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  • Writer's pictureAlex Connolly

Diurnalis Proper

In the slipspace of modern posting, the blog feels positively antiquated. But it's refreshing, and timely! Welcome.

Having gone full-time designer/illustrator, it's been a good year so far. I've had some really wonderful opportunities to work on great projects in varying capacities. While some overlapped with my prior career in education, the ability to finally go like the clappers on jobs has been a much-needed change of direction. Naturally, it comes with its own risks — boy, do I miss the Board of Education paying half of my health insurance, pension, etc. — but it wouldn't be an artist's job without some level of financial stress!

I want to share some development images, not of artwork, but of the place that artwork is now made.

Working from home is a blessing in this particular age, a luxury not afforded until I said goodby to teaching. However, working in the home has provided its challenges. So began the decision as to where I should set up my workspace. Initially dreaming big, I pictured a classic shipping container purchase, replete with industrial furnishings and the cool austerity afforded by steel and penury. However, in a moment of inspiration, I decided to rejig and renovate. An old storeroom (Superted origin story?) on the side of my garage was to serve as base of operations, and with a budget of a thousand dollars, the game was afoot.

L-R: Upheaval, Leonie the Chippie, Ready for Action

The initial challenge was to remove and reinstall the long shelving from one side of the storeroom, cutting its depth and moving it to a more practical place within the garage-proper. This arduous task took the best part of two days, but once trimmed and fixed, the storeroom was ready for restorative plastering and painting.

While I've come to really enjoy woodworking and DIY as middle-age creeps in, this was my first test at scale. Once any holes had been filled and sanded, a few coats of pearl paint were applied after extensive masking. After that, it was time for the flooring.

L-R: Wireframe, Hot Stuff, Restoring Order

Cheap, untreated pine formed the basic frame, fitting ever so snuggly between the concrete and secured perhaps overbearingly with cement bond. The batons were also secured with screws, before insulation batts were cut and squeezed into their recesses. After that, it was plywood time and more liberal use of glue and screws.

I'm a big fan of using tongue-and-groove floorboards for a lot of my building projects, and naturally, it was the first option for getting the floor in workable shape. These pine slats are a lot thicker than your usual timber flooring, and offer a soft, workable density. To finish off the open edge of the platform, I capped off the side of the grid with a trimming, where the only slight issue was cutting an upwards angle into one end to accommodate an inclined section of door frame concrete.

L-R: Product, Overcoming Adversity, Shmick

The arrowhead edge of the boards offer just enough purchase for a small gauge screw, which helped immediately secure the interlocking flooring to the ply, alongside a generous slathering of bond. Once in place, I hit the floor with a few coats of clear natural varnish, applied with one of those applicator pads. Will never go back to bristled brushes ever again. A true revelation.

The big issue was a remaining treated pine shelf, visible in some of the photos. Of no value, given the depth of each shelf, and secured so well to the wall that I risked cracking or destroying the drywall it was attached to when trying to break it free. I had to get creative, and decided to use an old whiteboard to cover up this indestructible sin. I built a frame that slotted atop the shelf, and before long, it was hidden permanently in its oubliette. After that, skirting dowel was applied, and it was time to build the creativity station.

L-R: Eulogies R Us, Bar with no Beer, Lacquered

The desk was relatively easy, built in two parts from the same material as the flooring with the one exception of a laminated tabletop used for the standing desk surface. I'd created a smaller version a few years back that slotted atop a conventional desk, but this new design included shelving and cable management spaces. All in all, simple construction and finished with dowelled screws for a clean look beneath a few coat of varnish.

Then, placement of essentials.

L-R: Ascetic Living, The Whiteboard of Obfuscated Sin, Two Samovars of Vitamin D

I still had money in the kitty to continue building, with everything from paint and wood to screws and glues coming in at around six hundred credits. The next point of order was a set of floating shelves and some block-mounted picture frames.

The former was super-easy, merely snagging some more cheap pine and drop-sawing the timber into lengths with tasteful 45 degree cuts and forming boxes. They were fixed to the wall with long-gauge screws and doweled for aesthetic pleasure.

The picture frame project was another cheapy that came up really well. I received some wonderful old movie posters that dictated the narrow vertical nature of these frames, and as such, glued and cut lengths of my favourite floorboard pine to the exact dimensions of the posters. Then, using thin pine slats, I created frames that slotted over the top of these floorboard mounts. Within those frames, I cut and stapled ultra-thin sheets of perspex-like material. Once the mounts were fixed to the wall, it was merely a case of adding a few tactical staples to the upper corners of each poster, and sliding the frame onto the mount. The frames didn't even require screwing to the mounts, and can be easily removed to replace or swap the posters within.

I do have more ideas for the studio, such as having a crack at making a cabinet with sliding doors, an extra-long book shelf and other luxuries, but for now, these will do. It was a great process that took me about two weeks to complete and came in well under budget. With a not insignificant number of plants now dotting window sills and desktops, the studio is really feeling like Creativity Central, and it only took me almost 38 years to achieve.

Once I get those additional projects done, photos will be taken. For now, I'm just happy to share the basics of how the studio came to be. It's super-easy to do, relatively cheap, requires minimal tools (although I'd reommend a drop-saw to get those clean angled cuts) and engages a similar clutch of creative synapses.

Be it a cramped corner or a cavernous hall, I would recommend building your own studio space.

Next time on the blog, illustration perhaps?

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