I was raised in the South. My studio is behind my house in Atlanta, GA. It was designed and built as an office about eighteen years ago by a friend, Franz Schneider, when I was a freelance graphic designer. It’s a modern addition attached to the back of the garage of my 1950s ranch.
It wasn’t long after this addition was completed that my husband bought me some canvases, paints, and brushes. I did not ask for this gift or ever mention that I wanted to paint – although, I had taken some classes in college. One day, I pulled out these supplies, and was almost immediately consumed with painting. What to paint was never a question in my mind; I just started painting landscapes.
I love my studio and can’t wait to get there every morning… and usually hate leaving every evening. It’s quiet and peaceful. I look out the five sliding glass doors to a yard full of oak trees. I see birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and an occasional fox or deer. I’m surrounded by my art books, paints, desk, and two favorite old chairs. The orientation to the sun is not ideal but I have learned to easily work around it. It is only 400 square feet but it is mine. I’m an introvert and this space is important to me: solitude is my muse. It can also be lonely sometimes — but for me, working alone is a crucial part of being an artist.
Over the years, I have moved in and out of my studio. Once for a much larger space, another time drawn into a building with eighteen other artists with a good vibe, and good light. (Plus, train tracks were right outside my window. I love a train — the sounds and energy, the cargo, and the graffiti.) The camaraderie in that building was fun for a while… but soon I missed the solitude. I was also frustrated with having a split between some materials at home and some at the studio. So, now I have learned where I most love to paint and why.
My ideal studio would definitely be much larger than what I have now. Simple, minimalist, green design. Great natural light. Big sink. Big work table. Big wall. Whitewashed. A place where paint can be spilled, nothing fussy. Plenty of canvas storage space because I like to get away from my paintings, put them away, bring them back out so I can see them differently. And if I wanted to be over-the-top, I’d throw in a screened-in porch with a daybed and an outdoor shower.
My most beloved studio was at Vytlacil where I have spent various months as a resident artist through The League Residency at Vyt. I had a work/live set-up that was perfect. I thought my bedroom nook looked just like Van Gogh’s. The space was so well designed: I had beautiful light, plenty of wall space, floor space, and outdoor space. I had canvas and paper stapled to every inch of my studio.
At Vytlacil in the mornings, I would wake up, get a cup of coffee, and roll my bed out of its nook, right into the workspace to sit and study what I had done the day before. It was inspiring to be immersed (physically and emotionally) in my paintings where a lot of fresh ideas were hatched.
I became resourceful with the materials in my studio: I could have gone to buy things that I thought I needed but I didn’t want to leave. What seemed like a problem quickly turned into a fun search for a creative solution. What’s more, I had about three of everything: forks, knives, and spoons, cups, plates, and glasses. It was truly liberating to live so simply because I consider myself a minimalist.
Vaclav Vytlacil’s estate – the hilly acreage in the Hudson Valley, his Victorian home, and “painting barn” – was enchanting; you could just feel the history. To be a tiny part of this legacy made me feel lucky and proud. The newer residence hall I stayed in was set up like a modern motel with a row of rooms connected by an expansive, covered front porch. Sometimes we residents sat outside on the deck for coffee or dinner, or made the rounds to other studios on campus to see what was underway. The campus itself was beautiful, sheltered by giant trees and covered with flowers, herbs, sculpture, chickens, bees and wildlife. The shared workshop was fascinating with tools, busts, found objects, and all kinds of equipment that I had never seen. And the staff at Vytlacil understood exactly why we artists-in-residence needed to be there, provided what we needed, and were careful not to interrupt our work. My studio and time as an artist-in-residence at Vytlacil is right up there with the births of my two children… magical, fleeting… I soaked up every second of it and carry it in my heart.
Elizabeth Stockton participated in The League Residency at Vyt, the Art Students League of New York’s international artist-in-residence program (2007–2016) at Vytlacil in Rockland County, NY.