January 8, 2019

Pragmatic distances

There are two things I've learned over the years, from running my own business, working for non-profits, and painting in my studio.

  • One is, don't take things personally, and 

  • Two is, most answers to most dilemmas are found in the most practical details. It's usually staring you right in the face, though sometimes it's your own face that's in the way of seeing it, if that makes any sense.


Relating to my studio work, the practical details start with my work space. When I'm in the studio I'm having a physical relationship with my work and my environment. Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest differences and I have to laugh at myself for not realizing it sooner.

How I go about the physical act of painting is so important to my work. Like the distance between me and the canvas while I paint. I have had days where nothing was working and all of a sudden I realized I was standing too far away from the canvas. Even six inches too far made a huge difference. I'm interacting with my paintings as if I were swimming around inside them almost. So anything that disconnects me is a distraction. For example, I spent years wearing rubber gloves while I painted. In the summer I'd be sweating and have to change them every hour, in the winter they'd get stiff and tear. Without them I'm so much happier. I'm able to literally feel the paint, and that adds a great deal to my relationship with the work.

Stolen burnisher is second from the right. Second from the left is an antique wooden handle screwdriver that belonged to my grandfather.

Other practical details include the tools I use. I've grown a serious attachment to some unlikely utensils, like toothbrushes and old screw drivers. For unknown reasons, back in (I think) 1992, I stole a burnishing tool from my printmaking class. Don't ask me what I thought I was going to use it for. It's been floating around every studio I've had, at the bottom of every pile of things I never look at, all these years. Until recently. I don't know what made me finally start using it, but it scrapes off paint like nobody's business and I can honestly say it's my favorite thing right now!

Speaking of utensils, there's a giant icing spatula (aka palette knife) I've been eyeing at the fancy kitchen shop on Main Street for a while. It could seriously be the next best thing...

It's good to get older because you do get wiser after all. I'm learning a little more each day what works for me, and that tiny changes can often make huge strides.



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