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Behold a Pale Orange Cat & super-mini studio setup

I’ve got a few new cat head paintings to post, but first, the latest news:

“Pale Orange Cat,” 5″ x 7″ oil on Pintura Painting Panel

Another painting completed tonight! This time, I finished this little painting at a most unusual working space: my computer desk!

As I mentioned in a previous post, these are desperate times for me (studio-wise) because now I am fulfilling my duties as a part-time caregiver for a family member. Gone are the days when I can gallivant away to my lovely studio and paint until the wee hours. I must stay homebound and be a caregiver. (And that’s okay. It’s family, after all!) I finally developed a workaround (a small studio area) to allow me to work in a very cramped space, but tonight, I decided to go even smaller.

I hope that my situation (and my solution for it) might be useful for other artists out there. Surely I’m not the only one who is dealing with a desperate need to paint, but only with cramped spaces available to work!

My very small
My very small “studio area.”

I did my painting on a computer table. Not even a “real” computer table, just some table that I’ve been using for my 20″ iMac.  I pushed the iMac back to the far back edge of the table, stuck the keyboard out of the way (under the iMac). This allowed me approximately 27-28″ width (side-to-side) on the table and about 12-15″ back (front to back) in which to set up my easel, palette, brushes, and tablet. The iMac was moved to one side so there was an extra sliver of about 8 inches space on the right side where I squeezed in a lamp.

Let’s go down the list of items (listed underneath the picture above) and give more information about each.

#1. You can see a small portion of the iMac, pushed as far back on the table as possible. I could have used the iMac as a means to display a reference picture, but I’ve been working on several paintings with the help of the Lenovo tablet (see #2) which displays colors slightly differently than the iMac. Referring to different colors would totally throw me off while I’m right in the middle of a painting, so the only thing to do is to keep using the same display I’ve been using all along. As it happened, alas, the Lenovo tablet still displayed the colors slightly differently! (I think the influence of the lamp is what did it.) More on that next.

#2. The Lenovo TAB2 10.1″ tablet is what I’m currently using to display reference photos. I’ve got an iPad Air at the “real” studio (for whenever I work there—which is pretty much “never” nowadays!). Many tablets will serve well as displays for painting reference. (If you’re in the market for a tablet, it’s best to go look at them in person, find out which tablets are well-reviewed, and buy one with a largish screen, high resolution, and color that you like!) My iMac could serve very well as a reference photo display, if I knew I would be using it each and every time I work on a particular painting! But I can’t count on that, so I stick with the Lenovo.

As I mentioned above, the colors on the Lenovo displayed a teensy bit different when I was working tonight. I think the light from the lamp caused the colors to shift slightly. I managed to adjust, but that’s an interesting development!

#3. This is the star of the show! My fantastic Pocket Box from Guerrilla Painter! This little box holds 5×7″ panels, but what I do is prop my panel up behind the lid “prongs” (panel holders) and tilt the lid of the Pocket Box back far enough to keep the current painting from flopping forward (right into the palette!). I have painted various sizes with this setup, mostly 6×6″ but also 5×7″ and a 6×8″ (portrait view). They’re all just loosely propped in the back lid and stay there as long as I keep the lid tilted back. If I wanted to work with slightly larger canvases, Guerrilla Painter sells an add-on gadget to help with that, but honestly, the best thing to do if one wants to work larger is to simply get a bigger paint box from Guerrilla Painter! They come in 6×8″, 8×10″, 9×12″ and even larger.

#4. Okay, I guess I misspoke when I said before that the Pocket Box was the star of the show. Shouldn’t that be the painting? In this case, it’s entitled “Pale Orange Cat.” I had so much fun working on this one. The colors were so soft and the values subtle. It was a good challenge for me. I also enjoyed painting on the finely textured Pintura Painting Panel, which is a fine weave of canvas panel sold at Jerry’s Artarama.

#5. Palette. This is a wooden panel which slides into the top of the bottom section of the Pocket Box. Underneath the palette is an area to store paint tubes and supplies. It’s quite small, but enough for perhaps eight to ten 20 mL tubes. When painting at home, I usually carry a zip-lock bag containing about a dozen of my standard 40 mL tubes of paint and use as needed. The 20 mL tubes are saved for when I’m on the road and am traveling light.

As promised, a list of the colors used. This is my standard choice of colors; I almost always use these same pigments (with a few more added when I am using a larger palette with more mixing space).

They are as follows:

  • Titanium White or Titanium/Zinc White.
  • Yellow Ochre.
  • Cadmium Yellow Lemon.
  • Cadmium Red Light.
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson.
  • Terra Rosa (this is optional).
  • Transparent Oxide Red.
  • Ultramarine Blue.
  • Cerulean Blue.
  • Ivory Black or Blue Black.

(If you’re curious about what oil paint brands I like, read this post!)

