My fab studio life: two studios

Right now, I’m obsessed.  I haven’t been in the studio for days and I miss it, a lot, but right now, my energy is in the other studio: the garden.

Delicata Squash--super early in the garden!

Delicata Squash–super early in the garden!

A long, long time ago, when I was in grad school studying literature (which I brilliantly deduced was far more marketable than art, my first field of study), I lived in a small house with my partner on the east side of Capitol Hill here in Seattle.  These were the days before unregulated greed and the landlord, more than money, wanted renters who would love the place…especially the massive garden he’d put in.  Complete with greenhouse, if you can believe. I said, Yes, yes, yes.

Toms and Basil in the desk nursery

Toms and Basil in the desk nursery

So, while studying for doctoral exams and the like, I found myself more and more in the garden, learning how to grow vegetables, all kinda veggies. So beautiful it all seemed that soon I was painting small studies: peas, tomatoes, squash–flowers and leaves and fruit.  I was swoonishly in love with the amazing process by which a seed is planted and this miracle happens.  I was completely captivated.  Far more than studying, alas. And I felt healthier in the garden. I smoked back then, a LOT. And it didn’t escape my attention that I never had the urge to smoke while in the garden, but smoked like a chimney while studying.

Snappy little snow peas

Snappy little snow peas

Anyway, I wish I had those watercolor studies now, as I recall they were pretty good. I did them as a way to express the experience of the garden that just made my heart thump with happy–and as I recall, that happy showed through.

Well, so here I am again, different garden, same level of ecstasy, maybe more since I’ve taken this garden from winter plan to spring realization, full throttle, no grad studies to distract me. I’m not yet doing watercolors, though I did last season and probably will this season. But for now, I’m a just a flat out goon for what’s happening in the garden, the other studio.  This can’t be bad, right?

lettuce n leeks and a few red kales

lettuce n leeks and a few red kales

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My fab studio life: an unexpected assist

I like Facebook these days. Their brilliant algorithms are increasingly complex, their advertisers more and more subtle in their campaigns. The upshot (and upside) is that Facebook feels more and more like that awkward thing at a party: you’re talking to a friend and this person you don’t know and comes up and sort of inserts themselves into your conversation, mouthing words that are vaguely relevant to what you WERE talking about before you were interrupted, and then before you know it, both you and your friend are drifting off in another direction. Like that.

So, why do I like it. Because it’s helped me kick it to the curb for large chunks of time. This is good. The actual amount of focused, concentrated time in my days is increasing.

I’ll be doing a couple of workshops in the next few months which also helps to focus my time in the studio. All good, all good.

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my fab studio life: busy bee!

So, really, bees are astonishingly busy.  Short lives, just six weeks, packed with construction, cleaning, tending, disinfecting, processing, yadda yadda.  Life in the hive. They only actually do the thing we see, flowers and foraging, in the last few days of their lives.

I could go on.  But I’ll stop. For now.  Bees will figure prominently in my future, however, and so you can expect evolving levels of obsessiveness in this first year of beelandia. It’s already started…beekeeping workshops, hive setup in the garden, getting things ready for the girls come April, lots and lots to do.  Bees, garden…it’s all coming together and I’m psyched.

i think there's a bee in here somewhere

i think there’s a bee in here somewhere

Alas, I stepped in my studio today and felt like a tourist. But I stayed a couple hours and only once was pulled back to hive tweaking and fiddling…damn embarrassing to see just how truly distractable one is. But I stayed, worked in my sketchbook, toyed around, and bottom line: determined to get back in the groove.  Gotta.  Cuz when it’s rainy and gray like this, only one thing gets my mind back in a healthy place and that’s making art.

And in fact, at the end of the day today, I feel a lot better about the world.  It really doesn’t take a lot.  Basically you just gotta show up.

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My fab studio life: well…um, sorta.

Image

this is your reptilian brain online.

I unplugged my modem today.  It was hard.  I actually felt a shiver of anxiety.  I mean, it’s one thing to have your internet service go down because the signal dies, the tower falls, the servers stop serving, whatever. It’s quite another thing to pull the plug out of the wall–not to reboot, but to forcibly go offline.

I can’t trust myself, you see. That’s what I’ve learned the last week and a half.  And my distraction level has gone way way up.  Course, it was freezing cold in the studio last week, so that was good.  I mean, bad, cuz then I just camped out on the couch…surfing.  And god knows why.  I’m convinced it’s unconscious at this point, that some part of my brain thinks something interesting and/or exciting is waiting just around the next click.  It’s not.  Honest.

