painting as work and play/the dichotomy of the studio

Originally published on 12/23/2008.

20062641819191On painting…

You must have music which is entirely familiar to you playing. Any new thoughts or sounds may intrude upon your own particular vision, worming their way in, showing themselves. You want to have something so familiar that even the unconcsious ignores it. Something with beat that you can waggle the brush to. Something that makes you dance at your work.

You must have no unfamiliar or new scents in the studio. Only the familiar, the comfortable, the usual. Turpentine, coffee, tea. The things that your mind sees as backdrop, not as important, nothing that your mind must process or worry over. Nothing to bring up memories, which will also invade the vision. The mind as blank screen. No alarm bells, either for good or bad.


You must have no guests who will interrupt. It is also good to not be completely alone. The best situation is that there is someone else, who you are not concerned about, sitting in another room doing something quietly…or that they are working on their own bizness near to you but not directly in view. This is why the studio is not a place to be hidden but one to be shared. The energy of work will surround everyone in it spath until the work becomes singular for each participant.dsc_0696-2

Nobody should interrupt you at your work. Guests who insist on conversation or who need your reassurance about their progress are to be discouraged, and then finally b& from the workspace. Only harmonious and familiar influences are of any use in the studio.

A light meal which is familiar and somewhat bland, eaten before work, is encouraging to the soul, and will cause no distress or distraction. Spicy or unfamiliar foods give the mind and body some other point of focus, and make work difficult.

The hardest thing about working is clearing the mind of emotional content which might destroy a foundling creation. Feeling bitter, critical, editorial, angry, or depressed will not help. These emotions are best saved for the following day, when at the end of your work you can look at what was done and dried the day before and add final touches, repairs, and second thoughts to the piece. In the moment it’s best to just trust the mind’s eye to do its work unmanaged. The least edited visions are the strongest.

There should be nothing between you and the work. The hand and the mind should be allowed and encouraged to roam within it without any outside mess to pull it away. If the studio is usually a mess you may find that the day it is cleaned, the visions will not come. Like rats, they fear the unfamiliar, the new, since change often means a trap or poison, or something threatening to them.

Misty visions do not respond well to change.


Also if you can, carry your dreams (night and day) in a satchel you’ve placed in the side of your mind. As you work, these are the best fodder, the kindest gift you can give your work. Nightmares included, as the content may be frightening to you but is always potent and restless.

Art comes from the canvas, from the blank page. You do not impose your will on the paper. The paper speaks through you, using your hands and mind as its tool. Don’t interrupt; even if you like me are the type of person who does this in conversation, remember that the paper speaks until interrupted and then goes silent, sometimes for days or weeks. Interruptions are an insult to the page. Let the paper speak through you. There is no harm in this.


If you find yourself distracted, place the distraction on the page. Illustrate them. When waiting for a phone call paint the wires bringing the voice to you. When thinking about your grocery list, paint the apples you crave. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all the paper will say are things sacred and profound. The mundane has its own profundity and speaks sometimes in a voice we mistake for our own. Paint everything you hear, draw each bit of the thoughts that pass through. Waste paper. Draw too much and too badly. Not all conversation is proper english. Visual slang should be welcomed and used as spice.


This is how to work. Work becomes a joy, a treat, a vacation. Nothing obtrusive or painful. even nightmares become a part of this conversation. The mind floats. It’s not quite meditation, but it’s the best feeling in the world.

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