#6. Guerrilla Painter brand Mighty Mite 4 oz. Brush washer. If table space was not too dear, I could just as easily used one of my other brush washers, or simply any jar which could hold the painting solvent. (I recommend Gamsol or Turpenoid Light.)

#7. (Only the very edge of the lamp base can be seen in the picture above.) The lighting in this room is too dim when I am sitting in front of the iMac. It’s not too bad for computer use, but I simply can’t get decent color for painting by relying on the overhead light alone. So, I brought in a special lamp, the “Daylight Naturalight Hobby Table Lamp.” NOTE: I’ve also tried a lamp from a competing brand. It looks very similar and even uses the same replacement bulb as the Naturalight, and is much cheaper. So far, so good.

#8. Yes, there’s always another painting in the works, waiting to be completed soon! I tend to have several paintings going at once, and while I wait for one to dry, I’m working on another. It’s also easier to find flaws in a piece when you’re able to put it down for a few days and come back to it later.

So, I hope this description of one possible studio set up is helpful!

Yesterday I ordered the Guerrilla Painter 9×12 box. This is the most popular size of all their boxes, and I can hardly wait to get my paws on it! I realized when doing my daily painting that for working “larger” (this is relative—in my case, I mean 12×12″ or so) I needed a more compact studio setup. The one I had tried to use (using the Art Alternatives Table Easel) was actually okay, but I find that I am often interrupted when I am working, and must start and stop painting during the day. (This is unique to my current situation. For many other artists, the Art Alternatives Easel would probably be fine.)

I decided that I needed a more compact, elegant solution, with most everything stored in ONE box, and that box will be the Guerrilla Painter 9×12. If I need to stop painting, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to fold everything up in the box and return to it later. (That’s my hope, anyway.) I will be sure to blog about the 9×12 Guerrilla Painter box when it arrives!

While I’m posting, I might as well include two other recent cat head paintings (also painted with the Pocket Box as easel).

“Sincere Tabby” 6×6″ oil on panel.

A beautiful kitty with such clear green eyes!

“Classic Tabby” 6×6″ oil on panel.

I used looser brush strokes with this painting, which I found very enjoyable!

4 thoughts on “Behold a Pale Orange Cat & super-mini studio setup

  1. Thank you for another very detailed set-up explanation! It is of great help to me, and I bet there are many others who find it of tremendous help as well. I have used the alternative brand you mentioned for a few years and found it to be just as good as the natural light brand (which I bought when it was advertised on artist’s magazine…), but unfortunately I bought the crane neck one with a screw adjustment instead of the gooseneck one that is stretchable, and the neck screw has worn out so it’s always bent now! Oh well… Lessons learned. But I have used the bulb for many years and have only needed to replace it once.

    I like how soft and subtle edges on this cat painting turned out. It’s a nice change of handling compared to some others you did before, which have more defined fur patterned painted with decisive, clear brush strokes. Nicely done!

    Hope your family member get better soon…

    1. Thanks, Arena. I enjoyed painting the subtle values and edges in this one. There’s always something new to learn! I appreciate your kind and generous comments.

      I didn’t know there was a crane neck version of that alternate brand; I’m glad I didn’t get it! Thanks for your tip about that.

      Alas, my family member isn’t afflicted with something that they can recover from…but they are doing as well as can be expected.

  2. I ran across one of your paintings on the front page of DPW July 9, 2017. Just love the textured surface of that oil primed panel. And from there I came across your book on cats portraits which I’m planning to purchase. Then from a description of one of your paintings lead me into your blog.

    In one of your post you had a photo of a Guerilla pochade box which I’m a great fan of. I have three – 6 x 8, 9 x 12 and then the 9 x 12 laptop. It must be karma because as I was reading on why you have a set up like that to care for a family member I, too, am in that exact position, caring for my mother. When my mother had moved in she took the room that was once my studio.

    I had used the Guerilla box for instant set up and that has worked very well. At the moment I carry all of my oil supplies in a tool caddy 12 x 12 inches with outside pockets for large tubes of paints and brushes. I have a table easel and a 6 x 12 inch glass palette and set up on a table devoted to oil painting.

    The information you have provided in this post is a great help and support for me. And I’m looking forward to reading more from your blog

    1. Marlene, I apologize for not approving your comment sooner and not responding to it! I’ve been behind in everything.

      I can totally relate to your experience, as the family member I was caring for was my mom too. (A newer blog post gives some updates about my mom.) I hope you are getting a lot of painting done with your current set up. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your mom.

      The Guerilla boxes are fantastic! I wonder how many of us are using them inside, rather than outside, for these kinds of circumstances. They certainly are a blessing! It sounds like you’re really enjoying your boxes and are getting a lot of use from them! Your setup sounds pretty good. I’m so glad that my blog post was helpful to you. You’ve got some good ideas in your setup as well, which will also serve as good suggestions for others in a similar situation.

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