Studio dynamics

Dear Artist, On Sunday, I happened to stumble on some photos of Francis Bacon’s studio. It made me feel a lot better about mine. His was really messy — a combination of never picking up, mental chaos, and compulsive hoarding. His canvases on their easels, where you could find them, were paragons of calm.

Some studios are tidy, some are messy. I was not present in school the day they covered alpha/numeric. The only bad studio is the unused one.

Through the Jungian (or perhaps familial) collective unconscious, my daughter, Sara, who has just arrived here from New York for the holidays, has been building her own photo collection of artists’ studios. Bacon’s mess is in there and so is mine. I’ve always figured that a studio, as well as being an efficient workroom, can be a menagerie of life’s objects, reference, media and ideas-in-waiting. When checking out other artists’ studios, I’ve noticed that the filing of material can be either spatial or alphabetical/numerical. I’m of the spatial persuasion. I know the “general area” where things can be found. I was not present in school the day they covered alpha/numeric. Somewhere over there on the bench, for example, I have a two-pronged tool for tightening the distributor cap on the 1926 Locomobile I once owned. The Loco was sold 35 years ago. I bump into the tool every so often and consider throwing it out, but the thought of using it for something someday holds me back. In a studio, you never know. I’ve been in some studios that are as spit-and-polish as a Marine barracks. Pristine, virginal spaces make me realize my personal dysfunction and how I could have been a much better person. Once, I entered a lady’s particularly magnificent, high-ceilinged, north-lit space, lovingly created by her third husband in the blush of their new marriage. She assured me that work went on in there. Only one problem — I noted the calendar had not been flipped for three months. Modest or stupendous, tidy or messy, the studio is a sanctuary of joy and love — a place where a unique person can do unique things. In an age of co-operation and consensus, of office cubicles and water-cooler gossip, the studio is the throne room of latter-day kings and queens. The only bad studio is the unused one. Best regards, Robert PS: “This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.” (Joseph Campbell) Esoterica: The currently popular field of “Chaos Theory” has applications in many disciplines. The theory states that “initial conditions” can yield widely diverging, desirable and often unpredictable outcomes. A good way to understand chaos theory is what psychologists call “the butterfly effect.” From an unlikely chrysalis a magnificent butterfly emerges. The all-too-common human instinct to tame chaos may also be key to creative flight. The messy artist puts her need for order into her art. Beauty, uniqueness, and personal joy are the result.   Don’t disturb the ecosystem by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

Tatjana’s studio

Seeing my studio you might think that I am very neat, but I really am not. What happens is that I get tantrums when painting goes bad, and then I turn around to find something to blame it on. Then I throw out anything I lay my eyes on that doesn’t look absolutely essential (husband has survived so far). My organizing system is patterny. I have a cupboard for anything paperwork-like, a desk for anything stationary-like, shelf for large objects, another shelf for anything toolish, and a nook for husbands and toys. I like to group similar things. I am bothered when a thing gets into a wrong pile. Maybe it’s a symptom of something. Luckily, that only takes precedence when things aren’t going well. On a happy day I couldn’t care less about spiders invading the schnauzer canvasses pile. The studio is a stage where drama unfolds. Sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes a tragedy, and sometimes all hell is breaking loose, and in my case that sometimes results in a cleaned studio and a pile of messy paintings being thrown out. The studio is an ecosystem that the artist is part of. Neat art can come out of messy places and vice versa, but it really can go any which way. It’s probably not a good idea to disturb the ecosystem while things are moving.   Changing needs by Casey Craig, Wimberley, TX, USA  

Casey’s studio

It is easy looking at Sara’s collection of photos to get a bad case of studio envy. When we added on to our house for my studio, I was working mostly as an illustrator and really only needed enough space for a drafting table and flat files. Fast forward several years later and I’m working as a fine artist and painting fairly large paintings. Though I often wish my studio was larger, I adore my little space, with colored floor tiles (which I painstakingly installed) and a sliding glass door that looks out to my back yard where I can see my German Shepherd napping in the sun. It is my sanctuary and as you so aptly put it “the only bad studio is the unused one.” (RG note) Thanks, Casey. And thanks to everyone who sent Sara a photo of their studio to add to her collection. She really likes the wide angles that show the ambience. Sara’s photo show is here.   Time to hire a skip by Sarah Clegg, Knutsford, UK  

