Every artist has a method to their madness when it comes to working in the studio space they keep. Some are very Virgo and orderly in their tendencies. They have their tools and supplies neatly lined-up in rows – even with labels. Some of us are the other kind, myself included, who work in a haphazard manner with stuff all over the place.
They say a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. Right? Well, that was my excuse at the time.
Making art is high priority and tidying up is boring dross, at least I used to think so. But the reality is that clutter actually hinders the process of art and its bad Feng Shui, if you go for that sort of thing.
Mess, when viewed out of the corner of the eye, is an unsightly distraction and wasting time digging around searching for an item interrupts the flow of creativity. The ugly truth of it is: disorganization is an impediment, it throws a wrench in the works while the artist in the midst of creation.
A bad weather day came and I decided I needed to do a long overdue task, some Spring cleaning we’ll say. I went to the studio with a big coffee in hand, put some music on and got down to it.
The hardest part was getting started, it was all too much – a tornado of bits and pieces, but if you tackle it in chunks it becomes a methodical step-by step process. Large, medium and small things: Completed paintings, blank canvases, framing tools, paints, art supplies, rags, stools – everything was hauled out, organized and put back in order.
When I sorted out the piles, I was ruthless in discarding and donating useless items; things I had hung onto with good intentions meaning to someday use, but never did. I soaked, revived and cleaned up old brushes that were hard with paint. I chucked out dried up mediums and worn out blades. I sat on the floor and cut up a pile of old t-shirts into rags and stuffed them into a cloth bag that hung off the back of my easel. I wiped down the window sill and lined up old orchid pots each stacked upright with brushes, pens and palette knives – all looking like strange flowers. (I’m posting some after shots, because the before scene was just too damn embarrassing.)
When the work was done, I had generated a cohesive inventory, a jackpot in many dollars of art supplies magically appearing out of drawers, bins and shopping bags. Some of which were doubles… yup.
The other bonus was that – in the act of all this – sorting, cleaning and handling of items: the urge to paint strikes me, like a lightning bolt from a dark cloud.
The unfinished canvases and panels sitting around on easels all started talking to me at once (like if you’re a writer – your characters talk to you – you get this). Several different ideas flooded in: I see the problem now, I’ve got to fix the sky on that one, this one needs varnish and a black frame and that one is telling me what it needs in order to be finished.
I can’t argue with the muse – she has just been released from her prison of chaos. So, I turn on the full spectrum light over my pallet and start squishing paint – and holler for another coffee…