Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hey, Van Gogh Had His Hang-Ups Too!

"Only the half-mad are wholly alive."
Edward Abbey

Just for fun, I thought I'd pop in today and confess some insider information about my studio habits. Every artist has his or her own superstitions, complusions, & procedures; I am no different. So here, in no particular order, are a few of my personal quirks:

1) I must create to the "sweet sounds" of a sci-fi or horror movie. Some people work to Bach or birdsong...I work to the squeals, roars, and chomping of zombies, vampires, nasty extraterrestials and the screams of the poor doomed humans in the path of such monsters. Aliens, Dawn of the Dead and The Cave are currently on the DVD loop. I don't watch just any old movie; I do prefer something of some quality, or at least something I find interesting. If the movie is lame, then I waste precious energy lamenting the stupid director and cheap special effects. If there isn't suitable creative fodder on the Sci-Fi Channel (and I am trying to resist this peculiar compulsion), I will literally wander back and forth in the studio, putz around and generally get nothing done. I'll sit and stare blankly at the current project before me, completely uninspired. I'll often complain aloud about not being able to get to work. Finally, my son will say "Oh, put in the movie already, Mom!" And so, I pop one of the flicks I've watched perhaps a hundred times, sigh, and settle in. I don't actually watch the movie...it just becomes white noise of sorts (although I will often recite the oft-heard dialogue.) I focus almost instantly. Action/adventure films sometimes will also do the trick...dramas are not allowed in the workspace because instead of art-making, I'll settle in on the couch to watch the movie...and comedies or love stories? Forget about it! Ick! Now there's something that sucks the inspiration right out of me!

2) I have an art-making "uniform." I work in flannel pants of some sort and whenever it's clean, a ratty old X-Files T-shirt. It has long since passed the point of being suitable in public and if someone comes to the door unexpectedly, I hurriedly grab a sweatshirt. But again, this ritual helps me focus. I dread the day when my beloved T-shirt falls to pieces. Whatever will I do then??

3) I swatch out every single supply in my studio...and I do mean everything. I keep a little journal just for this purpose and in it, I put a little sample of every pencil, marker, paint, rubber stamp, glitter, embossing powder, pastel, crayon and so forth. I used to swatch my papers, brads, and eyelets as well, but those collections now verge on the ridiculous and I managed to draw the line somewhere. This system allows me to see each product as it will actually appear on paper and helps me coordinate colors. Sometimes when I have creative block, I will simply sit and swatch until my brain gets moving again.

4) I love having a cup of coffee at hand when I work but I have a bad habit of leaving it in the middle of my mess and it is quite common for me to wash my brush in my coffee or drink my paint water. (Perhaps this explains the first three items on this list.)
5) Because I have had to adapt around my fickle hands, I set up "stations" around the house and work 15 to 20 minutes at a time at each station. For example, I might be painting at the main studio table but I'll also have Photoshop open for scanning artwork on the computer, canvases ready to be sprayed downstairs in my second studio space, the sewing machine set up on the kitchen table and so forth. Each station requires a different sort of hand movement or stressor and when my hands cramp up doing one thing, I can switch tasks and keep going. My son calls it "extreme multi-tasking." I still have to take breaks all throughout the day for contrast baths, finger stretching, and resting, but this system is the only way I get anything done at all.
6) Finally, I clean up my workspace completely at the end of every day, even if I'm in the middle of a project. I might leave out a set of colors I'm using but other than that, I make my work table shiny clean and completely free of clutter at the end of every day. I hate starting the morning in chaos and since I am a creature of ritual, I have to have all my tools back in place when I begin again. Otherwise, I will reach for something automatically, fuss when I can't find it, and waste hours looking for it when the desired tool is sitting right in front of me.


Zanna said...

Good for people to know.

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