“Retrieve I – Pheasant”
oil painting
by Sarah Clegg

Have just seen that photo of Francis Bacon’s studio and can at last take comfort in the fact that myown isn’t the only artist’s ‘working space’ in history where you can’t actually see the floor for clutter or access it without having to climb over things. I sort of know where everything is (or should be!) but it really has reached the point where I need to hire a skip… Not to mention the fact that somewhere within the chaos is the only table in the house which I’d quite like to sit down at for Christmas lunch for once (if I can also unearth more than one chair, that is!)     Ambushed by the universe by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA  

watercolour painting
by Warren Criswell

Actually, the butterfly effect in chaos theory refers to the possibility of a tiny fluctuation in the atmosphere, caused by a butterfly flapping its wings, creating a hurricane. One thing leading to another, as they say. But it is a good metaphor for what happens in the studio. Although in the case of Francis Bacon, it looks like the hurricane came first. I’m like you, whenever I see those pictures of his studio I feel better about mine. Art, after all, like science, is a process of creating order out of chaos. But the butterfly effect, now that you mention it, describes pretty well what I call “the ambush.” For instance, coming home late one night from a sculpture session, not thinking about landscapes at all, I get out of the car to close the gate to my driveway and happen to look up at the sky. Jupiter and Venus were in conjunction, Orion and Taurus were up, the sky black and clear– and then headlights come over the hill. It was that “click” when you know it’s a painting. Ambushed by the universe. Then a few weeks ago I go out back at dusk to get a screw driver and noticed that my Prius, my van, and the light in my sculpture studio form the lower part of a parabola. Those cars have been parked there forever and I never noticed this before. Then a flock of wild geese flew over, completing the parabola. Another painting and animation. When I deliberately, consciously, try to make order out of chaos, I almost always fail. I’m like the butterfly trying to whip up a hurricane. There are 2 comments for Ambushed by the universe by Warren Criswell
From: Win Dinn — Dec 14, 2012

Love your ‘Conjunction’, Warren – such an air of mystery.

From: Michael — Dec 15, 2012

Your handling of the medium is masterful.

  Between order and disorder by Lynda Lehmann, NY, USA  

“Big bang 5”
computer art
by Lynda Lehmann

Because I am often overwhelmed with a stream of creative ideas and impulses (that are not necessarily either good ideas or bad, if one is to bring critical thinking into the subject) I’ve developed a habit of jotting my ideas onto sticky notes which by now, paper the walls around much of my home. In similar fashion, my living room and dining room are lined with piles of paintings so that there is no longer any available space for furniture. So I guess, in a sense, my studio has escaped the confined space of our third bedroom and taken over the abode, after all. I’ve tried notebooks, but they too become scattered and I can never find the right one. As my art interests and agendas are many (painting, art and stock photography, digital art, writing), the profusion adds to my perennial confusion. So I walk the thin line between order and disorder, while many of my unattended ideas fade from the tiny squares of paper they have been committed to, before they have reached the light of full articulation. I’d like to get organized, but then I will have even less time for art.   Organized clutter by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“Study of Young Woman”
oil painting
by Rick Rotante

Having your own (studio) space where you can work is a benefit for creating. It doesn’t have to a big space, just a place where you feel comfortable and at peace; free from possible interruption, free from noise or outside visual stimulation. Some artists like lots of clutter, the feeling of having stuff near and handy. Supplies nearby, easy to get to and use. Others like the pristine atmosphere clutter free where there is room to move around unfettered; an austere space that only contains the essentials for the task at hand. Whatever the dynamic, it is what works for you that is important in any space no matter the size. The space I now occupy can best be described as organized clutter. When I enter this space it’s like coming into a room of old friends. My pictures, books, supplies stationed around on shelves, warm my heart where I get a feeling of excitement. My easel, at the center of it all, waits to securely hold the next potential masterpiece. There are spaces I’ve seen in magazines of famous artist’s studios that give me a sense of envy and want, but I know the space isn’t the central thing for creativity. For when I am working, space actually disappears. I go into my mind and any semblance of place isn’t a factor anymore. True, in the back of my mind, the initial coming in affected my attitude and manner, but after I start working, the space melts away and there is only me, the canvas, my thoughts and the process. There are 2 comments for Organized clutter by Rick Rotante
From: Janice Young — Dec 13, 2012

how beautiful…”after I start working, the space melts away and there is only me, the canvas, my thoughts and the process.”

