Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's not about the studio


I set up an impromptu studio in the kitchen
this evening while Steven made dinner to work on painting
the beautiful flowers Heather brought me on Saturday,
before they lose their lustre.

I've learned a lot in the past few years by
reading blogs from artists around the world,
and it seems that what matters is keeping going.
I remember having a painting teacher -- slightly
arrogant -- not quite right for the adult me, but
right in one bit of advice. He said as soon as you
paint 52 paintings a year you'll see your paintings
improve.

Here's the gorgeous garden bouquet in situ.
My family kindly decided to eat out in the heat on the
back porch so it could continue to
occupy Sam's place at the table.

I used to think that number was overwhelming.
Enter the daily painters. I can't manage to paint
every single day of the year, and no longer even
think that's a good idea. It seems a little manic,
and may make hanging out with friends and family,
seeing concerts, visiting galleries and even travelling
problematic. All of those pleasures matter big time
to me. But...the discipline of painting nearly every
day absolutely changes not only your paintings,
but your entire life! Add to that the absolute joy of
witnessing the work, and methods of painters in
every part of the planet -- and that joy multiplies
exponentially.

I recently saw an art magazine with pictures of
impressive studios of painters all over the world.
I'd love to have more space, better light, a stable
giant easel, lush carpets -- even assistants running
around sorting my paints, and making me coffee.
But in real life I've painted in the kitchen, on the
back porch, and for the most part in my tiny, cramped,
not impressive, but cheerful studio. And I've been to many
artists' houses with spectacular studios, designed
especially for them -- the whole top of a house with
skylights, or a building on their property built
especially for the artist with special built in paint trays,
and elegant lighting. Yet these people in proud possession
of magnificent work space didn't so much as draw in a
sketchbook. The studios couldn't make them create.


My sweet cat Timbah sat down on my chair
every time I got up to wash my brushes, or
change the water. He is an avid fan of my
work. And I am just his avid fan. (By
the way in Toronto we could use more
fans period. We're in an officially declared
heat wave.)

I don't have a number figure in my mind for how many
paintings make an artist -- after all Vermeer who so many
artists now revere, and even seek to replicate, created
very few paintings in his whole lifetime, but I do know
a beautiful studio won't make you an artist, but (almost)
daily practice, makes the entire job easier.

Have a loving-whatever-studio-you-work-in day.

12 comments:

painterchum said...

hey there Barbara. so right about it not being the space that defines the artist! creation happens anywhere and everywhere. It doesn't always fit into a daily routine for some of us..nor should we feel it has to. Setting each of our own artist's rhythm is important. it develops authenticity in our voice.

Linda Popple said...

Good words to hear. Art comes from within and the place has little to do with it. Painting as much as one can to put those miles of canvas behind us is the only way to improve. I agree that it has to be done at the pace that the artist desires. For me, blogging has provided a discipline and structure (among MANY other positive things) that I have needed to improve my paintings. Just as this post from you has begun my day with positive thoughts. Well done!

Pam Holnback said...

I work in what was once the dining room. It's convenient, good sized, the least used room in the house (before, anyway). Now it's used everyday. Or, almost everyday. I love the discipline i give myself as a daily painter and the encouragement and companionship I receive from others who read my blog.

Virginia Floyd said...

What a great post. I read lots of blogs, and people paint in kitchens, dining room, spare rooms, and corners of rooms. One of my instructors said that it's "miles on the brush" that improves one's painting. I've always liked that slightly poetic description.

eldon said...

Wow! If I had to have a fancy place to paint before I could be an artist I'd be way out of luck. I imagine most of us have studios that are somewhat less than what we see in the mags or hear of. My place is OK. Some decent light and a little room to pace are all I need.

Liza Hirst said...

I wholeheartedly agree, Barbara!
I used to have a huge, wonderful studio until not too long ago and am now painting in the corner of a room cramped with cardboard boxes and stored furntiture. While painting I forget where I am, it doesn't really make any difference! And when I want to paint on a larger scale, I am sure I will somehow squeeze that into the corner as well...
Your house looks so nice!!

Barbara M. said...

Hi Sally,

It's true, but sometimes I'd love to have a giant space so I could make huge paintings 20' x 6'. Now that would be fun. Super work you've been doing. I'm so glad you got a holiday.

Take care,

Barbara

Barbara M. said...

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your sweet and thoughtful comment. Miles of canvas. Now that got me excited. I am imagining a kind of combination of Cristo and Monet. Miles of waterlilies, or fields of poppies. Someone the other day was saying it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. That's 7 years. So if we put the hours and miles together we've got a massive long-term project.

Great to start the day in a positive light. I'm glad if I can help with that. Then even if the day gets frustrating you can bounce back to that original feeling. Thank you for making me feel wonderful every time you visit, and for your superb imagination.

Take care,

Barbara

Barbara M. said...

Hi Pam,

I'm in the dining room too! That probably means you have to clean up big time when you're having a party or special dinner. I do.

Thanks so much for your encouragement and incite. It means a lot to me.

Take care,

Barbara

Barbara M. said...

Hi Virginia,

Thanks so much. Miles on the brush is a cool idea. It made me think of these activists who painted out road markings and changed them into flowers and other artistic symbols.
I read about that recently but can't find the article to tell you where it happened.

Take care,

Barbara

Barbara M. said...

Hi Eldon,

I could sure use more light, but I love your pacing comment. Yes, pace and pace and pace, then put on some music and dance to stop the pacing. That's my answer. I need a little room to dance in.

Take care,

Barbara

Barbara M. said...

Hi Liza,

I'm sorry I never got to visit that big beauty, but what amazing work you're turning out from the small studio too. So clearly it isn't space
that matters in your wonderful work. I am blown away with awe at your superb work. It is in my mind all the time.

xoxoxoxoxoxoBarbara

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!