Studio Setup

Tim at easel 6254 e

Being an artist is hard. It just plain ain’t easy.  Thus., the last thing any artist- especially a student, needs is obstacles that make it any more difficult. A straight, smooth path to the easel is important. Hence the need for a studio and easel on call.

You don’t need to wait for the perfect studio to get started with painting. Amazing paintings have been done in rudimentary settings (visit any museum for proof of this).  You can get started today.  Mr. Chambers offers students advice on setting up a home studio that is affordable and manageable.

Essential studio requirements:

  • Space: You need a space that is devoted 100% (if at all possible) to your art. It needn’t be huge, but available. If you have to clear out space to work, then you’re almost defeated before you’ve begun. It can be a room or a corner, but it must be yours.
  • Easel: A reliable, sturdy easel that you can adjust to accommodate your height and also varying sizes of canvases/panels. You can easily make one (see below) or purchase. Mr. Chambers suggests a single-mast easel for rigidity and space-saving design.
  • Taboret: This holds your palette and supplies, and is about table-top height (approx. 32″). Can be something you pick up at an antique or second-hand store (e.g. an old chest, small dresser/nightstand, bookshelf, etc.). Drawers to hold your drawing/painting materials is a plus.
  • Still-life Table: Should be about 48″ tall. Add a couple “walls” to the side(s) and back to control the lighting and hang cloths for interesting backdrops for your still-life setups.
  • Rug: Cushions your feet and legs as you work standing. I don’t recommend sitting down to work, as it diminishes your ability to see clearly and “largely”.


Space: here’s an example of a student’s studio. It’s a loft space (in this case 8’x14′) with a large window. Mr. Chambers designed the setup to provide an appealing light on the still-life table as well as even lighting upon the easel. Notice that the easel is designed for a right-handed artist to avoid a cast shadow from the painting hand.

Sample Studio Floorplan Setup e

Single-mast easel 1 e

Easel: I recommend a simple single-mast easel, such as this homemade one shown to the right (more pictures here). You can also purchase a nice one inexpensively like this one at ($130). Both of these stand about 7-7.5′ in height to accommodate a tall person and large painting.  Single-mast easels have a small footprint compared to tripod type easels. If you already have a French easel or pochade easel, they can work fine also, but do take up a bit more floor space, and thus are less flexible in terms of your setup arrangement.

Taboret: Almost any little table can do the trick here. Height is important. Too low or too high and using your palette or rinsing brushes becomes more than an afterthought. The one below is a temporary taboret Mr. Chambers made while visiting a friend’s home. It was assembled from old items in his friend’s attic, and served its purpose. 🙂

Still-life Table: This is a tall table used to display your still-life objects while facilitating the need for a backdrop and for control of the lighting for your setup. (more pictures here)

temporary taboret e   1- Easel and Stand e










(See more pictures here)

A creative environment is a lot closer than you think. 🙂

If you’d like professional advice on setting up a studio in your home, Mr. Chambers is available for consultation. He’ll draw up a floorplan showing you how to set up your studio to take best advantage of your space and lighting situation. Click here for more info.

Contact the studio to send photos of your setup! Mr. Chambers would love to see what you’ve done to create your painting studio.

Re: Oil Portraits

Tim’s portraits convey the essence of his subjects. Not only is Tim an excellent draftsman, he takes the time to get to know his subjects, as we all know there is much more to a person than what’s on the surface. When viewing one of Tim’s portraits, the more you look at the portrait, the more you feel you know the person.

Dating back hundreds of years, oil is the traditional standard for portraiture. No other medium captures the richness and depth of a well-executed oil painting. Tim uses archival-quality materials
and time-tested methods in his work. Your portrait will last for many generations to enjoy.

“The portrait is gorgeous! I am blown away by it. It is really, really wonderful, and that is such an understatement.” -C. Saunders, Charleston, SC

“I just wanted to tell you how much I love the portrait. I just cried. It is definitely the best money we ever spent. To be able to capture that innocence forever makes letting Cayla and Joshua grow up a little less painful. I spent all weekend carrying a copy around in my purse and I could not stop peeking at it. I was just so moved by the energy and essence of the painting. It is like time stopped for one spring morning in May when our children were four years old. Tim, thank you.” Eileen S., S.C.

