How Our Workspace Affects Our Work

As artists we are acutely attuned to our surroundings. The world around us – including the space we choose to work in – can be as essential to our process as our concepts or materials. Our workspace can enhance or hinder creativity, influencing our work and affecting our processes.

To share how surroundings can impact art, three artists with diverse materials and approaches, Mary Buckman, Koo Schadler, and Jim Salvati, provided a glimpse into their studios and shared their thoughts on how their workspaces inform their art.

An Oasis Amid a Busy, Urban California Neighborhood

Sculptor Mary Buckman finds solace and inspiration in her city studio, which she describes as “a little oasis in the middle of a busy urban neighborhood in North Park, San Diego.” She shares the space with another artist whose paintings, along with those of Mary’s husband, hang on the walls of the studio. Mary feels fortunate and inspired to be surrounded by the beauty of their collective work.

Mary has worked on commissions and taught sculpture classes in the studio for twelve years. She has a larger, open space that is set up to display pieces, to teach students, and a smaller room behind an ornate screen where she creates her own work.

As for rituals, upon first entering her studio, Mary turns on classical or French café music, pours herself a cup of coffee, and gets to work. Working in the morning hours helps her capitalize on both her energy level and the calmness and quiet of the studio. However, at times, she does enjoy working alongside others, especially in the company of her students.

Mary’s pieces are large, often life-sized, so she has to overcome challenges with space: “Although I do love my studio, sometimes it can be cramped, but I always seem to manage to finish without a problem.” She recently installed a life-size bronze female figure and two bronze dogs at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California. She says she had worked on all of them in the back of her studio and was relieved to see that they actually made it through the door.

A Funky, 1950s Studio Near the Malibu Beach Surf

Stylized realist Jim Salvati works out of his Agoura Hills studio just a few miles from Malibu Beach, California, a location that is essential for his afternoon surfing sessions. Although his preferred medium is oil, as a student of the Picasso/Warhol school of art, Jim is always experimenting with different mediums and processes – and his studio is set up accordingly.

Jim’s workspace has plenty of warm and cool light with lofty ceilings, skylights, and installed lighting. It’s in a renovated building “right out of the 50s with a tall clock tower” and ideal for meeting clients downstairs with its “great restaurants, wine bar, and open, arboretum-type atmosphere with plenty of trees.” Jim is surrounded by creatives – designers, film industry and casting agents, and social media professionals – who occupy the other spaces within the building.