As I emptied the studio, I’d been thinking of an empty white space, the opposite to what it had been up to a few weeks ago. How would it feel to just sit there and see nothing at all? No clutter, no overwhelming sense of gloom. Would it really re-boot my creativity?

As promised the painter arrived at 8.30am on the designated day and set about transforming my dark and depressing ‘store cupboard’. I couldn’t watch so went out and left him to it. By lunchtime it was all done and my white space had miraculously arrived. For two days I just sat there, doing nothing, relishing the emptiness and my ever-increasing excitement at what might lie ahead. Where to start?

Determined to keep the studio white and bright, I began by moving three white shelving units into the new space, shifting them around, assessing the best position for plug-point access etc. They soon filled up with the most useful and appropriate materials I wanted, going forwards. Practical decisions.

Next came the dilemma of where to position my much-loved CDs. For the past 5 years they’d been inaccessibly lost among the clutter and as a result, the studio had been silent. But now they have assumed pride of place along one of the shelving units, they’re easily reached and music fills the studio. Like old times back on Arran. My precious boxes of shells and tiny stones have their special place there too. A re-organising of a studio and also, priorities.

Before long, it occurred to me that I was intuitively creating an aesthetically pleasing space and not just a practical one, where everything is squashed together, without much thought to the future. And it is the future that I’m thinking about now, not the past. So, no more random cardboard boxes packed full of a mixture of whatever. Instead, I now have clear, storage boxes, all neatly stacked on white shelving units. A very clean look. I also invested in a small ergonomic chair and painted an old but favourite Windsor chair a dusky chalk white. Hyper-organised? Quite possibly. But radical action was definitely needed in order to achieve my aim; a re-booting of my creativity.

This studio space has a very different feel to the old one, where the walls displayed past work, almost like a retrospective exhibition. This no longer suits who I am, going forwards. So now, the walls will remain white and clear of any historical barriers. For the first time in years, I’m surrounded by an unknown. However, I acknowledge that I’m knowingly doing this while standing on the supportive ground of the past 50 years of experience. So, I feel relatively safe, sort of.

But after several days of sorting and arranging materials, the studio was beginning to feel rather intimidating in its stark emptiness. It echoed in its anonymity. It felt daunting. I didn’t expect this. I neither liked the space nor disliked it. It didn’t speak to me at all. In an attempt to soften the feel of it, I artfully arranged favourite handmade cards from friends, in among my pens and brushes. But it just looked contrived. I needed a different ‘way into’ this new space.

The following day I decided to revisit my bedroom ‘art store’ and critically examine how and where I’d positioned those less frequently used art materials. Although they were all packed away, it looked cluttered. I redid it all, storing these materials in large clear boxes. Also, my small diaries were now in clear plastic boxes. Much neater!

After that small success I returned to the studio and looked hard at the materials’ boxes on the shelving units. Could they be better organised? Might I maybe use the leftover, smaller boxes from the bedroom ‘art store’ to make these everyday materials look more inviting? That worked! Old, smelly pastels, prized watercolours etc now had their own lidded boxes. All tidy and accessible. I even had one storage box left over so used it to house fragile fragments of dried seaweed.

The studio now looks streamlined and so bright. Much improved! I see now that it’s better not to just settle for the way I’d first tidied away the materials, but to leave it a day or two or even longer then, go back and review it. Materials can’t all be tidied away so thoroughly that they’re unidentifiable or worse, inaccessible. They still need to be visible while looking inviting as well. The same goes for the bedroom ‘art store’. For this all to work well, the overall look and feel really matters. This is something I hadn’t reckoned on.

I still wondered if I’d actually manage to work in there? It would undoubtedly get untidy again. How would I feel? Constrained, as I did in the ‘old’ studio? But as the days passed, I began to relax into it all and eventually found the re-organising very meditative

I decided that my final task, should be to install a simple round mirror, rather like a porthole, reflecting not only the light but as a way of bringing my colourful garden into the space itself. And what a delightful space the studio has become. No longer is it a ‘storage cupboard’ but it’s become an inviting room. The light flows from the bright sitting room with its patio doors opening onto the garden, through into this bright white studio space. I was delighted. This was now everything I’d hoped for.

In setting myself the task of re-booting my creativity by re-organising the studio, I had intended to take it slowly, step by step. Yet I had underestimated the time necessary to get the ‘feel’ just right. In my impatience, I had imagined an almost instant transformation, from ‘then’ to ‘now’, from the ‘past’ to the ‘future’. All too often I have been guilty of underestimating the role emotion plays in important decisions. It’s far easier to see the task in hand as a series of linear steps. It seldom is. The reality is much more nuanced. Our relationship with a space, particularly a studio space, involves every aspect of our being and if it’s to work, it’s essential that it embraces head and heart.