A Tour Of Our Art Studios

Longtime readers may remember Cynthia’s and my art studio. It is where she made glass beads and I painted with watercolor. It looked like this:

But the space never felt anything more than just serviceable. It couldn’t accommodate her seed beads nor her fused glass areas (both of which were packed away back when the house was for sale). It had bad Feng Shui as she sat under the 1,500-gallon reserve water tank, and my cabinetry was just cobbled together. To seal its fate, the ceiling was low and looming. A redo was called for.

We decided that we would move all of Cynthia’s operations to the loft in the house, and I would have this old outside studio.

Chapter I ~ Cynthia’s New Art Studio ~ I didn’t have to do a lot of remodel work to make Cynthia’s studio in the loft. Here is an overview of her space all done and occupied:

The left side of the loft has a sink, a storage cabinet, glass rod storage, a seed bead/metal clay workbench, seed bead storage, a bed for cat Winston, and a large shelving unit.

The biggest job involved the south-facing 40-foot-long shipping container metal wall. When the sun is in the north, this south-facing wall can be quite cool in the morning, causing condensation and mold growth on the metal. To prevent the moisture and mold, I had to eliminate the ability of warm moist air to condense on the cool metal. My solution was to glue (Liquid Nails) one-inch foam panels to the container wall, then glue green drywall (moisture resistant drywall) to the foam. I trimmed the wall with wood that I painted on all surfaces before gluing it to the window frames and wall perimeter. The completed project doesn’t have a single nail, bolt, or screw, just glue and caulk! In effect, I raised the temperature/dewpoint of the wall so that condensation can’t happen.

After that, I built a bunch of plywood cabinets and benches. Here are some photos of Cynthia’s completed space:

The right side of the loft has a bench for the torch, a bench for two kilns, and a workbench for cutting glass. From her loft, Cynthia has a commanding view of most of the property.

Glass rod storage rack. Cynthia uses the rods to make glass beads with the torch.

Torch bench. The machine to the left of the bench is a re-purposed oxygen concentrator from a hospital. With this, we don’t have to mess with cost and moving big oxygen tanks. I piped propane gas from the tanks downstairs. While I was at it, I ran a pipe out to the roof deck for the BBQ.

Cynthia’s two kilns. The smaller orange box is a digital controller for the large kiln.

This bench is for cutting sheet glass. The jars contain glass frit — ground glass used in fused glass projects. All her art glass, window glass, glass rods and frits, are separated into the various COEs (coefficient of expansion) that she uses. An LED light bar gives good light the length of the loft, with individual lights over her workbenches.

This cabinet holds her various sheet and window glass as well fused glass molds and supplies.

Sometimes I will ask Alexa, “Alexa, where is Cynthia?” Alexa answers, “I don’t know, but there is a 92.425 percent likelihood that she is in her studio.”

It gave me a great deal of pleasure to make this space for her. She deserves it for putting up with me and my nonstop crazy ideas!

Chapter II ~ Fred’s New Art Studio ~ The old studio space is big enough for me, but the ceiling is low and looming. Also, because I built the studio first, and then at a later date decided to build the water tank, the roof pitched down against the wall of the tank. This is a real dumb design (it really wasn’t even designed), but I thought that with enough flashing, caulk, fiberglass, and ample dumb blind luck, that I could keep roof leaks at bay. But nope, torrential tropical rains overwhelmed the roof/wall junction and it always leaked. Just like Frank Lloyd Wright’s roofs, so I felt in good company.

My plan was to remove the existing roof, raise the walls a few feet, install some glass blocks for light, and pitch the new roof away from the water tank. Armando and I got started. Here we have the old roofing removed, ready to remove the rafters:

Here are a few photos of us raising the walls:

First we poured a concrete filler to level the wall, then laid two rows of concrete blocks.

We did the same on this wall — a concrete filler, two rows of concrete blocks. Above that, two rows of glass blocks with a concrete beam above.

Lots of ladder and scaffold work. I’m glad that I’m only 73!

Here the forms are in place for the beam above the glass blocks.

The beams are all poured around three sides.

Pretty clouds just after sunrise.

Next we put the roof on and moved inside. After a lot of prep work, I painted most of the walls a warm, deep blue. I couldn’t buy the deep, rich blue color that I wanted, so I got something close, then added a lot of black and some red to the mix. I like how it turned out.

The tall wall, the one with the glass blocks, was a mess of concrete patches, ridges, and defects, so I decided to cover the wall with galvanized roofing metal. I’m glad I did this project when I did because metal prices have since skyrocketed.

I didn’t like the old tile floor. It had a stone pattern and was difficult to clean all the cervices. It also looked a bit funky next to all the upgrades. I decided to remove the tiles and pour a concrete cap on the floor. I easily removed the tiles with an electric hammer/chisel. Armando and Ramiro helped me pour the new floor.

There is a new sink behind the angled wall divider. Remind me to talk to Armando — he filled one of the electrical plugs with concrete.

