I’m planning to make a picture book of my studios some day. I wish to heaven I’d had the sense to photograph the first dozens of them. But then it had not occurred to me that they were important artifacts to this life I’ve chosen, unique in form and content. Which is why what follows here is a kind of alert to my fellows: Pay attention to your environs.
Tack Room Barn Studio. Mule Corazon awaits carrots, Holman Ranch
When I move into a new place, and if you happen to have witnessed the before and the after of where I am moving in to, you might exclaim:
This is very like the circus came to town!
And you would be right.
I adore Excess. Profusion. Plenty.
(Brief aside: I don’t mean the yacht in the harbor. I can see going somewhere unique. However. It’s hard to imagine a more boring time than climbing aboard a big boat on purpose, jumping into the water below, climb back, eat drink jump off again, and climb back to be waited on by a dubious hired bunch who are expected to scrape, bow, take good selfies of you and your buddies, clean up purgative messes following your misbehavior, and the dreaded exposure to stranger’s body parts which may fall short of movie star perfection).
I am instead talking about the
expansive joys of the luxury of emotion, and an excess of that which, with imagination and substance, you at once may call your own no matter your finances because you carry it with you wherever you are.
It’s given me endless pleasure and I want to pass it on in case you haven’t discovered it yet.
It is the business of living inside who you are.
Ever since I was the only grown up at home, which is presently and has been a very long time prior to now, I have by accident then by purpose centered my nesting around my studio; the rest of my life spirals out from there, cornucopia form.
I had a friend who wouldn’t hear of it for herself. A fellow painter. She could not bear the thought of waking up and going to sleep on unfinished work screaming at her in the dark, hectoring her in daylight: yes yes and yes: One’s painting(s) in progress are thoroughly in charge of your life. Her finished work she did very moderately display where she lived, and you really had to have it pointed out to you.
Well then, I am a glutton for torture by her defining. By my defining? I like immersion. I rather like the communicating with my paintings and drawings, and therefore want all my work around me always and forever up and down the other side of every existing wall that makes up my home. It does not torment. It edifies. It expands my history. It lays bare where my brain was heading on days I can recall at once with every sense I have and more. It fills my eyes with colors I will always think are marvelous; it fills my heart with emotions to see the portraits of flowers, the faces of friends, both animal and human.
Now that’s a fine excess is it not. I’ve only just begun here, the new place.
You know, Turner chose those paintings of his he wanted buried with him bless his heart, something I understood the minute I read that because of the intensity of love for some particular ones of your own work. Fortunately for the world nobody paid attention to his post mortem demand.
(I do pray you have not troubled your soul by watching the recently released Turner movie. It is a blatant assault on a lively genius with the courage to depart from the rigid demands of artist-as-documentarian, and to launch an opposite, headstrong appeal to the human heart. More on the wretched movie which depicts Turner a brainless bouillon, another time.)
Back to STUDIOS.
I have another friend who, though a professional photographer, will not hang her work around her in her own home for fear critics will disturb her balance. I get angry at her for that, but know I may have overcome my own same terrors by finally opening one gallery of my paintings, then another. I hope she will do that, too. It may be an uneasy thought initially, but once you plunge in, you will be pleasantly surprised.
The midnight before my opening, my paintings hung and windows covered with bits of unprimed canvas to frustrate the passersby until I was ready to open my doors to them, the broom at rest, the hammer finished with its day, the screw eyes and copper wire shimmering darkly from a far corner after so much action, the spotlights perfect; the rug just so, the bouquets perked and spread and lit, I sat alone at last amongst all this and trembled and shook and wept and laughed and tore hair and pronounced myself insane for the risk I was taking by showing my guts to the hard cold world…..before I finally went to bed exhausted by my endless internal tyrannies and remembered again the intent of joy that had started me on that path.
I learned considerable in the days that followed. As it turns out the world was almost universally as interested in seeing what I had up my sleeve as I have been myself.
They didn’t even have to like it all — though that was nice too.
But instead of my every unwarranted anxiety I got to talk with total strangers about my single brushstrokes! My palette!
Why I painted what! Why I painted at all.
It was an unrivaled revelation of comfort and joy which had very rarely happened before in over fifty years of exploring my artistic impulses. You still have to be prepared for not making much money; if you’re at all well-located the overhead’s a killer and landlords are generally ruthless. Artist’s profiting from their art remains illusive, which is why it is so especially important that your fulfilment comes undeniable from you yourself.
This is all to say I recommend making what you dearly love a current, pressing, unshakable, crowding, smelly, pushing shoving part of your daily existence. I would even go so far as to say that if you in this regard fail your art, that your dying breath will pulse forth the cry: MY STUDIO….WHERE IS MY STUDIO……
….which should have been around you every minute of every day, and where, if we any of us have the luck of it, we get to die.
Please, pay attention to your heart.