Art Space Showcase‘ is where I love to share fellow artists and their work spaces.

Meet 52-week Illustration Challenge member Alison Smallwood and her ‘art space’……


1. Describe your art space…

I have a separate studio above the garage which is connected to the rest of the house by a central courtyard.  In recent years, with the distraction of young children and other work commitments my studio became a dumping ground and took on “spare room” status.  It was messy and junked up and not the most pleasant place to work. That is why I would often seek refuge in my tropical courtyard to sketch up my ideas and occasionally paint.  The courtyard was a hot and bare space and I had a lot of fun designing the water feature, seating area and arrangement of pots to be filled with plants. The bright colours and fresh air always cheer me up and it’s a great place to sketch and paint.

Recently I had a massive clean out, and I’m so grateful to have a clear space to work that I’m determined to keep it really well organised and tidy.  The space is divided into zones – my art book collection for inspiration, a digital area with computers, printer and scanner, a large flat desk for painting and making a mess with a removable drafting board for drawing, flat drawers for storing paper and WIP artwork, a bathroom for cleaning brushes and a disused shower for storing old artwork and portfolios. By keeping the area clear and I spread out my current projects and become fully immersed and then pack it away to work on the next project. There is also room for my children to join me in creating their own artwork. I’ve always been inspired by the natural creativity of young children so it great to have some  in house that I can learn from (I keep a collection of preschool paintings to use  in my collages).  The space looks quite sterile and office-ish, I would like to make it more homely, but its great when working on a big project. I can spread out my reference books, sketches and notes and have everything in reach.



2. When do you like to create? Do you have a favourite day of week or time of day?

Ideally, my best time is early in the morning and I avoid doing very creative work at night when my mind isn’t as sharp.  But as all mothers know, you can’t afford to be precious about when you work, you work when the opportunity presents itself and learn to be very efficient at time management.

In fact, most of my most important conceptual work and problem solving is done when I’m not officially working . I find that physical activity such as having a shower, doing housework or going for a walk puts my mind into a relaxed state where the ideas magically appear and I also plan out my next piece so I know exactly what to do when I get to my studio and can get it done very quickly. A notebook and pen in my  beside drawer and purse is essential for capturing those ideas when they are unexpectedly delivered to me.



3. Describe your art work. What are you working on at the moment?

I am most interested in narrative illustration. I’m currently working on my most challenging project ever. It is an illustrated book, part fiction and part non fiction. The illustrations are highly emotive and tricky to draw, and I get very emotionally drained. I think it’s the most difficult project I’ve ever attempted, but I do like a challenge it will be great if I can pull this off. In between this I like to do cartoonish and fun illustrations to experiment and refine my techniques.



4. What mediums do you like to use?

It varies, in the 1990’s I worked traditionally using mainly watercolour, ink, coloured pencils and pastels (oil and chalk). In the 2000’s I mainly produced Adobe Illustrator vector art, then I abandoned my computer and went back to watercolour and pencil on paper but then I got frustrated with the difficulty in editing hand drawn artwork and starting scanning layers of artwork into Photoshop. More recently I like mixed media collage. I’m continuously moving between my traditional art desk, then outdoors to photos and collect found objects and textures and then back on the computer to put it all together.





5. List five favourite art tools that you couldn’t live without…

  1. Electric pencil sharpener (being a lefty I’ve always struggled with the handheld sharpeners)
  2. A3 scanner (so I can work larger than A4 without needing to stitch it together)
  3. Wacom tablet (couldn’t work digitally without it)
  4. Faber Castell Polychromos pencils for drawing
  5. Adobe Photoshop



Follow Alison online:


Alison, I’m so grateful that you have allowed me to share your amazing art space. Your work is always so delightful with fabulous compositions which inspires me greatly!

Staying creative,
Nicky x

PS. If you are interested in sharing your art space…..please contact me nicky(at)nickyjohnston(dot)com(dot)au

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