Anyway, I’m so not the only one struggling with this. Here’s an article on a digital detox in the nytimes last week, and a quote that spoke to me, as it were:

“it is so much easier to spend the day” doing administrative busywork “than it is to leap off the cliff into the terrifying unknown of ‘artistic inspiration.’ ”  Taylor Ho Bynum, quoted in T. Wayne: 7 day digital diet

You may not consider being online as administrative busywork, but believe me, I can justify an online five minute three hour “break” faster and better than just about anyone I know.

So, onward. The modem lights are back to blinking and doing what they do and I’m back online at the end of a good day in the studio.  I felt concentrated, focused.  Not saying the work was brilliant, just that I was very present today.  Present with a side-car of anxiety, but hey.  I ain’t complaining.

Hours in studio: some.

hours online: someone’s at the door, i have to go now.

 

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My fabulous studio life: tune in

There was a point last week when I was so into what I was working on, that it took a lot to put it down for the day. Awesome. Good week.  Sure, Monday and Friday were rubbish–seems to be a pattern: slow to get in gear at the beginning of the week, sort of creatively pooped by the end of the week.  In the middle, though? pure gold. Can’t complain at all.

It's a three ring circus

It’s a three ring circus

I’m working on what I’ll cleverly call Project X which involves both visual and written components. It requires focus, a kind of focus that is really super duper impacted by being online.  On the other hand, when I first get to work, there’s this free-fall that is frankly uncomfortable. Ah, for the inane safety and focus of facebook– so easy, so consuming!  But I managed to get beyond it and all in all, last week was a good’n. So yay.

Here’s a quote I’ve been considering:

What I learned during my solo experience was that my thinking–my creativity and imagination–reached a new velocity as soon as I unplugged.  When you tune in to the moment, you begin to recognize the world around you and the true potential of your own mind.  –Scott Belsky

For the week, 20.5 good studio hours, not bad.

 

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My fab studio life: chip, chip, chip

Remember the SNL skits with Belushi as the greek short order cook with attitude: cheeburger, cheeburger, chip, no coke, pepsi.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past week cuz I’ve been chip, chip, chipping away at my schedule…as in slowly dismantling it.

C. Nevada, sketchbook page

C. Nevada, sketchbook page

It’s hard.  Or at least it is for me: not checking email, not checking FB, not being online first thing in the day.  And that resolution was tested when I got the bug everyone seems to have these days in Seattle.  I was just too sick to focus on much of anything….except facebook and email. Damn!

As anyone who has tried quitting or controlling anything at all knows, once you start chipping away, it feels like the jig is up, like you might as well just go ahead and do whatever it is you’re trying not to do. But I am undaunted: this week, I’m starting over, being all kind and what not with myself.  I’m here in the studio, and even online, but this journal counts as studio time, so it’s fair. I don’t have email or facebook, just this little post.

Some days this past week or so, I only did a page or two in my sketchbook.  Some days I read…reading counts.  I’ve got a lot of reading piled up, and while I enjoy it, I rarely give myself enough time for it.  What’s with that?  No, really, what’s the deal with giving myself time to slack on Facebook but reading?  Not so much.  I don’t get it, but I am getting familiar with it.

Anywho, a couple of thoughts from my reading this week; still pouring over the Manage Your Day to Day book mentioned in the last post. In discussing the problems with online distractions, the authors point to an experiment at Microsoft where working patterns were tracked for a two week period.  Not only did email significantly interrupt work and focus, those who frequently checked email

“also tended to use the break as a chance to cycle through a range of other applications, meaning another ten or fifteen minutes went by on average before they finally resumed their primary task.  Sometimes the diversion lasted hours.”

I sort of feel like they’ve got my number.

Studio time since last post:
Monday: 3
Tuesday: 1.5
Wednesday: 4 (!)
Thursday: 1.5
Friday: 2

12 hrs. t. Really, not terrible, and I did accomplish a few things…..

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My fabulous studio life: first coupla weeks 2014

I started out this year listening to an audio book that, well, I admit: set my brain on fire.  The book? Manage your day-to-day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, etc etc, by Jocelyn Glei.

Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn Glei

Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn Glei

At first, the book sat on the kitchen table unopened and certainly the object of derision on my part. I don’t much care for quick fix potions and come-ons, and the title of this book sort of suggested unleashed power and stuff so I’m like:  yeah, no.

