is my refuge. A dedicated space where everything stays exactly where it was when I used it last, and a place where I can just pick up exactly where I left off in a painting. Having moved several times since coming to Maine, I was no stranger to having to breaking-down & and setting-up my studio space again & again. This last time…which unbelievably was a period of 15 years…until about a year ago, and was the longest interval between the times that I last picked up a paintbrush. But even with such a long amount of time of inactivity, I have found that it is akin to riding a bike…something you never forget once you get back to it.
Each new space offers different opportunities and challenges regarding to the room’s atmosphere, arrangement, size, light and mood. The size of the windows and their placement, wall color, and dimensions of the room itself; all contribute to and affect the perception & ultimately the interpretation of all the elements that go into a painting, whether I’m sitting in front of a canvas to resume a previously begun piece…or starting one that is completely blank.
With each new space, I attempt to re-create the former arrangement of all my materials…something I had already worked out soon after I started painting with oils. These include, but are not limited to…my easel, brushes, palette & pigments, and fluids; (such as turpentine & or the medium that I use to give the paint the proper amount of viscosity), and of course my subject. Placement of these elements, arranged in such a way as to have the freedom to devote all my thinking to using the skills I’ve already acquired; (spatially as well as those relating to form, texture, and the interpretation of colors and values as they relate to one another); is preferable to having to waste brain cells remembering where they’re located each time I reach for a brush or palette knife. The consequence of not spending the time to develop the space using what I’ve learned, I believe would actually prevent me from being able to get to the place where I can access that place in my mind where I can be the most creative….a place where time and the distractions of everyday life are replaced, with the ‘world’ that I create on the blank surface of the linen.
Every movement is designed to minimize any distractions from the vision of what I see in my mind, that emerges before me from every brush stroke…each affected by what was there before it, and again by those yet to be created.
Once I have all my materials set up…
It is time to personalize my studio space. I like to surround myself with inspiration…on the walls I have begun to hang paintings & prints; a few of which were done by my mother (who started as an oil painter and is currently a watercolor artist). Around the perimeter of the the room sit canvases of different shapes & sizes, some of which are paintings that have yet to be finished and others which are unopened and untouched waiting to become something. There are also various canvas boards with exercises I did using color & shape, such as color charts or experiments with color value & temperature, done by adding different pigments to one another to find out how many variations can be created.
Photos of my son are also on display, as well as my collection of art books for inspiration. Many of them were given to me by my mother after my father passed away, and she had moved out of New England…and some of which had been in our home since I was young. They serve as reference material, but many are art themselves since they contain not only informative text but photos of great works by famous & not so famous artists who’s work has had an impact on me in some way.
I found several things have to ‘be’… in order for me to have a successful painting session:
Whatever I am sitting on for a chair or stool, has to be comfortable enough to allow me to spend the sometimes 10 hours that I can end up painting. I often use an office chair whenever I’m not standing, since I can adjust the height to accommodate the height of the canvas. It also gives me the option of choosing different sitting positions to allow me the maximum amount of time, without developing back & neck stiffness & pain. If I do spend long periods of time sitting vs. standing, I make sure to get up and walk around every hour or so. I do this for another reason as well…I have learned that stepping back from a painting gives me a renewed perspective, which both inspires me to go in a particular direction, and often helps me to ‘see’ better where a painting may need more work.