While I have been diving into creative pursuits such as growing vegetables in the community garden, cooking with local sustainable food from the garden and farmer’s market and fermentation experiments in the kitchen, my artistic impulse has sat dormant in an untouched corner of my apartment. Literally. The last space in my apartment to be organized is my art space. There are still boxes and plastic bins piled up in the corner behind the flat files that have not been moved or opened in the past seven months. I’m not sure what to call it. “Studio” seems a bit ostentatious for the corner of what is supposed to be my dining room that is now devoted not only to art, but also to paperwork and bills. I obviously intend to make art here as I have sacrificed any notion of a dining room table in preference for eating at folding tables in the sunroom or living room or frequently just standing up at the kitchen counter. For someone as devoted to cooking as I am, it seems odd not to have a dedicated space to eat. Alas, my dreams of a custom-made countertop and comfortable bar stools to turn the flat files into a part-time dining room table came to a grinding halt when I realized that the divorce and the fallout thereof was going to cost a lot more than I originally thought. I’ve tabled any type of decorating budget in favor of making do with what I’ve already got. I’ll get there, eventually. But it is going to require a lot of ingenuity and next to no cash.
I have long since realized that in order for this to be a useful workspace, I am going to have to be realistic as to how many different projects I can fit. I’m working with less than a quarter of the raw square footage I had at the house. I’m also dealing with a lack of “messy” space. In the attic of my house, the floor was plywood in some parts and worn-out hardwood floor in others. I had access to a large utility sink and a basement for wet and/or messy projects. Paint, beeswax, honey, glue? NO problem. In the house, there was plenty of space to spread out the messy projects without the worry of ruining the nice parts of the house.
Here, not so much. I LOVE the herringbone wood floor throughout the apartment. I don’t want to be spilling encaustic paint or glue on it. Papermaking is wet and messy. Same with any kind of paints. Anything from the beehive, honey or wax, is messy. I am not one to keep such messes contained. I know there are artists who can do it…work with such materials and not spill…but I am not one of them. Most of the time it is painfully obvious what I am working with because I am wearing my materials under my fingernails, in my hair, on my clothes. The room I work in fares no better.
I’ve put off tackling this corner of my “dining room” because I must make difficult decisions about which of my “children” — I mean art tools– to keep and which to let go. Again. Because I already made a bunch of those hard decisions when I packed up and left the house seven months ago. But, it seems I didn’t cut deep enough and I still have way too much stuff. Which art supplies I keep and which I part with determines in no small part the direction of my art and what my next art show will look like (because I’ve decided to have faith that the next show IS happening in the not-too-distant future, and that I will figure out how to finance it). How often I get into a creative flow amid my busy and distracted life is largely determined by how efficient, organized and inviting my work space is. Of course I can pick up any and all art mediums again “someday” when I either have a larger home or can afford to rent a studio to work in, but realistically, given the financial constraints of going through a divorce, the next opportunity I have to do that will be at least a few years off (if I’m lucky and/or very smart).
So today, I am deciding what projects to take on for the next period of time until my life changes again. And then I am pitching everything that doesn’t support those projects.
I need to focus on smaller quantities of finished pieces and smaller project sizes, but more detail-oriented pieces. I want to go back and revisit the medical, scientific and botanical illustration styles I studied in college. I want to go back and look at the children’s stories I started writing several years ago with the plan of creating small-scale pen-and-ink illustrations to go with them. I want to create small miniature pieces that contain volumes of detail and draw the eye in to discover what is going on in a tiny, evolving universe. I may display these pieces with a magnifying glass. For that matter, I may need one to make them considering my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I want to show a secret world that is bigger on the inside. Aren’t we all bigger on the inside?