Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting "Into" Your Studio




Wet Studio Ready for Action

What does it take for you to get into your studio. Of course what I'm talking about is the process you develop for settling your mind and focusing on your work. After many years of working in the studio most artist do find that they have certain things they do either consciously or unconsciously which allows them to push the clutter of day-to-day life aside and begin their work.

Creativity is a tricky thing. Good ideas often seem to just pop into your head but I believe they "pop in" because you are never mentally far away from your work. However, sometimes the ideas just aren't flowing or you have some issue in a piece that you are having a problem with so you can't just head to the studio and start work. This is a time you may require what Twyla Tharp calls the creative habit. Tharp applies this phrase to many parts of creative endeavor but here I'm just talking about what you need to do to release the outside world and get to the work at hand.

For myself, I find I have to have some sort of order in my studio. I am a casual housekeeper. I don't run around picking things up and dusting and doing whatever good housekeepers do but there is a certain level of order I require for living and for working in my studio. I have to have some clear table space. I have to be able to walk around the room freely without tripping over a pile of fabric. I have to be able to believe I can find a pair of scissors without much effort. When I start to realize things are getting too far out of control, then I stop and take the time to put things back in order.



Quilting Room Nice and Orderly

What else do I do? I check my email. I sometimes have a cup of tea and sit in the space and look at whatever I have on my design wall, be it a piece in process or some scrap of paper I have put there that interest me. I may flip through a book, a magazine or an old sketchbook. I might do some thumbnail sketches or sort fabric. Recently I have started playing a lot of music which has been a joy. For years I have worked in silence and I do enjoy silence, but music has entered my head and it has become an element in finding that blessed zone where I can work on my art.

Sometimes, toward the end of a piece when I can see that it is coming together, I can't take time to straighten things up. I keep working until the piece is finished. But before something new can begin I have to clear the decks.

If you have never considered what you do to get your creativity in gear, I encourage you to observe yourself and practice building habits which will strengthen your studio experience and the resulting work.

Thank you for spending time with me and your comments are always welcome.

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your habits for getting into the studio. Like you, I need a clear workspace to start a new project. Once I'm going the studio can be a mess, but the beginning of each day is easier if the table is clear. Another thing that helps me is to pick a small new project. It's easier to get over my resistance if it's a 15 minute project. Most of the time, it turns into a longer session. By the way, I love "Passion" in your sidebar. Wow!

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  2. Terry good post, and one that clings and never really goes away. I've been working in my studio(s) for over 30 years and getting "in" the work mode is an ongoing and changing process. Back when I was single I would go to the studio in the morning, take my lunch, stay all day, and I often work into the evening if I wished. I would walk out leaving things in progress and return the next day to pick up where I left off. Boy, what a carefree time in my life. Of course things changed and your followers can get some of those details from the interview you did with me back in July. One thing I remember that stuck with me from grad school is from my major professor Phillip Mullen. Phillip was a very prolific artist with good skills in self-discipline. He would tell students to “start your day in the studio. Have your morning coffee, and brush your there. If you are not ready to “make” art, do something else, but get into the studio and keep busy.” This seems small, but it has significance. What I took away from Phil’s philosophy was “being in the studio” and getting the feel of the space, the objects, and your inspirational items. I often start by straightening and organizing. Because school and family duties typically consume my week days, when I get in the studio it is to pack, unpack, label work, or some similar busy work. Consequentially over several days or weeks things pile up and I can’t even see the tops of the work tables. That is what has happened in the last few weeks with school at a peak as we are closing in on the end of the semester. So, I spent this past Friday reorganizing, sorting and throwing out spent items in anticipation of the end of school and the reality of actually getting back to work in the studio making art. I still have this week of classes and a week of exams but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is getting bigger.
    Jane

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  3. Jane, Thank you for sharing this very important insight into what is involved in the ongoing life of an artist. Making art over many years/lifetime demonstrates a type of dedication that comes straight from the heart.

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  4. Shayla, I love your ideas of breaking through into your work by working on something small. I had never worked small until last year when I made weekly small constructions but doing a small piece to get the ideas flowing (something that might be completed in less than an hour) is a great idea. Thank you for commenting.

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  5. Your side bar art is fabulous Terry! Like Shayla, I love the piece Passion, and congratulations on Amulets. Both well named I think.
    It's been so long since I have "had" my studio, I don't know how I'll approach it once its completed. Usually just picking things up and making the work surface tidy will get me started. Great post!

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  6. The photo's of your studio and quilting room are wonderful. and yes exactly what you write about your work is always there. it might be in the back of your head.. but that is still pritty close.

    What surprises me lately is that the things which made it easier for me to work concentrated, or start a big project, the cleaning and organizing my materials, music, (the old favorits, mostly Runrig),no pressure or disturbance, sometimes seems to become a 'must'. but most times I just try working, the physical part, on a schedule.

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  7. Thank you Leslie and Elisvermeulen. It does seem that certain 'rituals' allow us the mental space that is required to work and it is important that we know what these things are. As to not having a studio.....may the gods, muses and spirits rush to you and support you until you once again have Your Space.

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  8. Excellent post. I am the same. When the piles get out of hand I can't create. Cleaning/straightening/organizing is the best way that I have to refocus myself.

