forward to the letters in my e-mail and you are touching more lives than you can ever imagine. Keep up the great work.


From: Sue Rowe — Jan 02, 2010

“Come see my dress,” our daughter just requested, and so my husband and I hiked off to her studio/bedroom to check out her newest creation. A recent Fashion Design college grad, she was brave enough to quit a full-time job in her field to come back from Chicago and share home/work space with mom and dad in order to begin working on her own line. The work and storage spaces have been re-worked and stuff fits – whew! We appreciate each-others’ efforts and offer kind yet serious critiques. I don’t have the imagination of a fashion designer and am always amazed when sketch becomes costume or beautiful dress. We also get to see the “ripped-out-the-seam-again” side of her world. Not unlike having to scrape off the oil paint or re-work a pastel.

She has seen the business side of our antiques and art adventures so has learned early the highs and lows that are part of daily life.

We shall see how sharing works out. So far so good – we know it’s not forever and we were glad to be able to offer her the opportunity and space.

From: Laurie Paci — Jan 02, 2010

It’s uncanny how once again you are scripting my life. I am now in search of a studio to share. In Bonita Springs Florida, the local art association has arranged for local artists (who are juried in) to use the many vacant stores now appearing, as studios in exchange for 30% of the sale of the artwork. Artists work in the studio every day, then once a month there is an “Artist Studio Walk” where people are drawn in by advertising. The artists provide beverages and light snacks.

I have been accepted for the month of February. I paint in silence. I plan to wear my ipod in my ears to discourage other artists from talking with me. Hope it works!

From: Richard Smith — Jan 02, 2010

Now this is a fun topic isn’t it? I’ve been in all kinds of studio situations and it just depends on the people you’re with. I was in one situation where the head of a studio invited a budding sculptor to share, rent free, some great space for sculpting. The budder then got in touch with the owner of the building and presented a list of non-negotiable demands that had to be taken care of immediately. This went over really well. I’ve been in a group where somebody tried to torch another persons painting. Mind you that person was the psycho-bitch from hell. But once she was gone the group was possibly the best group studio I’ve ever been in. But now I’ve got my own studio and that’s best situation for me. The space is all mine and I answer to no one, unless I track studio garbage into the house. Some people thrive on the presence of others and some just like to be left alone.

From: Belinda Bather — Jan 03, 2010

Many years ago I went to a prestigious art school in London but haven’t really been able to concentrate on painting until I retired some 17 years ago, when I moved out of London down to the country in the southwest of England. I need to paint with other people! I am lazy and although I use my small spare room as a studio I can always find excuses not to go there. Fortunately through friends I found a painter round my age who has a large studio over her garage a little way out of the small town where I live. She is one of those dedicated painters who has to spend the morning in her studio creating and she asked me to join her every Tuesday morning to paint side by side. Getting there is a problem as I don’t have a car. I have also exhibited with her in that studio but as one of the less pleasant sides to my character is jealousy when it comes to selling work that had its downside. However, new year – new resolutions! Conquer my faults, encourage my creative urges. Onwards and upwards! (I am 81)

From: Milton Medland — Jan 04, 2010

I have two significant books on my shelves. One is the small handbook The Painter’s Keys which you produced a few years ago. The other is the magnificent and complete Letters. Both combine spirited, no nonsense motivation and informed practical information. Outrageously valuable, both. Thank You!

From: Kassahun Kebede — Jan 04, 2010

You have to proud of your work to inspire artists like me who can’t even get a day workshop. Jimma University, Ethiopia

From: Suzanne Frazier — Jan 04, 2010

In college, I shared a studio space, (that consisted of part of a hallway), with another student artist. I worked during the day and he worked during the night. Our painting styles were so different. We rarely communicated, just worked.

At the BFA show in the spring, each of our collections of paintings were displayed on separate walls at the front of the show. The rest of the students’ works were displayed in the adjoining room. The professor, in charge of the show, lamented that our work just didn’t fit in with the rest of the group. We both took it as a compliment.

Then we confessed to each other at the end of the term, that when we arrived at the studio space, we looked at each other’s work and said “Ugh. that’s horrible” and went about painting an image that was better than the other person’s. Our styles were so very different that there was no way we could have collaborated or stolen any ideas or images. But just sharing the space spurred both of us on to creating work that was our best.

From: kef — Jan 04, 2010

When is Tim Zeiss’s Children’s Book coming out?

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jan 04, 2010

For the last 2 and a half years I’ve had my own studio space. Heaven on earth. For 10 years prior I worked where I live. I was expanding. The house wasn’t. And since it belongs to a friend I was always putting my stuff away to accommodate. And only doing one thing at a time. I made the best of it. But it had to end.

Just before acquiring my space I attempted to be in a co-op for 18 months. Foolish on my part. I should have known better. Never again. I bring things to the table- like healing dysfunctional patterns- that few want to deal with. I also bring to the table a lifetime of skills in visual display- gallery installation- sign-work- and lighting. In a context of multiple egos I was overqualified.