From: Howard C. — Dec 13, 2012

I,too, have seen studios to make your heart sing, but then I think it isn’t the space that will create the work…I will.

  Find your fit on the scale by Suzette Fram, Mapel Ridge, BC, Canada  

“Blue lagoon”
acrylic painting
by Suzette Fram

I think organization versus disorganization is a very personal thing. For me, chaos and disorganization bother me after a while. The chaos outside begins to create chaos inside (of me). The feeling of being out of control begins to take over and leaves me unsettled and anxious. So I tend to avoid an accumulation of clutter around me. I am not a neat freak, as maintaining a clutter-free environment would be too much pressure. Lately I’ve noticed that my studio is becoming quite disorganized and it’s beginning to bother me, so it’s time for some cleaning up and reorganizing. It’s easier to keep things organized when they are organized to begin with. The more disorganized they are, the more difficult it is to maintain any semblance of order. So, it’s a matter of personal comfort. Some live quite happily with clutter, find comforting even; others, like me, find it disquieting and distracting. The key is knowing where you fit on the scale. For me, a small amount of clutter within a generally organized space, does the trick.   Another meaning entirely by Noel Leone, Pasadena, CA, USA   I enjoy your writings and am often tempted by something you say to write you back. This time, however, it is a necessity. Over the last year I have begun to teach myself how to make fractals on the computer. While learning this art form, I became interested in chaos theory. On the Net I have found many explanations about exactly what chaos theory means. I recorded them on a small voice recorder, and I use them to put myself to sleep at night. I have to tell you that you are way, way, way off about what chaos theory means. Chaos theory does not have anything to do with out of control, erratic, sloppy, disorganized, completely random behavior or activity. The word “chaos” by itself, does connote that definition, but chaos theory has another meaning entirely. The Butterfly Effect has absolutely nothing to do with a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. When you read its definition and where the name came from, you will gasp for breath, as I did when I first read it. The meaning is almost unbelievable. However, the meaning of the Butterfly Effect does go a long way toward explaining the importance of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” which also does not mean what you suggest in your letter. I have included some links to the sites I have learned from. One of them, takes the science of chaos theory, applies it metaphorically to psychology and human behavior, and then goes off into the cosmos. I think Yale University has a Chaos Theory site as well. Some of what I found on the Net is poorly written with a few sentences that do not make any kind of grammatical sense. If you have any interest, you can look over these things and find out what a wonderful branch of science this is. In a nutshell, chaos theory is the analysis of nonlinear systems. It is the study of how a nearly imperceptible incident, event, or movement, at the inception of activity of a system, when repeated over and over ad infinitum can cause enormous, unpredictable, and unimaginable results. I am a retired kindergarten teacher, a potter, and a photographer. I started learning how to make fractals because I had packed up all my belongings to move to Washington and had to find some other kind of art to work on while I waited for my house to sell. I am not a math/numbers person, but I was determined to find out how manipulating numbers could make such gorgeous art via a computer. If you do a search for fractals on flickr, you will see what chaos theory looks like when it is graphically shown. This will lead you to the Mandlebrot Set and other fractals. I personally think you will find this visually much more interesting than I am making it sound. Once you see how chaos actually causes patterns to develop, and how is not random at all, I think you will find it fascinating. There are 2 comments for Another meaning entirely by Noel Leone
From: Lillian Walsh, Schenectady, NY USA — Dec 14, 2012

HUH? You lost me after the first paragraph. It seemed as if you were speaking in circles….. Keep on with your life as only you can make sense of it…. GOOD LUCK!

From: Anonymous — Dec 15, 2012

Actually you do a good job of describing “in a nutshell” the Chaos Theory. Anything in life that takes thought needs more than a paragraph or sound bite.

