Having a Setup

November 13, 2014

Artists who have studios

Artists who have studios

“Some mornings, in a perfect world, you might wake up, have a coffee, finish meditation, and say, ‘Okay, today I’m going into the shop to work on a lamp.’  This idea comes to you, you can see it, but to accomplish it you need what I call a ‘setup.’  For example, you may need a working shop or a working painting studio.  You may need a working music studio.  Or a computer room where you can write something.  It’s crucial to have a setup, so that, at any given moment when you get an idea, you have the place and the tools to make it happen.”
— David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish

Ah, yes.  A room of one’s own!  I have yearned for this my entire life.  But in my imperfect world of making do — which I realize is an outlook I have deliberately embraced, one in alignment with my frugal tendencies — I’ve never had my own workroom, and for just one brief year or two had my own bedroom.  I’ve lived virtually all of my life in shared spaces.

But because over these past couple of years I’ve made painting a higher priority, and lately have been trying to commit to at least one sketch a day, I’ve fallen into a kind of portable “setup” that is working for me.  I keep my supplies in a basket, and when I’m ready to paint, I take this basket to the dining room table, grab a portable standing lamp to illuminate the table, and get to work.  Not much of a fuss.  And no excuse not to get started.

My watercolor painting "setup"

My watercolor painting “setup”

Still, it is fun to see other artist’s work spaces, such as those featured in Joe Fig’s Inside the Painter’s Studio.  I will try not to be envious of those who have actual studio spaces to work in, and instead try to affirm my belief in making do and just painting where I can.  Focus on the work, not on the work space.

Here’s what painter Chuck Close says about his painting setup:  “You know, I always could paint anywhere, and I was never one of those people who had to have a perfect situation to paint in.  I can make art anywhere, anytime — it doesn’t matter.  I mean, I know so many artists for whom having the perfect space is somehow essential.  They spend years designing, building, outfitting the perfect space, and then when it is just about time to get to work they’ll sell that place and build another one.  It seems more often than not a way to keep from having to work.  But I could paint anywhere.  I made big paintings in the tiniest bedrooms, garages, you name it.  You know, once I have my back to the room, I could be anywhere.  I could care less.” (from his interview with Joe Fig, Inside the Painter’s Studio)


The Artist and the Studio

December 11, 2013

Artist Susanna Bluhm with one of her huge paintings, Inscape Arts, Seattle

Artist Susanna Bluhm with one of her huge paintings, Inscape Arts, Seattle

Inscape Arts is an enclave of artists and their studios housed in an old historic building in Seattle’s International District.  On Sunday, more than 50 artists opened their studios, and it was a privilege to sneak peeks at their work spaces and an inspiration to see their varied and colorful work.

Artist studio


Artist studio


Studio in Inscape Buidling




Making art is difficult.  Making a living at making art is even more difficult.

“Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward.”
—  David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear:  Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making

It was heartening to see the Inscape artists working in such a convivial atmosphere.  The studios and their inhabitants form a community of kindred spirits, one where art making is valued, and their efforts are validated.  This coming together seems like a workable strategy to keep the loneliness of the artist at bay.

“Artists come together in the clear knowledge that when all is said and done, they will return to their studio and practice their art alone.”
—  David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear:  Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making

Poppy III by Alisha Dall'Osto (Inscape Open Studios)

Poppy III by Alisha Dall’Osto (Inscape Open Studios)

Jen Mills, cups with dimples

Jen Mills, cups with dimples

Alicia Tormey, encaustic paintings

Alicia Tormey, encaustic paintings

Chris Sheridan's studio

Chris Sheridan’s studio

Chris Sheridan portrait (with the model, too)

Chris Sheridan portrait (with the model, too)