Tonight, as happens often these days, it’s me who closes up the studio. It gets dark early at this time of year. Dorothy and I turn down the heat, close the computers, wet down the palettes, put the phone back in its cradle, shut the lights and lock the door. Walking from the studio toward the house, somewhere above in the tall cedars, the Barred Owl wakes. “Who, who, who cooks for you?” she signals.
Stone steps rise between the studio and the house. They’ve been there for a lifetime, sided by a Japanese maple and a rockery where my mother’s summer roses slumber. Opposite, a boxwood hedge and deep gulley of morning glories, blackberries, and evergreens tumble down to the river estuary below. The steps are a threshold between home-time and dream-time. It was a few weeks ago Dad reminded me there were eleven of them, and he could do them with his eyes closed. “I know where they are,” he said, holding my hand. Climbed and descended a million times, over a million seasons, they are the route to a world and a life.
Step 1. Art is a perfectly complete cause.
Step 2. You are solely responsible for doing the work required to become better.
Step 3. You are responsible for understanding your limitations.
Step 4. You are responsible for radicalizing your strengths.
Step 5. Make a searching and fearless inventory of your creative curiosity.
Step 6. Pay no attention to the less courageous.
Step 7. Learn from the greats, and expose yourself to better work.
Step 8. Read in order to write, but paint in order to paint.
Step 9. Be artistic, choose taste, set an example.
Step 10. “Play” is your route to mastery.
Step 11. In the art game we do our own cooking.
Dorothy and I can see the warm light of the kitchen. Inside it’s cozy again, and the productive spell of the day transmutes into the awareness of homey tasks and family love.
And maybe only eleven more steps lead up to the creation station of the bed, books, computer, and the pillows and covers.
PS: “To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.” (Joseph Campbell)
Esoterica: These days our Painter’s Keys community, from the sanctuary of our own rooms, is producing bright, amusing, imaginative and informed insights in our new online comments area. Your own stair climbing has no doubt produced a few “steps.” You’re invited to share them or any other illumination below.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.