Show Rituals & Routines: Part 1

Since no one raised any objections to all my chit-chat about show preparation, I'll just stay the course and continue onward with part one of a two-part post on the rituals I follow for each show. Today it's a brief overview of how I work each day.

Before I start serious work on pieces for my shows, my studio table gets a fresh covering of butcher paper. The table itself is a vintage schoolhouse table with folding sides that I found years ago at a thrift store (it came complete with bubblegum underneath!) It is a very dark, unappealing brown so I cover it with white paper. Lighting is the biggest downside of my studio space so the white paper helps lighten up the area and it provides me a better surface for judging colors. Butcher paper, even when shiny side up, isn't totally water-resistant so in the area where I actually sit & work, I top the butcher paper with a layer of clear contact paper. This makes that space easy to clean up and helps the butcher paper last longer. Cat-wrangling is necessary in my space as well; my calico girl Tuscany is pretty independent but my beloved Marley Bear likes to stay in my orbit for most of the day. He has a box that sits on a corner of the table so he has a place to snooze while I work. When I need a bit of a pick-me-up, I merely need to lean over and scrunch my hands through all the fabulously soft white fur of his substantial belly.

When I sit down to paint, I always have a specific set of objects at hand: my X-Files coffee cup with coffee, my favorite palettes, and my favorite water bowls. A few years back, I began using old Pyrex dishes and a pretty handmade ceramic bowl as my primary paint water dishes. I'm not entirely sure why I prefer these to plastic tubs or recycled jars but I do. This year, the brushes I use the most are in front of me in a handmade ceramic tumbler I also found at a thrift store. I guess I like the sturdiness and homespun quality of these objects.

I used to have a specific shirt that I painted in...a X-Files shirt I acquired back in the 90s when the show first debuted. I used that until it literally fell apart; I have it tucked away somewhere because I couldn't bear to throw it out. (I might need find it and use it for clean-up rags.) Anyway, now I have decent, (generally) paint-free things I wear to work and "painting shirts" which is to say, everything else. I use a lot of baby wipes to clean up messes on surfaces but when cleaning my hands, I typically just wipe them on whatever I'm wearing. I'm not a big fan of aprons so if company shows up unexpectedly, they get what they get. Most anyone I know that might show up knows I'm an artist and so no one is all that shocked by my paint-smeared appearance when I'm in "studio mode."

When I'm working, I typically have science fiction movies and shows playing in the background. Last summer's work on the "Sparks of Madness" show was completed while listening to the first four seasons of The X-Files. (You might be sensing a trend by now.) Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Aliens, The Fifth Element, the original Star Wars trilogy: those are all good too...anything I've seen a hundred times and don't need to actually watch to know what's going on. In the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with old time radio mystery shows as background noise but it is a bit distracting; I get caught up in the story and my focus shifts away from the work in front of me. When my awful neighbors are away (which isn't often enough,) I prefer the quiet, listening and painting to the natural sounds that emanate from the protected wildlife area that borders my apartment complex.

Another important component of my daily rituals is that I clean up my space completely at the end of every day. If I have a specific set of paint colors that I'm working with, I'll set those aside but otherwise, everything gets put cleaned up and put back where it belongs. Paintings dry overnight on the kitchen countertop. I like to start every day fresh and find that if I ended the night frustrated with some element of the painting I'm working on, a clean studio puts me in the right frame of mind for tackling that issue anew. In addition, if I don't clean up my space, the cats will play hockey with my supplies all night long and in the morning, I'll have to look under every piece of furniture in the room to retrieve my belongings.

On Wednesday, I'll post about the various routines I follow while in the midst of show production and what I do as I approach the date of installation. When I get closer to that event, I'll blog a bit about hanging a show and all the things you do to move the work from the studio out into the world. In between, it will be posts about the work I'm completing as well as posts on other random art stuff that takes place this summer.


Thanks for sharing. That was helpful,!
Anonymous said…
This is why I love to read your posts. I put Harry Potter or Star Wars (the original) or French Cafe Music. I have no idea why on that one. I should write a comment every time you write, but I don't. Good luck with your summer work--but remember to rest and relax too. Can't wait to see the outcome for your show.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing more of your process - and the importance of The X Files in that process! (: Great reading how you create a working space, cats and all. (Marley Bear is beautiful!!!)