  Not all art needs to be great by Anne Copeland, Calimesa, CA, USA   Some friends and I — at least one of them is a professional artist with formal training — decided to get rocks and paint words and symbols on them and leave them around for others to find. This was definitely not by any definition “great art,” but I was thinking about how the spirit can soar and feel as though it can fly as high as it wants to when we are creating, no matter how insignificant the creation. Our joy was first going to riverbeds and old ruins and hunting down the rocks one by one — gleefully sharing them with each other when we would find one with a unique shape or colors or texture. And then there was the ceremonial carrying them home and washing them all and feeling the surprise of seeing new things exposed to the eye as the dirt came off of them. And on the night we painted, we had joyful music turned up and one of us would occasionally get up from the table and dance around gleefully. We shared the silly things we had painted and drank wine and shared snacks. There was such a childlike innocence in this task we set before ourselves. Later in the evening, when the acrylics had finally set, we all set out like little children with our baskets, leaving them in this yard and that. We had found an area up in a canyon where some other happy soul had also created a different kind of rock art, and we left some of the rocks up there, as if communicating with that person whom we may never meet in person. When it was all done, there was this feeling of having captured a sort of innocence and joy that a painter might feel when he or she is starting out because the artist has not learned anything different yet. I think there is still a glow in all of our spirits. We waited with a hope to hear that people had found the rocks, and indeed, they did in most cases. It was a great sense of a new community spirit as people got caught up with letting us know they found rocks in their yards. I notice that all the rocks are still sitting in the yards in special places as we left them. Not great art; it will never make it into a gallery or exhibit, but it has a greatness in a sort of spiritual experience it created that can never be duplicated. There is 1 comment for Not all art needs to be great by Anne Copeland
From: Win Dinn — Dec 14, 2012

What a beautiful idea – rather like an artistic Pay It Forward, for hopefully you’ve started a revolution.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Studio dynamics

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Dec 10, 2012

I am glad I am not alone in my messiness! The studio you picture above actually looks pretty well organized although cluttered. My organization style is to make piles and I too generally know where the more important things are. Every now and then I mount an excavation, looking for some obscure item. Putting anything in a file means it will never be seen again.

From: Kay Christopher — Dec 10, 2012
From: Jane See — Dec 10, 2012

I paint at one corner of my bedroom, things I don’t use pretty much sitting there forever and the rest need not to say is a mess. I have piles of piles of books, paintings all over the place around me and I also know where to find them when I need them. So I thought artists who owned a studio must be well organised, hehehe.

From: Gilbert — Dec 11, 2012
From: Padmaja — Dec 11, 2012

I think that the output from the studio is more important than the studio itself. I have seen some artists producing great stuff living off the corner of streets in Cambodia.

From: Marlene Rye — Dec 11, 2012

My studio is always a mess. Usually after a show I will “clean up” and start fresh, but it doesn’t take long for it to be complete chaos again. I teach art to young children as well, and I never make them clean up at the end of class. They leave it a mess until the end of the session, which can last for weeks. I need a little order to get going, but once in full swing, order goes out the window!

From: marjolaine robert — Dec 11, 2012

I cannot find the photos of studios of your daughters Sara????

From: Julia — Dec 11, 2012

I always wanted to be this organized, neat, focused person with perfectly clean house, minimalistic and avangarde decor…. I am hopeful. My studio keeps the bare minimum. I paint in sessions — 5-8 weeks of large work — break, small works for a while (just to finish all the mixed paint and sketch the ideas that occur in creative sessions). I paint on the floor. Can not live in the mess can not paint in the sterile environment. I paint large watery splashy drippy abstracts! I clean my studio. Hide my paints wash the floors and look at my room with pride. After all it is also my bedroom and it is small. All closets are hijacked by art things….but on the surface and for visiting people it is not much of the artist studio!!!! Just an apartment. I do not invite them when i paint…. I can’t , they could trip, slip, get dirty, stick to something, spill something, see my messiness….. My Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario is played well. ….And again i start to mix paints in clean containers, my brushes are nice soft, gloves and rags neatly stacked…. and the chaos stars right after that…. it is part of the process, i get too excited, too much involved in my paintings…..i am glad sometimes people wish to visit me! So i clean and when they come i sit and look at my beautiful studio with them….The creative sessions last longer and longer….i am afraid ….Will mess take over?

From: Comments moderator — Dec 11, 2012
From: Rosemary Cotnoir — Dec 11, 2012

You should sell your two-pronged tool on ebay :-)

From: Norton Simms — Dec 11, 2012

Somewhere in the world of classic car collecting, particularly in the Locomobile field, someone is right this minute looking for that exact tool. In an act of thoughtfulness to your fellow collectors, you need to make it available. You have had thirty five years to find a use for it, to no avail. Let it go. Let go of it.

