Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"How Do You Studio?"

Encaustic Brushes

Encaustic Paints

I often wonder what other painters do when they are in the studio -- how you get your day started, what distracts you and what do you do to get back to work. Wherever your studio it makes a difference in what you do to show up and get working. 

My last studio was in 1 of my 3 car garages with views to a large yard, 2 doors (1 to the yard and the other to the laundry room) and short steps away from my kitchen. Now, I work in my apartment, facing a large deck and too close to the kitchen!

In my daily routine, I usually like to be inside the studio by 9:30am. I require a lot of structure to my day if I plan to be productive and I know being a "Mom" gives me the edge on 'time management'. There's quite a bit of awareness of time and what day of the week it is as my teenager has a varied schedule from week to week. Also, being a single Mom adds more of everything including scheduling/communication with the co-parent. And...  my style of mothering is  a mixture of the "empathetic"/"responsive" & "always look good" Mom-- navigating a crucial time in my interactions with her as we're both reaching for new growth.  And, an Aspie teen can make your brain feel like it's being put through a vice!  The wonderful part is that she is a lovely girl and pursuing an artists' life.   Livvy is extremely talented and we  believe  other mentors are out there for her!

I enjoy waking up very early (honestly -- I don't think I have a choice, it's how I roll these days). At the previous Art Island Studio location, I used to bolt out of bed by 4am and be in the studio at 4:30am before carpooling my daughter to school at 7am (bad commute in those days but now, she is just blocks away). These days, I wake up early and either meditate, journal or get on YouTube to listen to music while checking Facebook and reading the NYTimes online. Music is a very large part of my life and has been since I was very young. My parents played music the moment they were up and all through the day. I have kept this a part of my life ever since. So, Facebook friends know I like to link music to my posts every morning. It's something that I randomly feel drawn to at the moment -- you know, that free-spirit thing. Usually tunes that give me energy to want to move and dance. A Facebook friend that I met for the first time at his SF opening said upon greeting me, "You're the wild girl! Every morning your high energy comes through my computer screen"! I guess I'm a morning person! But, I'm also a nite owl too...

After a quick morning shower with Coffee waiting on my sink and YouTube, I throw on my makeup (never leave the house without it!) studio pigtails and comfy painting ensemble. I know I could paint in my pajamas but I have to get dressed like I'm going to work. I feel more alive and awake this way. And, don't forget the key accessory -- your favorite studio shoes!

The cats get fed, the apartment gets opened up to let all the light in, beds get made, daughter dropped off to school, dishwasher gets emptied, laundry gets started or finished, and I select music for the big speakers. Another check on Facebook and then I "log off" before I get too sucked into cyberspace. I hate doing errands and usually minimize them to one day per week and never do them on the weekends (usually teaching/ demos at the Art Store).

When I'm inside the studio by 9:30am I'm very happy.  Coffee nearby, music and my phones. Since the iPhone, I leave the Mac logged off and screen my incoming calls. I find that I don't work as deeply when I'm on FB and trying to paint--removing gloves to click on Facebook's 'red notification dot' easily sucks me into  network socializing! 

Here are some additional distractions that keep me from making paintings:

1. Surfing YouTube on the big screen desktop in the living room for new music.
2. Flipping through magazines and paperwork/rearranging bookshelf.
3. Opening the refridgerator more than 5 times an hour.
4. Talking to the cats and grooming them.
5. Start preparing dinner at noon. (working at home screams domestic duties!)
6. Decide to change my hair color.
7. Tidy up my daughter's room.
8. Get the car washed.
9. Snacking over the kitchen sink.
10. Thank god no more TV!

So that's what happens with me living with generalized anxiety, coffee and raising a teen (not just any teen but one with Asperger's)! ... becoming aware of the distractions cultivates discipline and focus.  This practice allows me to call on it when I need it. Not just in the studio but also when I have to deal with non-art making related deadlines, i.e. -- prepping for a class, parent-teacher conferences, and paying bills.

I bring myself back around again and again....sometimes I wind up taking a longer loop --   a day or two before I can really settle in and paint. Life situations and stress are among just a few of the factors that interfere with being productive in life and in the studio.  Sometimes it's too easy to get uptight when we don't feel we're being productive enough or making good enough work.  I want to remember to have fun!  

Here's a page from "Art & Fear"  --

"There's a myth among amateurs, optimists and
fools that beyond a certain level of achievement,
famous artists retire to some kind of Elysium where
criticism no longer wounds and work materializes
without their effort.

             -Mark Matousek

"Buying into magic leaves you feeling less capable each time another artist's qualities are praised.  So if a critic praises Nabokov's obsession with wordplay, you begin to worry that you can't even spell "obsession".  Besides, if artists share any common view of magic, it is probably the fatalistic suspicion that when their own art turns out well, it's a fluke -- but when it turns out poorly, it's an omen."

Today I had a very productive day since before the holidays. As I mentioned, I changed mediums recently to see what would happen. Painting in Acrylics and leaving wax alone for a while. It's been a short while...

Well, I reset the studio this weekend for painting with Encaustic again to make some small paintings for a group show next month. I had these panels that were the right dimensions and returned to a composition and palette that I began for the NY Small Works Show - Washington Square East Galleries in 2008. There's something very satisfying in returning to an old thread that you left unfinished.

I thought for a day about resetting the studio for wax. It's not a simple thing even if I still had the big ass studio. Getting over the resistance creates breakthroughs.  I ran into cool materials i forgot I had! Now that times are lean, I can appreciate the days when money was really flowing... I am lucky I had that period (which will come back again)  when I really stocked up on so much --  I'm grateful for how it's carrying me through.

Thanks for hanging with this long post.  I'd like to hear about "how you studio" and what helps to bring you back around as well as the things that you do to distract from making work.  

Here's the process that began on Sunday through these snaps:

Going back into the work
6"x 6" floating wood panels

Risking has to be done
Setting up a Wax Pour
Encaustic Paintings Ready!
Leveling Painting
Masking edges at 1/8"

After the Pour
Unmasking the edges
Cooling down

Cooled Down
More Fusing 
More Leveling to do


  1. Thanks for taking us through your days Cyndy - very interesting! And thanks for the large font - I could read it without glasses! Having a bit of trouble getting things rolling these days but thinking it through like this might help - ciao! - robert

  2. Thanks Robert for following my meanderings and I'm happy with the large font too! The right thing is "owning" it like you are and the incubation of thinking it through brings good stuff!