Since September 2013, I have been living in a 420 square-foot apartment [with a loft] with my girlfriend. As you can imagine, this has been quite challenging for me to create paintings, store all my materials in roughly a 7x7 foot corner of the living space, and still not encroach upon my girlfriend's space or the rest of the living area. And if that isn't bad enough, the only windows available to me are the glass front doors which are South-facing, a.k.a. the worst possible scenario when living in the Northern hemisphere. I thought I'd have to paint miniature paintings my whole life while living here but I've been painting as large as 24" x 36" recently.
So how did I overcome all these situations?
Well, it took some time, trial-and-error, and honestly, my studio area is always evolving and changing to utilize the space as efficiently as possible, but I pretty much have it nailed down now.
Here's some items and ideas that helped to improve my situation:
Organization Is Key
I had to have a minimalist mindset. I got rid of things I hadn't used in a while and probably wouldn't use in the future. I made a list of everything I needed to create my paintings. This helped identify things I didn't need.
Also, I made my studio expandable. By this I mean, when I'm not painting, everything is out of the way and in the corner. But when I want to paint, I can pull out what I need into part of the living space and create there and once I'm finished for the day, it moves a couple of feet back into the corner again. Slightly portable but very efficient. If I ever plan on not painting for quite a while, my easel and cart can be folded and stored to create more living space.
I identified my problems individually and came up with ideas and solutions, then slowly implemented them over time when I could. For me, financial constraints played a part, so I had to save up for a new easel or a new shelf, etc.
And for the south-facing windows, the best thing I've found to do is to close the blinds and turn on my own lights. I started out using one floor lamp featuring 5 light bulbs that I purchased from Home Depot. Eventually, I picked up another one and now I feel I have plenty of light to work with to create my paintings. I personally put these lamps safely on top of tables I have which gets my light much higher - luckily my apartment has high ceilings due to the loft - which helps keep glare off of my painting while working on it.
How do you create in a small space? What challenges have you had to overcome when it comes to creating your art?