Everybody, Let’s Mise-en-Place!

What do generations of chefs, from the late Julia Child to the reigning celeb-chefs, know that can help artists make the most of their studio time? Three simple words:


Mise-en-place is a French phrase meaning “putting in place” and refers to the system of prepping and gathering all the tools and ingredients needed to complete a recipe, and in the larger sense, run a restaurant. If you’ve seen any cooking shows you know what I’m talking about. Those little bowls, all lined up with the spices, the pre-cut chunks of meat, the neatly diced vegetables, all close at hand. But more than that, it is what enables a kitchen to run smoothly, in the midst of intense activity and chaos.

And that relates to art, how?

Mise-En-Place is a concept I introduce to my students (and it is so much fun to say!). What a delight for a teacher to see, without prompting, when a student takes the approach to heart. Here Jenna is doing mise-en-place before class last night:

Jenna's palette
Jenna uses a mise-en-place approach in getting ready to paint.
  • Allowing herself plenty of time to gather her materials, arriving before class begins.
  • Reviewing the “plan” for the session, in this case going over the goals of the assignment.
  • Arranging her palette, paint, water and any other anticipated supplies within reach.
  • Removing all non essentials such as coats, backpacks, books, from her work area.

By attending to the mundane details first, she is developing great work habits that make her painting time so much more satisfying. Once she is in the zone, she doesn’t need to stop because she can’t find the yellow ochre, or a rag to clean her brushes, which allows for greater creativity and spontaneity. Only a beginning painter, I have faith that Jenna, and my other like minded students, will develop into accomplished artists!

I would love to hear what you do to prep a session in your studio! Comment below or send an email!

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.

Julia Child
Studio Update: The Mug Shots
Realized belatedly that I didn’t take a photo of the profile view, but here is this week’s progress on the forward facing self-portrait. Will this painting never end?
Detail: Mondrian and Me in progress
In progress
Detail: Mondrian and Me in progress
oil on canvas


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