Studio Stories

Julia Fish
How do you maintain the continual output expected of a successful mid-career artist?

Brian Kapernekas
How does space dictate practice? Practice space? The Elusive Studio...

Judy Ledgerwood
How do you create time and focus for your studio practice?

Douglas Alain Park
What is the value of working in alternative spaces?

Vanessa Shinmoto
The Home Gallery Space, A Cautionary Tale

Lee Tracy
What are effective business strategies for an artist?

Dan Zamudio and Julie Sulzen
Alternative Spaces: Turning your home into a gallery

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Judy Ledgerwood: 
How do you create time and focus for your studio practice?

There are many challenges to being an artist and making time for studio practice is one of the most difficult. As I've matured, my life has become increasingly complex with responsibilities as a parent, teacher, homeowner, perpetual home restorer and most recently, Chair of the Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. Balancing multiple commitments is a little like spinning plates on sticks, equal parts skill and dumb luck. I have developed a few strategies that help sustain my studio practice and insure that I have 5-6 hour blocks of time to focus on my work. To preserve this time, I make careful choices about what I have to do. It means that things that I would like to do, or should do, often remain on the "to do" list for months at a time. I still have not cleaned and organized the garage, the basement is piled high with boxes intended for donation and the year long window allowed for sending wedding gifts is rapidly closing. I say no to most requests like this as it falls more into the "would like to do" rather than "have to do". I'm no Martha Stewart, and I thank my lucky stars that my husband is not only an inspired cook, but also a dependable supportive partner willing to equitably share domestic responsibilities.

Practically I work toward efficiency. I schedule studio days around teaching days, and give myself permission to make art while Rome burns as often as possible. Having financial stability allows me to buy materials in bulk. I try to maintain a full inventory of paints, brushes and paper as well as stretched and primed canvases. My studio is behind my house, so I save time commuting. Much of the preparation to paint, I relegate to a studio assistant. I find I do not miss stretching and priming canvases. A few years ago in an effort to produce a body of work with a shared tone for an exhibition at the Renaissance society, I started playing the same CD over and over in the studio. This helped maintain a consistent vocabulary of colors, textures and forms and I found that I could jump in where I left off on the previous studio day forgoing the usual slow re-entry into painting mind. Even with complete readiness sometimes I linger to sweep the floor and imagine where to begin, remembering where I left off. Then I just plunge in, determined to find the answers through the process.

Judy Ledgerwood is a 1984 graduate of The School of the Art Institute and, since 2003, Chair of the Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. She lives and works in Chicago and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Ledgerwood is represented by Tracy Williams Ltd. in New York City.

This story appears on the Studio Chicago site courtesy of Chicago Artists Resource. See more Artists Stories on CAR