A couple of weeks ago I posted some photos of materials, shelves, walls and other random images I saw through my camera lens as I wandered around the studio. Today I took more shots, this time of works in progress.
There was a moment, as I did this, when I felt strongly how personal a studio space is, and how creative process is felt and seen in every aspect--what the walls look like, how things are arranged, what lies buried in stacks and what is prominently on view. I thought of Joe Figg's book, Inside the Painter's Studio
and the rather mundane questions he asked of the artists he interviewed that, when answered, yielded enough personal detail and passionate feeling to make fascinating reading.
Most artists do have a great deal to say about their studios, and this post is a tribute to mine, which has served me wonderfully for the past 24 years. At the time it was built, it was larger than our house (which was in its early, tiny stage back then) and my older son was a toddler, my younger one not yet born. I had been painting in a rental apartment and later, in a friend's attic--and now this space, all mine, was a huge improvement. My husband persuaded me that I did need my own studio, and that we could somehow afford it, and I will always be grateful for his insight and support. From its first days, it has been my refuge, and every time I walk in the door I feel a return to creative home base.
It is not pristine by any means, and it's nothing like the vast, clean expanses seen in many New York artist's studios in Figg's book and in slick art magazines. No, over the years it has filled up to bursting, then been cleaned up and organized, in more cycles than I care to remember. In the past few years there have been some important improvements--better lighting, the in-floor heat activated, a new chimney for the wood stove, and an excellent storage unit built. Now, when it's relatively tidied and organized, it can handle up to six students and all their stuff when I teach--which would never have worked during some of its earlier, messier incarnations.
I do almost all my painting on the east wall, where I have a counter height painting table (famously messy) and my panels hung on screws and oversized push pins, as you see above. On a counter along the south wall, I have my water based mixed media materials and watercolors in progress. Another area I keep more or less clean for wrapping and packaging paintings to ship, and supplies for my workshops take up a large table at the back of the studio. Sounds fairly neat, but when I get involved in painting, things get out of hand. Typically there are works in progress stacked everywhere, papers on the floor, tools and coffee cups scattered around, books heaped on the table and couch. (It intrigues me that I prefer a neat house and cannot cook in a messy kitchen, but I tend to be oblivious to chaos in the studio.)
My studio works for me and is intensely mine, a power spot, in a way that no other space can be including my house. Sometimes people ask me if I feel invaded when visitors come in to see my work, or students spend days there taking a workshop. But for whatever reasons, I find it easy to retain my connection to what is mine about the studio at the same time that I occasionally share, and in fact enjoy sharing, the space with others.