Creative Fire Journal, Day #5

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feb10 003

“What an overwhelming lesson to all artists! Be not afraid of absurdity; do not shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the most unheard-of, the most dangerous, solution. Be brave, be brave!” ― Isak Dinesen

A dilemma I’m facing is:

Make a list of 10 unheard-of, dangerous solutions:

A dilemma I’m facing is getting my work space organized so that I can easily work in it.

It’s a small room, 12′ x 12′(the space under the eaves adds about 3′ x 12′ to either side, though it’s not high enough to stand in). When it comes to art, art books, art materials, beautiful papers and tools for working, I’m a bit of a hoarder.

If it were used only for art making, the room would already be crowded.

There is the very large yet very necessary drafting table, taking up a big block of space. It is used for drawing, adding watercolor to collagraph prints, painting, putting collages together, reading and – every now and then – as a dinner table. There is the big padded bar stool that goes with it, to get me up to the correct level to work. Next to the drafting table, a set of shallow shelves holds materials I use most often. There is a smaller desk chair. It is needed, too, for when Madeline (or one of the grandsons) is visiting, and we want to be in the studio together. I sometimes use it as an easel, too, and it’s always there when I need a place to drape a sheet of newsprint or fabric that I’ve used to rub a painting, until the paint dries. The printing press, if not in use so that the press bed can be centered under the roller mechanism, takes up a space 32 inches by 40 inches. More, when the press bed is off to either side. A short bookcase stands under each of the two windows. Their shelves house my art books; the top surface holds clay pieces, waiting for the kiln.

This is also the room where I keep my materials, and finished works in between galleries.

The space under the eaves is used for storage.

I have, on one side: two file drawers; a map cabinet for storing flat works; 12 storage totes labelled with the materials they contain and hung on rails between dividers, so that any one can be pulled out without moving all of them; 8 bus tubs for paper-making supplies, tucked in the same way. Behind the totes is a large vinyl lidded trash can filled with moist clay, several big bowls from an old commercial bread making machine, and a few rolls of bubble wrap. A shallow shelf above the totes holds moistened printing papers inside of large plastic bags when I’m actively printing. At other times, it tends to be a catch-all.There is an old TV with a built in VHS player hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes I put a movie in, for entertainment while I work.

The other side has a folding work table for inking printing plates. It holds pots of inks, boxes of latex gloves, and squares of dense cardboard for spreading the ink. There is a work light hanging above the table, and many lengths of starched cheesecloth hanging off to the side. Beside the table is a box holding collagraph plates and another holding lengths of metal frames, not yet assembled. Then there is a box of mattboard, and several packages of pre-cut matts. The remaining space has framed artwork, wrapped individually for protection from scratches and air-born paint spatters, stored standing up, in very tight quarters.

At this time, I have a half dozen finished or almost finished works leaning against the wall of storage totes, making them inaccessible without a major shuffle. I have gallons of gesso, polymer gel, polymer medium and glue under the drafting table. I have a large painting-in-progress on top of the printing press. I have small painted canvasses in various stages of completion on every available surface.

This is definitely a dilemma!

Possible solutions:

  • Pretend I’ve had a house fire, and clear out the studio entirely. Mercilessly. This is a fresh start.

[My heart is pounding dangerously at the thought!]

  • Get rid of everything that I don’t love right now. If it needs work or isn’t “quite there yet,” ditch it.

[No, I still can’t stand it!]

  • Toss everything I am not actively working with, or working on. Burn the drawings that I did twenty years ago in art class; dump the contents of totes that I haven’t looked at in months.

[I’m not up for these kinds of absurd solutions!]

  • Work larger; use stuff up.
  • Plan works using the materials I have on hand.
  • Spend more time in the studio, finishing things, using materials.
  • Use what I have; don’t bring any more materials in.
  • Quit saving every single thing.
  • Find ways to incorporate scraps into new works.
  • Perhaps make woven sculptures from old prints and papers.

That’s just about as dangerous as I can bring myself to be. It will have to do.

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5 responses »

  1. I’m impressed that your work space is so organised. My husband (bless him) has just spent days sorting out the back filing in my office (I hate doing it so it piles up in messy unsorted heaps). From a cooking point of view (part of my day job) I have an enormous freezer full of garden produce and mysterious pieces of meat but I still can’t resist buying fresh. Your solution is one I should apply to my own life. Go for it! (I will if you will. 🙂 )

    • I have a small freezer, but it sounds like yours. I’m terrible about remembering to defrost in advance. Okay, I’m going for it (why not, this year, with challenges in every direction already!)…I will finish, use up or throw away every superfluous item in my studio. Nothing new comes in until I do! Thanks for the nudge!

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