Re: Pastel Portraits

Tim Chambers believes a good painting is the culmination of keen observation, a joyful heart, and vibrant, confident execution. This is evident in Tim’s portraits. His pastel portraits combine
the richness of his oils, but have a delicateness and softness inherent of the pastel medium.

Tim approaches his pastel portraits just as he does oil portraits, both in approach and the integrity of the materials used. His pastels are framed similar to oils (no matting, only a traditional frame), the only difference being pastel is protected by an invisible, reflection-free glass (Tru-Vue AR Glass).

Some have asked if pastel is inferior to oil, or if it will last as long as oil. If you consider that oil paint is essentially pastel mixed with a liquid binder (such as linseed oil), you’ll see that pastel is actually a more pure medium than oil! In fact, when handled protected properly, pastels often retain their vibrancy much more than their oil counterparts, as seen in pastels by the French Impressionists. Tim uses only archival-quality, lightfast pastels and substrates for his paintings.

“Tim… thank you so much for Emilie’s and Colin’s portraits. I think they are amazing! You really captured their essence.” –Jenny

“Tim, The portrait looks great! I am thrilled. Someone came this morning to see Lucy’s portrait. She was extremely impressed. She said it was her favorite pastel she’d ever seen! Thanks so much!” -T.G., Raleigh, NC

Re: Charcoal Portraits

Charcoal is the oldest of drawing mediums, with charcoal portraits proudly hanging in museums throughout the world. “Charcoal is as close as you can get to painting without painting,” says Tim. It’s an amazing medium, lending itself to a very intuitive process. It has a wonderful range of values, and unlike pencil, is at home in the hands of a painter.

“I love how charcoal boils down the portrait its essence, similar to black-and-white photography. Nothing gets in the way of capturing my subject. There is a regality to its raw truth. Charcoal demands the artist's command of drawing."

Like his oils and pastels, Tim’s charcoals are archival-quality, and will last indefinitely with proper care.

“Tim, the portrait is INCREDIBLE. Thank you so much!!!! You really captured our parents.” -Bijan, Virginia

“The portraits of our children are STUNNING!!! I mean totally, completely stunning. WOW! We are so excited about these treasures. Thank you, thank you!” -Catherine G.

Re: Landscapes

"Landscape painting is dessert," says Tim. "It’s pure joy. No restraints, no one to please. Simply respond to the beauty of nature with heart and excitement; hold nothing back."

We all know that it’s more complicated than that. Tim tell's his students that “a good painting is a lot of good decisions.” His paintings’ beauty is a result of God-given talent refined by a lifetime of training and experience.

Tim aims for simplicity in his landscapes, to identify the essential elements. “You’re painting a moving moment. Can you see everything? No, but you do see something. What is it? What one thing sings to your soul here and now? Get that in your heart, in your head, and out through your hands onto the canvas.”

“Tim captured a Virginia evening on canvas for me, and I love the painting! The colors seem to glow.” -L. Paist, Purcellville, VA

Re: Still Lifes

Still-life paintings are like little portraits. I can arrange the elements any way I choose to convey a story. Sometimes the story comes first, and sometimes the players (the objects) make the story. I really enjoy the writing with paint.

The Fruit of the Spirit series is a great story. I read in the bible that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance. I’ve seen artists assign a different literal fruit (apple, banana, grapes, etc.) for each Spiritual fruit. But I wanted to see if I could take one fruit and put it in different settings to convey the meaning from Scripture. It has been a rewarding experience ruminating as I paint.

Winter months are ripe for still-life paintings, a respite from the chilling wind. Winter is also a time of reflection, and stiil-life painting is a wonderful medium to articulate those thoughts.

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“Departure from the literal aspect, rather than mechanical exactness, is the code of the true artist. However, departures are the result of studied intent rather than inability.”

by Edgar Payne

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