War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

Sci-fi and fantasy illustrator Tom Kidd says a studio is a machine for making art, which is why he’s just built his own...

As a fantasy artist, my job is to imagine all manner of exotics, and then make them believable. Having done this for many years, I felt I had the skills to build a custom studio. I visualised myself in the space, imagined it working exactly how I wanted.

The town I live in – New Milford, CT – has snowy winters and warm, humid summers. I've built a studio with that in mind. My workspace was built to fulfil both my traditional and digital needs. I primarily paint in oils, but still need to get my work onto my computer to send it off for publication.

I need good light, plenty of space – primarily to back up and look at my work – and a high ceiling to accommodate the extra big jobs and my oversized easel. To photograph my art I use a digital camera. It's tethered to a computer on a rolling cart so I can monitor my shots. For drawings and watercolours I use a scanner.

War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

Inside Tom Kidd's spectacular new studio

I paint standing up, so my computers are set at eye level. My computers are used for research and reference. Often I'll import my art to see it in reverse or to test colour schemes. Everything in the studio is on wheels or sliders, enabling me to adjust things for whatever project I'm working on.

My old studio is now used for matting, framing, storage and as a library. I also sell original paintings, so it's nice to have a separate area for crating them up for shipment. I try to keep only the things that I'm currently using or use regularly in the new studio.

Everything in the studio is on wheels or sliders, enabling me to adjust things for whatever project I'm working on

I have an outside deck I use for drawing on nice days, and a covered area beneath it used for doing messy work such as sanding and gessoing. At the back of the studio, I have cabinets and closets to hold paintings, supplies and photography equipment. Heat and cooling comes from air conditioners, but the studio floor is heated separately. I like to ensure my studio is a pleasant place to be.

War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

An artist's secret weapon: tea

I've filled my rolling cart – and former TV stand – with paint, rags, brushes and other regularly used items. You'll usually see a cup of tea there, too.

War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

Size matters

A well-worn easel built to hold large paintings. The ceiling height here is 14ft. It would be a bit awkward, but I could do a painting 24ft wide in this studio.

War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

Tom's taboret, formerly a kitchen cart

This is my main rolling art taboret – its original function was as a rolling kitchen cart. It holds my palette, which I made to snap into its extendable shelf, the brushes I'm currently using, and my mediums.

War of the Worlds illustrator builds his dream studio

Reference point

This is for doing drawings, watercolours or flat work. I also move it next to the easel and use it to hold printed references.

Words: Tom Kidd

Tom Kidd has won seven Chesley Awards and one World Fantasy Award for Best Artist. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 104.