Primarily I work in fiber- but I was recently asked by a fellow artist if I worked in other mediums. I do- but my main other medium is programming music. And it is impossible to share studio or co-op gallery space with anyone- and maintain my work with music- which I may be doing at any time of the day or night- and which I do loud- as I like music I can feel. Because I like to dance.

Some of us simply have to work alone because what we do doesn’t fit in with anybody else’s life style. And I’ll not have mine disrupted any more by anybody. Compromise is irrelevant.

From: Helen — Jan 05, 2010

My studio space is my sanctuary. Occasionally people ask if they can see it (which always seems bizarre – it’s a messy room with too much stuff in it) or if they can work there with me (would they share my bed, too?). I’m easy-going about most things, but I’m adamantly selfish about keeping my studio MY space.

From: Cristina Monier — Jan 05, 2010

I spend 3 hours 2 days a week in a studio shared by half a dozen painters and I find it very satisfying but for the rest of the week I paint alone and that is when the real creativity kicks in, listening to Vivaldi, thinking, going to my computer to try different ways of putting together shapes and colors and working, working, working.

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Jan 05, 2010

I like to create alone. My studio is my sanctuary and filled to the brim with my creative “things” … it’s my personal space and an extension of myself … it’s a place for just me and I adore it.

From: June Raabe — Jan 09, 2010

The subject of studio space is interesting. For years I told myself I would be more productive and do better art IF I had my own space. We built a new house with a large unfinished ground level basement. So I moved my artspace from a closet sized front entrance to a large future rec room. It had two large North facing windows, patio doors, loads of space. I filled it of course with an untidy tangle of “stuff”. When I went to work there my husband would seek me out, saying he was lonekly without my presence upstairs. He never said he liked anything that I painted. He commented often that I should “paint like so and so” (Robert Bateman) thinking I suppose of the amount of money wild life paintings might bring. During our 35 year marriage I learned that mot things “wrong” with the marriage were “my”fault, Art was dismissed, he said he could do that as well, proceeded to demonstrate with a very amateurish attempt at a pen portrait. At the time of our divorce he told his lawyer that I could support myself with painting, despite the fact I had never sold more than one or two paintings in a year. It is only now years later that I realize he did have some kind of personality problem. I am lucky that my urge to create has continued non stop since childhood. Now it is my main emotional support as I otherwise struggle with old age and several chronic diseases. The best way to forget aches and pains is to get absorbed in painting. As to studio space? I designated a small spare room, now filled with computer, a drafting table loaded with junk, picture frames and papers. Where do I paint? In my upstairs living space, on the dining room table! This is a cathedral ceiling room, with kitchen corner and a “powder room”. Two sliding glass doors look out on the harbour, coast mountains and face North east. The dining area window faces the mountain behind. There is light everywhere. I love working here except for the niggling thought I should keep it tidy because my family might expect it. It is a little house, built next door to the large house I was so unhappy in. This house is mine and I often look around and think how good it is to have my space. As for my painting, constant ups and downs. Days when the efforts are awful, days when something goes right. No matter what, I feel compelled to “carry on regardless”. Your letters are a constant education.

June Raabe, Ladysmith

From: Patrick — Jan 11, 2010

I was hoping you would show a clickback example of one of your larches painted from memory with “larchness”.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jan 19, 2010

I once shared once a very tiny office with a really nice, generous and kind man. I didn’t think it could work but we both stepped out when talking with clients, talked only when mutually OK and kept our spaces neat. He is my friend to this day. I have actually been thinking of renovating my studio space and having an open studio day similar to the “free Thursdays at Thelma’s” you describe. Part of my studio has been used for storage and needs to be cleaned out to fit in more people, as well as some other improvements. This idea is interesting to me, painting together with friends one day a week is fun. Maybe I am influenced by my previous positive experience. Do Thelma’s friends help pay for snacks? Do they take out trash and clean up with out being asked or are they just naturally considerate? Is it a closed group that people have to be voted in or out of?

From: Bill — Jan 20, 2010

Nina’s comment made me chukle – great idea but so practicle – the first questions mention “paying, trash and closed”. Try with “free, value and open”.

From: Seven — Jul 07, 2011

I find it really difficult to work alone. I love painting and writing and it’s the only career I’ve ever wanted. But being an extrovert means that if I spend long periods of time cut off from people then I get extremely depressed (to the point of suicide) and my work output falls to zero.

I’ve yet to find a solution. I’ve tried finding other freelancers/self employed people to link up online so I feel like there are other people only a cam/mic away (basically an online conference while we work – no need to show eachother work or take up actual space). We don’t even have to talk. Just knowing I can talk to someone almost face to face if I wanted to would keep the blues away! Hearing someone else’s background music or the scratching of their brush on canvas – little things like that make a huge difference to me! But no one has taken me up on the offer so far and therefore I am stuck working in an office for other people and under their rules – which is just as bad! (sob) It seems all artists/wrtiers/creative types want complete isolation, so I’m in a minority!



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