Maximizing Creative Work in Minimal Space

I am a location independent artist living full time on the road in a lovely restored 1966 Airstream Overlander travel trailer. It has been home and studio combined for well over a decade and has allowed me the advantage of being able to go directly to where work and networking opportunities are available. One of the many questions I get about my work in illustration is how I manage with such a small and minimalist studio space. While it is true that space is at a premium in my 26-foot-long silver home, it is also true that this aspect of RV living has fostered some creative solutions for the effective use of that space.

My main working space is a drop-leaf table covered in formica and I generally use a second drawing surface or an easel depending on what medium I’m using. The easel doubles as a drawer to hold brushes, brush holder, palette knife and tubes of watercolor and gouache. It stores away beneath the table in its upright position when not in use. The second drawing surface has alternatively been wood or masonite, both of which are also able to be stored beneath the upright table. When the table is lowered to be flush with the wall, both items store in front of it.

A shallow shelving unit has been built to enable me to have books, pads and even my laptop and iPad on the table simultaneously without cluttering or monopolizing the surface or blocking working space. It takes up less than a third of the back end of the table leaving the forward section completely clear. Pens, pencils and other tools with long thin handles are stored upright in a block of foam drilled with holes for just such a purpose, and that block is placed in a cubby built into the top of the shelving unit. They are within easy reach and since I can read the labels on them, as well as see the tips, I never have to sort through multiple tools to find the right leads, nibs or point size for whatever piece is in process.

With regard to working surfaces, anything up to 24 inches tall can be stored in a rear closet, with smaller dimension surfaces being stored flat in an overhead berth further back in the trailer. A stand for the iPad makes it easier to have reference nearby without taking up table space, and it folds down flat to store in the berth as well. My flatbed scanner is also stored back there.

There really isn’t much more that I need, to be perfectly honest. The feeling of having everything right at hand is a powerful one. I’ve also come to realize that producing a strong and accurate piece of art is much less about the materials used and more about how the artist wields those tools. I suppose that seems obvious, but it took necessary downsizing to make it perfectly clear to me. I love my little studio, and I know it will serve me very well for many years to come.

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