a tour of my minimalist art studio in Oaxaca, Mexico

This is the view from my work table, facing the street.

While I’ve been in Oaxaca for five months now in three different temporary apartments, I was lucky enough to find an affordable little commercial space to use as my studio workshop.

My studio is next door to one of my favorite coffee houses, Cafe Nuevo Mundo, on Calle M. Bravo in the historic center of Oaxaca. I’m sharing the space with a used book shop. The book shop is downstairs on street level, and my studio is upstairs in the loft.

 

My sketchbooks and basic supplies that I use in my creative practice.

While I admire minimalist travelers who wander the world with only the contents of a backpack, I’m not a minimalist in that sense.

I’m a girl who likes fashion and has learned the hard (expensive) way that it is not feasible for me to travel with only one pair of shoes.

Remind me to tell you about my experience in Paris, (when I was traveling with only a backpack and one pair of shoes) where I had to spend big euros on the ugliest pair of French Mephistos ever. Because my feet were really messed up from my one pair of shoes.

Being a mixed-media visual artist as well as a writer means that I’ve got art supplies to wrangle if I want to work while traveling.

Right now I’m experimenting with whatever my own middle way looks like in terms of being a global nomad and a working artist.

For now: a tiny studio in Oaxaca that I’m experimenting with as a home base for my work and a place to keep my supplies when I travel further afield.

The first day I arrived at my studio and got to work, I pulled out this quote by Finnish Artist and Architect, Sami Rintala, from my collage stash.

 

“Maybe this is how we are meant to be, with few possessions and a small space around us.”

I stuck the quote up on the blank white wall in front of my work table and felt the idea resonate with me in this new chapter of my life.

In the months leading up to moving to Mexico, I let go of so much stuff.

It’s been on ongoing process for me. An experiment to see how little stuff can take up space in my life.

Over the years, I’ve found that the less I have, the better I feel. The easier it is for me to focus.

I’m not naturally good at organizing, so my simple solution is to just have less to organize.

For me, it wasn’t about having a bigger closet, or more organizing solutions.

A lot of my organizational issues have been solved by subtraction.

For some time I’ve been clipping photos of simple dwellings. Huts, tents, small rooms. Beds draped with mosquito netting.

Almost as soon as I followed the impulse to collect these images, I found myself living and working in such places. East Africa, Southern Mexico.

Places where mosquito nets are not just dramatic decorating accents, as it turns out. There are moments when the phrase “be careful what you wish for” has crossed my mind. Getting out the tea tree oil to dab a fresh bite.

Tea tree oil rocks as both a bite soother and a natural repellent.

 

My loft studio has three skylights and this ladder on the back wall leads up to the roof.

I had this table made for me by an artist friend in Oaxaca. I like to stand when I work, so it is stool height, with shelves below for storage.

Not a great shot (yes, that’s my finger covering the view finder), this wall next to the staircase. The brick wall was already painted this color, a deep terra cotta, or rojo oxido as they call it here in Spanish. I like it.

 

I like to paint on wood panels, not paper or canvas. Here are a couple of bundles of wood panels awaiting my attention. It’s hard to see, but above the wood panels, you can see the blurb of the quote mentioned above.

I kept thinking I would add a bunch of images up here as an inspiration wall, but so far, no.

I am loving the blank space. It helps me think.

I know a lot of people would find this terribly uninspiring, even boring. But not me. Clean lines help me focus.

Maybe it’s from all that time in the zendo, starting at a white wall, or the empty space in front of me.

A lot of times when I look at photos of other artist’s studios, I feel a sense of claustrophobia. Drowning in so much stuff to keep organized and looking pretty. Or else a terrible mess of utter chaos.

I’m experimenting with how to work with less. Not easy, but so compelling.

I finally taped up just one image above the quote on my wall.

And it’s all the visual inspiration I need when I look up from my work table.

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I’m curious. Are you doing any experiments in making room for less? With your definition of minimalism? How do you make your physical environment conducive to doing your work?

 

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