March 8, 2011

My Old House: The Barn Studio

Although I now work on my paintings in the house, the actual studio where I worked for many years is in the old horse barn. The cow barn, which had been on the other side of the horse barn, to its east, had been torn down before I bought the house. The studio is in 2/3 of the building, the final third, behind the big double doors on the left, is storage. Over several years I had the building improved, repairing the foundation and adding windows and insulated walls.

The green front door was an old one among many left in the barn and it's behind the original sliding door.

This is the view to my left as I enter the building, with flat files and shelves for storage. The black metal form you see on the left is a saddle rack, left from the days when I used to ride horses. The high windows on this wall face north.

On the wall above the flat file are a poster from the museum at Avignon; a printed bandana made by one of my graduate students in California whose parents were farm workers (and who was phobic about strawberries from having to pick them as a child, with all their pesticides and fungicides); and a print by Helen Miranda Wilson.

I have a gathering of stuff––desk, cupboard, table saw, paint cans and trash can––around the center post.

Turning further to the right, we see the back wall of the studio on the south side of the building, textiles hung on it, the large work table in front.

And this is the west facing wall, with windows looking out at the landscape and below them a bookshelf for my art books and storage racks for small paintings. The posters above the windows are my photographs; I used to have a small greeting card/framed print/licensing business and the posters were made by a European company.

This view of a cross beam and the ceiling gives a better look at the old timbers. The farther half of the ceiling was originally open, so my contractor hacked some 6 x 6's to give a look of being hand hewn to match the original joists.

I photographed this post so that you could see how its narrower end is placed on the bottom, to better take the weight. I was told that this is a clear indication the barn was built before 1850 because after that time, timbers were made straight instead of allowing them to keep the shape of the tree.

The old enamel top kitchen table is perfect for a studio palette table, with a drawer for paints. Behind it my old storage cupboard, a beautiful color, but not quite good enough condition for a place in the house. Atop the cupboard is a large collection of long handled paint brushes which I no longer use but like to have around. Which actually is like my current relationship with the studio: I love having it but don't use it as a painting space. It is now my place of reflection, where I can sit in a small rocking chair and look at and think about my work.

*This is the final post of the tour through my house. To see the previous rooms shown go to:
The Bedroom
The Work/TV Room
The Staircase
The (Tiny) Front Hall
The Living Room
The Guest Bedroom
The Back Room/Office
The Mudroom
The Kitchen
The Pantry


  1. Cannot imagine having such a studio, and not using it. It is wonderful.

  2. Well, Debbie, I do use it for looking at my work and for making panels on the table saw and for storage. It seems nutty to spend thousands of dollars to heat a huge space when I'm working on 6 inch paintings.

  3. Another glimpse at yet another wonderful space. I appreciate these beautiful moments even more these days when the rest of our life in Madison is in such chaos. You keep us calm and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel — or out the studio window. Do you use it for making art in warm weather? I can understand the practicalities but it is a space that makes me swoon with anticipation. Your comment about the posters/cards explains how I have a card with one of your photos on it.

  4. What a beautiful space, with great lighting and storage! Thanks so much for the tour Altoon.

  5. Ms. Wis., last winter, after the shock of my first studio heating bill, I made what I thought was a temporary move for the winter into my house workspace. But then I began painting tiny pictures and found the more intimate surroundings of the house more in keeping with my current work, so I stayed instead of moving back into the studio.
    Mona, I'm glad you enjoyed the tour.

  6. It looks like the perfect work space and done in your inimitable style. I love those little pieces with the simple marks. Hard to see what they are made of.Perhaps you will return to that space one day.

  7. deesha, thanks for the comment. And those little pieces are my hooked wool sketches, shown in several earlier blog posts.

  8. A real treat to see your studio and how you have organized it! My studio in Illinois is an old tack room which is also spacious but not as well lit as yours. Since I am only there in the summer I have not adapted it as much as you have. I admire the way that you even painted the space between the log rafters which must greatly enhance the perception of light and color within the interior of the studio. Thanks for shairing!
    Mary Salstrom

  9. hi Mary, nice to hear from you. I'm glad you liked the look into the studio. I have to admit that I didn't paint those ceiling boards; my contractor did years ago before putting them up, which was smart.