From: Suzette Fram — Dec 11, 2012

I think organization versus disorganization is a very personal thing. For me, chaos and disorganization bother me after a while. The chaos outside begins to create chaos inside (of me). The feeling of being out of control begins to take over and leaves me unsettled and anxious. So I tend to avoid an accumulation of clutter around me. I am not a neatfreak, as maintaining a clutter-free environment would be too much pressure. Lately I’ve noticed that my studio is becoming quite disorganized and it’s beginning to bother me, so it’s time for some cleaning up and reorganizing. It’s easier to keep things organized when they are organized to begin with. The more disorganized they are, the more difficult it is to maintain any semblance of order. So, it’s a matter of personal comfort. Some live quite happily with clutter, find comforting even; others, like me, find it disquieting and distracting. The key is knowing where you fit on the scale. For me, a small amount of clutter within a generally organized space, does the trick.

From: kmland — Dec 11, 2012

what comes out of my studio? I do and more often than not I am changed. It is allways messy.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Dec 11, 2012

A Jungian friend and colleague once told me that on old woman’s task is “sorting”. It didn’t make sense at the time. Now at 73, it makes a lot of sense. My house is now over-filled with the results of my self appointed role of family archivist; my vigorous but unsuccessful painting career; the idiosyncratic products of my butterfly mind; writing fragments, vast numbers of all sorts of books; notes from art therapy; notes from volunteer work (docent at the National Womens’ Museum of Art, 13 years of tutoring at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and attempts to start a community art center,), not to mention correspondence, photography and photographs sewing, quilting, knitting, needlepoint and cooking. Now I am sorting. It is a race against time as my cataracts develop. (I do notice that the colors I use are now more pastel in nature due to them.) For a lazy person, I kept pretty busy! I attribute this all to several reasons: One is my life as a military brat, and having everything I valued tossed out with every move (at least 15 moves) before university. Perhaps is is biomorphic or genetic. There are several famous collectors in my family history, men with outsized abdomens. Now, it could seem that I am a garbage collector! Sorting (and tossing) are sentimental and time consuming tasks, but I love that it is age appropriate.

From: Donna Brown — Dec 11, 2012

I loved Sara’s photos of studios. I fall into the messy category too. I’d like to print some of these up and pin them on the wall at my studio. Each time my husband comes in to see me, he looks around and says ‘What a mess.’ I’ve always felt that has inhibited me a little. With him seeing other messy artist’s studios, many very successful artists, he might let it go!! From Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

From: Hank — Dec 11, 2012

My goal is to paint a portrait of all my family members. I find it impossible to find any one who can sit for any length of time. So I rely on photos. Most open mouthed photos make the subjects look like they are grinning. But as my brother said, that’s what we look like. If someone is recognized by open or closed mouth, smile or frown, then that is how they should be painted. I have to agree with him.

From: Audrey Morgan — Dec 11, 2012
From: Diane Fine — Dec 11, 2012

I love them! She should turn these into a book! Would love to see larger images.

From: Phillippa K. Lack — Dec 11, 2012

YES!! Definitely right on the button, again!!! I shall print this out and post it on the door into my messy studio. Creativity is messy, inaction is not, a tidy desk is a sign of a barren mind, etc,. Thanks for your usual insightful remarks

From: Leonard Skerker — Dec 11, 2012

Reading your description of things and stuff stored and piled in artists’ studios. 3 weeks ago our local painting mentor down here in St. Petersburg, FL, Kerry Didday’s house was destroyed by a local arsonist (not yet caught). Paintings, supplies, favorite brushes, mementos, artifacts, records (and dog and cars)… all gone. He’s having a hard time getting started, mentally, again. Food for thought?

From: B J Adams — Dec 11, 2012

This collection of artist’s and their studios would make a remarkable book that I would want to buy. What a fantastic collection that must have taken years to bring together. Congratulations on accumulating such a complete collection of most all of the last 100? years worth of artists photos. I had just taken a small group of photos of my studio becoming more messy over the holidays but after seeing these varied studios, I will not put mine up there. Thank you for adding these pictures to the end of the Clickbacks. It was a pleasure to see them all.

From: Louise Ganus — Dec 11, 2012

Thank you for showing such inspiring photos. They are a treasure. I will send along the letter to my daughter who is a wonderful and creative artist.

From: Bill Doying — Dec 11, 2012
From: Peggy — Dec 11, 2012

Just finished peeking at Sara’s ‘Studios’. How amazing!!!! What a joy to peek into all those artists’ studios. I am not really an ‘art’ student, so, I didn’t know all the names listed, but to be able to ‘peek’ into the studios of those I did know was absolutely fascinating!!! Thank you SARA!!!