For the baseboards, I used galvanized steel two-by-fours. I ran electrical wiring behind the baseboard and cut holes for electrical plugs. The old space had wiring conduit running along the walls; my new way is a lot cleaner looking and gives fewer nooks and crannies for spiders:

I bought three LED ceiling light fixtures, each with four bulbs. I cannibalized them to make twelve lights on track lighting. For the track, I used a metal two-by-four just like the baseboards — it easily spanned the space without sagging. On the top side of the light bar I installed LED up-lighting to illuminate the white PVC ceiling planks. PVC ceiling planks, about three-eights-of-an-inch thick, are used a lot in Panama because they aren’t affected by termites and mold, are inexpensive, and they never need to be painted. They lock together the same way as click-install engineered flooring:

Here is the PVC ceiling, track light bar, and a good view of the glass blocks:

The corrugated wall panels accentuate the height of the ceiling. The glass blocks illuminate the ceiling, too.

I have two, palm-shaded windows with a peaceful view:

I like this photo of Armando working on the floor:

 

Speaking of Armando, he has worked for us for nearly fourteen-years. Cynthia and I wanted to give him a gift of appreciation. So I spent several days going through all our photos and found enough pictures of him to fill a 71-page book that I made and had printed by Shutterfly. I titled the book, Armando Trabajando (Armando Working), He was very touched by the gift. He couldn’t get over how many projects he has worked on and how young he looked all those years ago! We gave the book to him in a plastic box to keep it safe from termites and such. Here is the cover photo:

When my studio was habitable again (after a year of hard work), I could finally move my art supplies into the space. My goal was to not have the walls covered with shelves and cabinets. I wanted to save the wall space for my paintings when I use the space as an art gallery.

 

I built a work table that I can fold and store out of the way when I don’t need it. The base was an old-and-rusty miter saw stand that I sanded and repainted. The top is a four-by-six-foot piece of plywood, cut and hinged in the middle for space-saving storage.

I also built an easel/supplies storage cabinet. It is on wheels so I can move it into the main space when I am not using the table, or under the water tank when I use the space as a gallery. My joke is that my easel is super-portable, it just won’t fit through the door!

At the upper right, you can see that angled white thing — one of two LED lights to give me extra help when I am painting.

When I roll the cabinet out from the wall, all my supplies are available to me.

I want to use only artist-quality paint, not student or “studio” grade. I wanted to use the best GOLDEN brand paints, but month-after-month-after-month this past year, the paints I wanted were on backorder. While I was waiting for the paints to be back in stock, I had the good fortune to fall across several YouTubers who were using Nova Color paints.

Nova Color acrylic paints use the same high quality pigments, binders, and mediums as the big, famous brands of artists’ paints. But because they sell direct to the artist and don’t have an advertising budget, prices are a fraction of the cost of the paints I had been waiting for. I was able to get sixteen-ounce jars for less than I would have paid for eight-ounce jars of the GOLDEN Heavy Body acrylic paints.

Nova Color paints have been used by Southern California street and mural artists for many years. The paints hold up very well in the California sun. The paints are a soft-body consistency, similar to heavy cream. For ease of dispensing onto my pallet, I bought some ketchup squeeze bottles and transferred the paint to these bottles.

By the way, my Nova Color paints arrived in perfect condition, perfectly packaged, masking tape around the lids, each jar well wrapped in kraft paper, everything placed perfectly in the cardboard box. The big online art supply distributors could learn a thing or two here (I’m looking at you, Blick) —  I hate opening a box of expensive art supplies and finding Cadmium Red paint spilled and covering everything that was thrown together in the box. Shipping departments should have pride, too. End of mini-rant.

Here is a photo of the storage side of my easel/cabinet:

The PVC tube at the top of the cabinet holds an expensive roll of artist-grade linen canvas that I had shipped from the States.

 

Here’s a close up. Cynthia and I made labels for the squeeze bottles:

The bottom right shelf has acrylic mediums and varnish for the picture frames that I will make.

The easel is on the front side of the cabinet. I put t-track strips on the easel so that I can mount a large painting canvas, side tables, and the paint-drying hairdryer. Everything is repositionable. If you look closely, you will see that the easel is mounted on sliding door track so that I can move the easel up or down, making it easier for me to paint without having to stand on a broken milk crate:

 

A back view of the easel shows how the easel rides on the tracks. And you know how I like to complicate things — I installed a linear actuator, so that with the push of a button, I can raise and lower the easel to a comfortable height. Another actuator and button controls the amount of tilt of the easel. I’m quite happy with the rig:

I am still waiting for some supplies to arrive in the mail before I can start painting. In the meantime, I am making sample swatches of the paints, plus I am mixing colors to see what oranges, greens, browns, and blacks I can custom mix from the paints. Here is the fruit of a week’s work:

 

Last but certainly not least, I have a chair and a small table in a corner for when Cynthia comes to visit — if I can get her out of her studio!

 

Now when I walk down the walkway past my shop, I am excited to enter my new studio (the door on the left, across from the greenhouse). I’m looking forward to many art-making hours in my new space.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by! Fred

14 thoughts on “A Tour Of Our Art Studios

  1. Color me absolutely green and I don’t care what shade you use! Cynthia’s studio knocked my slippahs (flip flops to mainlanders) off and made me wish that I had moved my glass studio from New Mexico to Tennessee in July. Oh well. I wish you many happy and productive hours in your studios!

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