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  9. I can't have a sink of dirty dishes, laundry or other visible things waiting on me. I like to get those things out of the way early in the morning, figure what I am cooking for supper and defrost if necessary, then I can devote a chunk of time to creating. I try and save the hand work for the evening when my man and I are settled in. It is becoming more challenging since the weather is warmer and the days are getting longer and I have to factor being outside into part of the day.

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  10. Thanks for commenting Vicki! My house can be a mess but my studio has to be nice!

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  11. Hi Peg, It is always a challenge, figuring out how to fit everything into our lives. There was a time that I had a beautiful garden. Now it is a weed patch getting worse all the time. I hate that it's like that but I can only do so many things and I have gotten good at not seeing that part of the yard:) Thanks for commenting.

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  12. My 9 to 6 job structures my day so I've developed habits to get daily creative time.

    My studio is in the basement rec room – a dark wood paneled room that could use a thousand watts of light. The ritual of descending the stairs each night, turning on a few lights and the tv (my timekeeper) prepares me for the creative cave. Focus on weekends, except at night, are actually more difficult because of distracting garden views.

    More than casual about housekeeping, I keep at it as long as I can still get a few square feet of clear table space and can still manipulate my way around the studio. Cleanup can always wait for the inevitable creative impasse or the completion of a project.

    After a project, re-organization tends to go hand in hand with cleanup. This may consume a few days but it is worthwhile time and effort for regeneration and transition onto the next project.

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  13. Terry inspiring post.My problem getting into the studio seems to be connected to the fact ,that I live for about 9 month in the north of Sweden above the Polar Circle where it is a very cold climate and in the same time I work as a Physian. It is a huge place with few people, great nature and no museums etc. In May I move to the South of Sweden, I am off my work and the climate is relatively warm and there are cultural things going on the whole time and of course I have to meet all my friends from before.
    I realized that I had a difficulty to mentaly get to work in my Studio in the South and to close out a bit all the new things that were drawing my attention. I partly solved it by renting a place in a basement with small wimdows and no heating 3 minutes away from my summer house. It sounds crazy but it helped me. Since then I go there every morning since it is the only place that is not hot and where I can cut off everything that is distracting me. I learnt how I function.

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  14. Thank you Gunilla and Elena for sharing your stories. It IS difficult to keep your hand/head in an art studio when you work FULL time. There are so many wonderful things in life to be involved in and they all call to you. Congratulations to both of you for understanding your desire to make art and figuring out how to do that. Gunilla, you might be interested in looking at the work of Eleanor McCain. She is a practicing physician and an extremely productive artist.

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  15. Terry, great post and an important question, I feel.

    Clean. Clean. Clean. That’s what I need to get me into the studio. I wouldn’t say I’m a neat freak, and once I start a project I don’t usually put away any elements of it up until it’s completed, but in general, I really can’t feel inspired to work if my space is a disaster.

    The rhythm of stepping through the studio door every morning, looking around to see what’s needed for the day, and launching right in with a quick organization of materials feels very natural to me, now, and is a highly satisfying way to begin my day. If I get too many projects going at once, and all my spaces wind up heavily cluttered, it’s a buzzkill and I then find it difficult to get in there and create.

    I also need rest, a clear head, and LOTS of exposure to nature. I can’t work if my mind is whirling with stress or family issues or worry, etc, or if I’m feeling droopy and exhausted. When I can’t seem to settle myself enough to really focus on what I’m doing, I step into the back yard, snag a lawn chair, and spend thirty minutes watching and photographing my surroundings. It works like a charm. I can get back into the studio feeling centered, inspired and rested.

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  16. Thank you Judi. It is so interesting how much the issue of a clean uncluttered space is mentioned. I think many people may not connect that with creativity but I believe order helps create structure and a certain amount of positive structure is freeing. I know people who have very cluttered work spaces but I'm with you. Nature is also a nurturing environment and isn't it great that it's just outside your door. We are blessed.

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  17. Hi Terry, I would so love to be clean and uncluttered...even more it wouldbe great if by will power I could just push out the walls of my sewing room and create More Space!!!
    However i think the important thing is to work and not get distracted by all the many possible displacement activities!!! So I work by rewarding myself with another activity if I've done "enough" work!!! getting it clean and uncluttered just aint possible, but telling myself you work girl till you've done something and then you get to play scrabble...well that might just cut it!!!
    but now!! I'm at the Beach!!!

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  18. Thanks for this post, Terry. I find puttering and straightening up until something strikes me are the ways that I get into it. Either that or I page through my notebook or my magazine clippings that I have torn out because something about them interested me. Striking that spark can be challenging when there are so many other distractions in life, but the process continues as long as life goes on.

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  19. Thank you Elizabeth and Nancy for your comments. I wonder if men like tidy studios or is this a girl thing. Life distractions is a big one...a friend calls it the "laundry of life" and I do hate doing laundry.

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  20. SO nice to hear how others get in the MOOD for creating. I have a very hard time turning off the brain when I get into a good flow of creative juice...my studio usually starts off clean in the am and will be a disaster by afternoon... Working on 3-4 projects at a time, depending on what is floating my boat... Work on one, think about another... bop back and forth... that's they way I prefer, but one thing, my Fabric is always neatly folded, or else I can't find what i need at my finger tips..

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  21. Thank you Victoria! Having the ability to move from one piece to another is a great skill and having your materials organized so that you can actually use them is one of the elements that supports your being able to balance many ideas at once. Love hearing from you.

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