What does the ideal studio look like? How much time does an artist spend in his studio? Is it a sacred place? In the series 'The Artist’s studio' this week: Carmen Schabracq, whose work will be shown at gallery Fleur & Wouter in the duo exhibition 'The Day of the Donkey' with Dodi Espinoza, which runs from August 13 to September 11.
Do you visit your studio every day?
Yes, I usually go to my studio five or six days a week. I have a studio in Amsterdam where I usually work, but since I also have a studio in a barn on the Veluwe, I'm there often. I alternate my intensive studio periods with more social or collaboration projects, which means that I am also working in other locations. Last winter, for example, I worked on an opera 'I have missed you forever', for which I designed the masks and costumes. During that period, I was working a lot in the Stopera (Amsterdam City Hall and Opera House), in the costume studio of the Dutch National Opera.
Atelier artist in residency Van Gogh Huis, Zundert, 2020, foto door Jan Stads
What time do you leave for your studio, and how: on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car?
I go to my studio in Amsterdam by bike, or sometimes on foot. And I go to my studio in the Veluwe by car. What time really depends; sometimes as early as 9 a.m., but usually around 10 a.m., or sometimes only in the afternoon.
Carmen in her studio by Febe Meijnen, 2021
Do you hold on to certain rituals in your studio? Music or silence?
To paint I often turn on music, although I also love being alone in silence. Music or the radio keeps me from thinking about myself while working. I often start with a bit of tidying up and messing around and I tend to start slowly and like to work through the evening.
How important is light to you?
Very important. Good light is essential, especially for painting. I have very nice light in my Amsterdam studio, thanks to a large skylight, which gives very constant and clear light. In the Veluwe I usually work outside, because in the shed it is a bit dark, but as soon as it gets dark, fluorescent lighting actually works well.
Studio Amsterdam, 2022
What does your work process look like? Do you work everywhere and all the time or does work only commence the moment you enter your studio?
The active work starts in my studio, but my work is really created by doing. I keep thinking about it a lot, even outside my studio. The most important part is making hours in my studio. Just start, watch a lot and keep going. I also do an artist in residency abroad almost every year for a certain period, or at a location in the Netherlands. I think it's important to sometimes change your environment, gain inspiration in new places and be able to fully concentrate and immerse yourself in a work process. During those residencies I do a lot of research, by reading, going to see a lot and talking to people from the area. The mask is a recurring object and theme in my work, I like to research the local mask culture.
Opera ‘I have missed you forever’, masker & costume design, 2022, ITA, photo by Bart Grietens
How much time do you spend on average per day in your studio?
A lot, I've been making twelve-hour days lately, but on average I think it's eight hours a day.
Is your studio a sacred place?
I think sacred is quite a big word, but it is a place of mine, where I can go about undisturbed in my own world. I need it a lot and it also relaxes me. Plus, it's a place where I spend a lot of time, I love the fact that I decide how it looks, can make my own mess without it bothering others, and that I have my own rhythm and can be myself. I am especially happy that I now also have the location at the Veluwe national park, because I really like being outdoors in nature and that way, I can combine work and being outside. At times I feel lonely in my studio in Amsterdam, but I never feel that in my studio in the Veluwe, where I am surrounded by trees, birds and the neighbour’s donkeys and pigs.
Studio Veluwe, 2022
Do you receive visitors there, collectors, curators and fellow artists?
Yes, especially in Amsterdam, but not that often. In fact, I would like to invite people more actively. And at the Veluwe, I want to organize an al fresco studio dinner with my boyfriend at the end of the summer.
What is the most beautiful studio you have ever seen?
Ooh, that’s a difficult question; I have seen several very beautiful studios. For example, sculptor Lorenzo Brinato’s studio is housed in an old farmhouse in the Chianti region; it has an outdoor workshop and in a very nice barn, with beautiful light. In Mexico, I was very impressed by the studios of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In their studio house, each had their own studio and home which were connected by a bridge. Also, in Zundert I did an artist in residency in the Vincent Van Gogh house in 2020, where they have built a very nice studio, with skylights, underfloor heating and lots of space, which I found a very pleasant studio to work in.
Work in progress, 2022
What does the ideal studio look like?
Spacious, high and very bright, with skylights, white walls, a floor that can get dirty, plants, a large workstation, good storage facilities and patio doors to an outside area where you can also work. Also, a kitchen and a bedroom, so you can stay overnight.
Working in the studio in Amsterdam, 2022