D.I.Y. Residency


As 2015 came to a close, I decided that I needed to shake up my studio practice. Things had started feeling stagnant. I had a few ideas for how to do this… trying a new medium, starting a new project, maybe finding a bigger studio. I decided the easiest and most immediate thing would be to diversify my practice by working in a new medium, on paper. I spent a few weeks sorting things in my garage, and clearing a space to serve as my “paper studio”. I found a set of flat files to store paper and finished works, and started gathering materials.


I started experimenting in a sketchbook, tentatively playing with new materials– guache, acrylic, watercolor, inks. I was still having trouble getting started though. This was not new territory, this resistance to starting a new body of work. Breaking into new work is difficult for me, and I usually need a little self-induced push. I decided that what I needed was a residency. I really felt that I needed the kind of dedicated time that a residency affords, and I had applied to two local residencies in 2015 but they are highly competitive and I didn’t get a spot in either one. So I decided to set one up for myself. At home. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.


I marked two weeks in January as my time, and thought about my daily life and the things that distract me or take up time. I made sure that I did not schedule anything else during those two weeks. I planned some easy meals and did the shopping ahead of time and put some food in the freezer. I did errands or decided they could wait. I cleaned the house ahead of time, and made a deal with myself that I would just let it be dirty during the week. Usually, I’m one of those people that has to have everything in order before she works so this was a big one for me! This is something I’m continuing to work on… my most damaging procrastination habits tend to be getting things clean or done before I allow myself to work. So it was good practice.


Then, for two weeks, I worked. I worked all day, and tried to exercise discipline by not indulging in distractions. This is the hardest thing about trying to do a self-initiated “residency”. Usually, with a residency, you have a work space far from the usual distractions, and that is part of the appeal and what makes it so effective. So re-creating those conditions at home was challenging, but mostly achievable. I can’t say it was perfect, but I got so much work done! I let myself just focus on process, and told myself that if I came to the end of two weeks without a single finished piece, that was okay. There were times when I just wanted to stop and there were times when I was so caught up in the work that I lost track of time. I had a few moments when I wasn’t so sure about this plan!

But by the second week, things started coming together. I didn’t have a finished piece by the end of my two weeks, but I had a direction. And momentum. And enthusiasm. I was excited about the new work.


The painting/drawing above was the first piece I finished. I now have about five of these finished, and others started. Jump-starting this new work with a D.I.Y. residency was really effective, and I already have plans to do it again soon. It’s amazing to me what can be accomplished with some dedicated time and space.

What about you? What is your favorite way to start a new project? How do you overcome the inertia of beginning?

Thanks for reading,


16 thoughts on “D.I.Y. Residency

  1. June Mehra

    Inspiring piece initiating a possible new direction. Intrigued by the energetic loose dynamic brush strokes overlaid with the organised geometric small cut outs. Brilliant! Can’t wait to see more!

    1. LisaK Post author

      Thanks June. It’s been a while since I’ve had that feeling of “can’t wait to go work”, so this process has been really fun, and certainly stoked my practice! >

  2. Sandy Middleton

    Thanks for that wonderful idea, now I just have to sell the fact that I don’t want to cook for a month to the husband. Waiting to hear about 2 different one month long residencies. If I don’t get them I won’t let this stop me. Love your work and love the new direction.

    1. LisaK Post author

      Sandy, Yes, that can be a hard sell! The d.i.y. residency is definitely a compromise in some of those ways… certain aspects of life still need to happen. But I was surprised by how much support I could put in place for myself with a little forethought. 🙂 Good luck with the residencies, I hope one comes through for you! Lisa


      1. Sandy Middleton

        Lisa, I’m also fascinated with your Salt Study pieces wish I could see them in person. Did you do them on rounds of wood? do you have a side or edge view?
        I’m also trying to win the lotto so I can come to your workshop, you are just so far and the US/Canada Exchange is just so bad right now…some day.

      2. LisaK Post author

        Hi Sandy, Yes, some of the salt studies are painted on round wood panels, and some of them are now ink on paper. I was so inspired by the salt evaporation ponds in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay. And, yes, hopefully someday I’ll see you in a workshop! Lisa


  3. Cynthia

    Brilliant idea! I love it and think I’ll try it for myself. I am still hoping to get down to Idyllwild for you workshop.

  4. Lisa U

    Lisa, I love your work, wish we had met when I lived in El Granada (now we’re in the Santa Cruz Mountains) and hope we cross paths sometime in the future! I only recently subscribed to your blog, and this post definitely hit a chord with me. The “inertia of beginning” has always been a battle for me, though I’ll admit I have a bigger problem with the “inertia of finishing”, LOL.

    Definitely cleaning/organizing my studio helps — as does ensuring household chores are completed, errands run, bills paid, etc. — but I’ve tried to let go of the idea that I need all my ducks in a row before allowing myself to make art. It occurred to me a long time ago that we women make lots of excuses in the form of taking care of our families (cooking, cleaning, shopping, emotional support, etc) that prevent or delay us from doing the work of art making. Many reasons for this of course; it’s in our nature to be caretakers and we tend to put the needs of others before our own, but also culturally it’s expected of us to fill the roles of wife/mother/daughter before we are Artists. Male artists don’t generally have this problem! For me personally I’ve found it easier to put off art in lieu of household/work duties because it was (for years and years) terrifying for me to put myself into art (and therefore put myself out into the world) and claim the title of Artist as my identity. Not AS much of a problem anymore but I still struggle with that inertia thing.

    I’m participating in SVOS (I noticed you are too) and have a ton to do before then … but our dog passed away 2 weeks ago after living with renal failure for almost a year. Subsequently I’ve been in a funk for the past month or 2 and have not been able to get back into the work groove I was in before he really started to get sick. Your brilliant idea of a DIY residency is so inspiring to me that I’m going to try it for the remaining 8 weeks until SVOS! This week I’m going to finally clean up the house and pack away all my dog’s stuff (been avoiding that because it still hurts), then get down to the business of making art.

    The key to success in your idea (I think) is mindset. I’ve thought for a long time that I need to treat art making as a full time job, but that feels HUGE, and yes I can still distract myself by that ingrained urge to clean, cook, do laundry, tend to husband, pets, garden etc. But treating art making as a residency makes it seem a little less intimidating because it’s for a set time period. Thankfully my husband supports my art work and does help around the house quite a bit.

    Thank you for the awesome inspiration!
    Cheers, Lisa U

    1. LisaK Post author

      Lisa, I’m so glad you wrote about your experience… there are so many things that we can “use” to put in the way of making art. Dedicating a short, intensive work time really helps get the ball rolling. Perhaps this work time can also help you heal and grieve losing your pup. It will surely help you get some work done for SVOS. Best of luck! Lisa >

  5. Tracey Oliver

    What a great post. I too suffer that “must get everything done first” syndrome! Thanks for this.

    On Sun, Mar 6, 2016 at 5:53 PM, Lisa Kairos: Open Studio wrote:

    > LisaK posted: ” As 2015 came to a close, I decided that I needed to shake > up my studio practice. Things had started feeling stagnant. I had a few > ideas for how to do this… trying a new medium, starting a new project, > maybe finding a bigger studio. I decided the eas” >

  6. Roger Morrison

    an inspiring shared story !!… thank you Lisa… i see that a few of your procrastination also resonated witha few others besides myself! :-)) … good for you !!! great job… loved the large paper piece that you completed…. so nice !!! thanks again!!!! roger in L.A.


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