My relationship with the studio…

Generally, I love my studio.  It’s the best place in the world.  It’s cool in the sweltering heat, and contains everything I need to work.  I can make a mess down here, and no one minds.  It has good light, is comfortable, and has lots of storage. I can work at my desk, the sewing station, or the long counter, and if I want to do some computer work, read, or sketch, I can sit on the loveseat in front of my main desk.  It is a happy place.

As a professional artist,  I make deals with myself for studio time. I must be down there on work days. I am allowed upstairs to make lunch, and unless I am actually working on the computer, it is not downstairs with me, as it can be too distracting.  On studio days, which I try to schedule ahead of time, I try my hardest to let nothing interrupt.  No going for coffee with a friend in the middle of the day.  No supply runs during studio time. I find that these “flexibilities” are often just excuses when I feel stuck on something, or just plain don’t want to be there.  It happens.  Sticking with my 9:00-5:00 schedule helps me to take myself seriously.  I don’t always need to be doing serious work during this time, but I do need to be down there, not on the computer, and not reading books for pleasure (unless they’re directly related to research).  If nothing is coming, I doodle.  Or stare at the wall.  Or clean up.  Pull stuff out and look at it. Sketch.  Flip through older sketchbooks. Usually just spending some time in the space helps me to loosen up and let things percolate.  I have lots of things in various stages, or that I’m not sure if I’ve finished yet- they need time to sit with me for a while before I know what they need.  Just having things in my line of sight helps them stay in the forefront of my mind.

Sometimes it flows, and sometimes it’s the last place I want to be, if I’m feeling tired, or stuck on something. Sometimes I feel like I’m clawing at the walls, trying to get out. Even on these days, I have to be there until the end of the day.  If this means I need to pull out something completely different than what I’ve been doing, then so be it (like the paintings above). While I know that the common concept of an artist is that they must be “inspired” to work, I often find my best stuff comes out if I push it a little.  The pushing helps me to make work that I maybe wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t kept my rule, such as these drawings of Morphoid skin cells.  It also helps me to finish up things that maybe I haven’t finished yet, or that should be tweaked or altered.

I work in my sketchbook in this time, and on the train, and I make a lot of lists- things to do, supplies I need, etc.  I also use the time to work on writing proposals if I feel stuck, or behind on that.  That often reminds me about ideas I’ve had and gets me excited about things again, kickstarting the process.

They say that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at something. And I believe that to be an artist, you have to make things.  Not just once, but every day, or almost every day.  It has to be always in your mind.  It’s so easy to slip out of the habit, and once you do, it’s much harder to get back into it.  The easiest way for me to keep things moving along is to simply put in the time, whether I feel like it or not.

Sometimes it’s an incredibly tough battle.

  3 comments for “My relationship with the studio…

  1. May 5, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    Good post on an important topic, Jen. Discipline is about doing the work. Consistently & persistently. I’m all in favor of inspiration, but it would be easy to rely on it too much, like a crutch. Do the work… and creating is work. Make new work, finish old work, read about a master’s work, look at someone else’s different style of work, look into a new technique or material that can be used in work, kick back and brainstorm ideas for possible work, whatever. 🙂

    Having a work space can be key in that discipline. I’m like you in a way, I need a work space… when I’m in that space I’m keeping myself focused on doing work. Unfortunately since I don’t work nearly as much with physical materials but mostly in the digital space, I have to fight (often not well) to avoid all the distractions the technology brings… 🙂

    • Jen
      May 6, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      Yeah, it is a constant struggle, and the best way I’ve found to deal with it is to make myself some guidelines. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world, and sometimes its not, but having a good foundation helps!

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