Being Arty When You Don't Have the Time: Keeping the Artistic Fires Burning
EMG News for September
My Studio, the Dump
My Studio, the DumpWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
My studio is a dump.
I can admit this. I'm not in denial at all. My studio was a small room to begin with, and I put a big L-shaped desk into it, and then lined the walls with book cases and a canvas rack, and then stuffed about three times as much stuff into it as it can gracefully hold, including boxes of convention supplies, with the end result that there is a zig-zag corridor about eighteen inches wide that you must navigate to get to the computer.
And by "you" I mean "me" because the only person who comes into my studio is me. Well, and occasionally my boyfriend, and he rarely gets farther than the door, where he can inform me that dinner is ready, he's going out to feed stray cats, and that the little doodle of the fat beaver flipping off the world needs to be a T-shirt. (Swear to god, you sweat blood on something and they go "That's nice…" but you spend thirty seconds on something, and the world screams for a T-shirt.)
And you know, I'm fine with this. (With the studio thing, not the t-shirt thing, I still haven't made my peace with that. I keep thinking I have, and then it turns out… not so much.) But I'm okay with the fact that my studio resembles a blast zone -- FREAK ART SUPPLY STORE EXPLOSION KILLS 10, MAIMS HUNDREDS -- because that means I've been productive lately.
As soon as I start cleaning the studio, it means that I'm avoiding work. Often it means that I'm depressed. If I sit down and there is no painting in my brain screaming "Now! Now! Paint me now or I'll cut you!" that's when I notice the fact that I'm surrounded by ramparts of ink bottles and that the surface of the desk is hidden under a carpet of colored pencils, and the paper towels I've been blotting my brushes on are starting to form wadded drifts.
But if I've got a painting to work on? Pfff. There are books piled on every surface in haphazard towers, and that's fine. There are boxes of granola bars piling up behind the monitor, and that's fine. The old mugs of tea are starting to breed… okay, that's less fine, because those mold eventually, but still, it can be ignored for a few hours because the painting has to get done NOW.
It's only when I'm non-productive that I start looking at my studio with the eye of a housekeeper rather than an artist. And then, yes, I'm horrified. It's pretty horrifying stuff. That doesn't need to live there, and that doesn't need to live there, and… good lord, what WAS that? But when the art is fighting to get out, then the studio's general cleanliness is the least important thing -- as long as I can find the art supplies I need, then it's fine.
I have no idea how some artists do studio tours, where people come and look at where they work. Either they have a fake studio to show them or they don't care what people think, or possibly they have a completely different work method. I couldn't have people in here. Maybe they all have those large loft studios with the bare wood walls and the vast windows. I have an old kid's room that I stripped the wallpaper from and painted. (The paint did NOT look like "Creamsicle" in the store…) Leaving aside what people might think of me, if I tried to have a studio tour, we could fit maybe two people in the studio, and one would be killed and eaten by a rogue piece of illustration board.
But then it happens. A clear, crisp day comes along… rather like this one, in fact, a day cool enough to feel a bit like fall, and suddenly the siren song of cleaning the studio comes to my mind. I could straighten up a bit. I could tidy things. I could do a little bit of clearing. I never use those paints there, I could get them into a box, and the phone charger and the collected Clint Eastwood DVDs don't even belong in here anyway, and that original balanced precariously in the corner really needs a better home and…
Because the art needs to get made. And in a hundred years, no one will care how clean my studio was. It'll be all about the art that got made.
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