Saturday, September 12, 2015

The workspace helps create the work

8 x 10
The only constant in life is change, and the act of making art is no different.  The works that I loved when I made them, seem filled with flaws once they've been signed (in fact, I often sign a painting in order to speed the process of flaw finding.  It seems to be a catalyst for major changes); and the technique that felt exactly right suddenly feels wrong headed and ineffectual.  The key to dealing with the awareness of something being wrong is to accept that it's valid, live with the discomfort, and, when it's unbearable, do something that feels like it may alleviate that discomfort. So this summer I was deeply uncomfortable, and then I made some major changes.  The result is amazing! 

Beginning a few weeks ago, I changed most everything about my daily practise.  I slashed and trashed more than 50 paintings that had languished on my studio shelving.  They'd been waiting for me to become skilled enough to get them out of the stalemates that they were in.  But, on looking at them with a dispassionate eye, I decided that life was too short to address them, and they were a psychic weight that I no longer wanted to carry.  Taking a car load of sliced canvases to the dump and hurling them into bins was cathartic, and spurred me on to more changes.  

The middle grey mixing palette was replaced by a white one, resulting in - well - ongoing confusion, but I think it'll be a good thing when I've adapted fully.  My aim is to find new ways to use colour and the mixing surface is the first step toward that. 

But the biggest, and I think the most effective change, was repainting the interior of my studio.  The walls used to be a fairly dark, muted red.  When I had my studio built, I painted it that unorthodox colour because it was the same colour I'd been working in inside my house for years.  I couldn't imagine working in any other colour space. With 3 skylights, 3 big windows and a glass patio door, I didn't think the dark walls would be an issue.  But, over time, my intentions and aesthetic have changed and the walls had begun to hinder my development.  The studio felt dim and it was affecting my colour/value mixing.  

Research devoted to the "ideal wall colour" for a studio came up with the usual suspects: white, mid grey, warm, cool..., but nothing that resonated, until I came across a phrase in a blog to the effect that if you want to paint dark paintings, paint your walls a dark colour.  Ah ha!  A light bulb went on! 
Dark paintings are emphatically not what I want, so I had my answer.

The new colour is a cool grey in a value just above pure white (it's a 2 on a 1-10 scale).  Suddenly, the space appears large and airy.  The walls now bounce so much excellent light, that I'm stunned by how much was lacking in my life before this.

Next, I had my handy son build a massive work 4 x 8" table on wheels.  With its huge storage shelf  it allowed me to consolidate a lot of bins of supplies out of sight and to take down some shelving that had lined the walls.  The energy and flow of the room improved immediately, and I find I'm painting in parts of the room that I've never stood in before.  
Wheeled greenhouse shelving as large as a wall, picked up all of the stretcher bars, frames, packaging supplies, still life objects, and general "stuff", that had been stored in myriad, smaller units along the walls, and by covering one side of the shelving, I could both block the unsightliness of the load and create a screen for a lot of wall storage behind it.  Eventually, I'll hang white-painted plywood on it and create a wall to hang paintings on, but I'm fine with it for now.  When the discomfort builds, I'll get to it.

It's been a lot of work involving my least favourite thing: repeatedly lifting and shifting heavy things, but it's been worth it.  There's more to be done, but I feel able to move forward, and, wonderfully, I feel energized and rejuvenated as I head into fall.  I think that good paint will happen in that space.

Stay tuned, and happy painting!


LindaHunt said...

This post was a huge inspiration to me. I realized that it was time to clean house in my Etsy shop and threw out half of the paintings that I had...that
s the trash. I am working on new paintings and am not going to work with Facebook any longer...I will keep my blog and do a much better job at producing an interesting blog. I needed a boost. I really am happy with the loss of FB because it ate up too much of my time. I want to improve my painting skills and am working very hard at training myself. I bought the book you suggested and will immerse myself in it. Changes are good at times and so I feel like new breath has been breathed into my creative efforts.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Congratulations on the changes that you're making, Linda! I hope they refresh your practise as much as they have done mine. We creative types need to keep shaking things up, I think.

You're bold to ditch Facebook! I still spend far too much time on there, but I am cutting back (she said, defensively.)

Happy painting!