But the issues the authors and contributors (and there are a lot of contributors which helps keep things interesting) were talking about went straight to the heart of my problems: hours, days, an entire creative life wasted online doing facebook, twitter, email, and the like. And the way these guys talked about it, they got it, they nailed it. They are especially hard on email, and as a result, I deleted over 35,000 emails last week (yes, that’s thousands) and unsubscribed from several dozen incoming irritations.  It felt great.

Also, I devised a new schedule for myself that includes not looking at the internet machine, not even for a minute, before noon.  One commentator suggested that many companies would do well to have IT turn email off between 8 and 11 daily, no joke.  I think they’re onto something.  Phone is still close at hand if anyone needs to reach me, and texting is fair game. But internet? banished before noon!

I have a book I read during coffee and breakfast, notes I’m taking.  I hit the studio by 8 in the morning and do a solid block of work of some sort. The rest of the day is flex, and there’s lots to do…and I’m getting stuff done. I’m totally excited.

My cabin at Centrum Foundation, Pt. Townsend

My cabin at Centrum Foundation, Pt. Townsend

This all started last autumn during a residential at Centrum in Port Townsend when I went offline for two weeks.  After the requisite initial three days of teeth-gnashing, I found the day offered up oodles (yes: oodles!) of time.  Prior to this, over the years, I’d become accustomed to thinking there was never, ever enough time for anything.  What I discovered was the contrary, and when I was forced to wonder how this could be so, the guilty party, Mr. Internet, didn’t have a word of defense.  Really, love: you gotta watch this guy like a hawk.

There are many factoids and studies in the book about attention deficit, focus issues, creative drain, etc., and I’ve been discovering since that experience last autumn that many of the issues I’ve been struggling with around studio work–writing, painting, teaching, etc–they all found their source in the messed up way I was approaching my day.  So 2014 is the year I get my life back, I think.  It’s been a while.

Full disclosure: I discovered this book in some article I found online in some extended link-hopping I could never hope to reconstruct. There’s a lot of great stuff online, you just gotta be careful, is all I’m saying.

Studio-Time metrics, I’m keeping metrics! (old habits die hard)

Week 1, Jan 2-3: 11 hrs
Week 2, Jan 6-10: 30 hrs!!
Week 3, Jan 13-14: 12 hrs.

Alas, now I have come down with this cold thing everyone has, so my studio days are offline for a moment. Anyway, Happy New Year, I think it’s going to be a good one!

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Ex-Libris: the blue of distance

The Blue of Distance, new work for Ex Libris show Feb 2014

The Blue of Distance, new work for Ex Libris show Feb 2014

Siolo Thompson is curating a show entitled Ex-Libris: 100 artists, 100 books for the Association of Writers & Publishers conference to be held in Seattle in February.  Needless to say, I love the idea for this show.

Each of the 100 participating artists chooses a book and re-imagines the book cover or imagines an illustration for a character, theme, idea in the book.   I chose one of my favorite books, from one of my top fave authors, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, and specifically the two chapters that deal with The Blue of Distance.  Here is a snippet from the book:

The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us.  It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance.  This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.

The show Ex-Libris: 100 Artists, 100 Books will open in February 2014, at Axis in Pioneer Square.  Stay tuned for more details and Happy New Year!

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Path with Art at Hugo House July 11

Path with Art, a program for people in all kinds of recovery, rebuilding their lives, learning to share and work together, is a profoundly creative organization. I’m part of it, and am constantly inspired by the peeps who make it happen–teachers, organizers, students, helpers.

For me, the Path in PwA refers to the one that is in the process of being built, with each new program and each new event. The opportunity for all of us to explore together the creative space we share as humans is truly awe inspiring.

There’s a new show happening on July 11th–if you haven’t been to one of these, trust me, you’ll want to make time for this. It’s at Hugo House on Cap Hill and will involve poetry, music, readings and a huge dose of creative energy.

Hope to see you there! (Let me know if you have questions)
Hugo House
1634 11th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 322-7030

PwA Summer Creative Writing & Performance Showcase
Thursday, July 11, 6-7:30pm

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Hard wired

Shameless self-promo alert–a nice article by Lisa Pollman on the Seattle Vine about my recent two shows, the last of which closes on the 29th. Read all about it here: Artist Taps into Hard Wired Impulse.

Room 104 Gallery open this week, wed thru sat, 10:30-5pm.

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