From: Edna V.Hildebrandt — Dec 11, 2012

I do not have a studio but a part of our enclosed patio. It is not winterized so it is cold in winter and also hot in summer. I cannot really do any work most of the time but it does have all my stuff. In one end is a planter box which used to be a pond where we had the gold fish brought in from the pond in the corner of our garden for winter. The pond kept leaking so we filled it with soil and had some tropical plants in pots and a carving of the praying hands on the wall. We have have our hibiscus, oleander, and other plants brought in winter. The other is an open shelf with my husband’s collection of wine decanter and wine glasses etc. Along side is a potted rubber plant that is growing longer and branches spreading across the room. This where my hoards of books, clippings of pictures among paints, canvasses, and copies of forwarded e-mails with travel pictures which I keep for reference and ideas for a composition. This is my place and from all this mixture of images I conjure up what I could be painting next. I think it does give me a lot of inspiration. It is my sanctuary and I as I water the plants and I spot a bud or a new leaf it gives me an aha or wow moment of my next work. Does that make sense?

From: Susan — Dec 11, 2012

Looking at the wonderful photos of artists at work in their studios (thank you to your daughter), I found myself drawn to how formally dressed some of the “older” painters were and wondered if they really dressed like that when they painted or if it was a pose for the camera. As I recall, most of the great Impressionists painted wearing suits (at least in any photos I have seen)

From: Margaret Stone — Dec 11, 2012

I do not think all the current talk about voluntary simplicity, scaling down our living spaces, applies to our studios – our productive work spaces. I had a fine studio in New Mexico, as per the photo. I had to make a move and now I have a studio that is 7ft by 6ft. Leave a couple brushes and a few paint pots out on the table and the place looks crowded. I will say, for me, that very often walking into a neatly arranged studio is like an eraser on the blackboard of my creative mind…………

From: Jenny Horner — Dec 11, 2012

Astounding to me, your comment about something in the collective unconscious that is prompting a collection of pictures of working studios! I am very much a fledgling artist, despite my ripe age, but in the last couple months I had the opportunity to visit two artists’ galleries where the studio was also accessible. I was more fascinated by the studios than the galleries!

From: Mario Tennon — Dec 11, 2012

My room and studio (such as it is) are both a mess. But then I’m reminded: in Genesis, God himself created this vast, incredible universe (including Planet Earth) out of chaos. So if it worked for Him, hopefully it should also work for me (although I am nowhere near the creator God is).

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 12, 2012

(Sara has the makings of a fine book with these photos if she could secure the copyrights. I’d buy it.) In looking at those photos I’m envious of the space. My studio/third bedroom is currently broken down and stored in anticipation of all the kids gathering in for the holidays … so worth it. You can’t put a price tag on having your own space. One thing I am puzzled over, Robert, in your studio as in these others. It is hard to tell from the limited view of one photo but there is consistently only one easel or one work station. I’m surprised more artists don’t keep keep two easels “active” so when one is bogged down they can go to the other. Glancing at a problem canvas repeatedly will often come up with a solution. No one should try to change their natural work environment. My s-i-l has a disturbingly cluttered office that rivals a hoarding episode … really, “trashed” comes to mind. But ask her for any minute piece of paper from ten years ago and she can find it. Function is the only thing of importance. I saw this statement embroidered on a pillow once: “A tidy house is a sign of a misspent life.”

From: Hunter Calder — Dec 13, 2012

A thousand thanks. I can now look at the mess that is my desk top, get on with the writing and forget about the pangs of conscience!!!

From: Noell Custer — Dec 13, 2012

I laughed out loud at your letter….I was sure you were describing my studio. Mine seems to follow the old saying that junk expands to fill the available space..except that it is not “junk” of course! I DO clean it about twice a year but within a week it is back to it’s normal condition. I think I will make large copies of your letter and give them to my family, my friends and fellow artists. The artists will, of course, understand. Thank you for your letters. I always enjoy them. Golden, CO,

From: Brigitte Nowak — Dec 13, 2012

OK, I get that some people thrive in a chaotic studio environment, and some people need an ascetic retreat. Some people are just “born that way”. I am one of those fortunate beings who rents a studio in a lovely, well-maintained arts building in downtown Toronto, with high ceilings, big windows and clean floors, while also maintaining a room in the basement of my house, in which I paint, usually evenings, or when I have limited time available. The downtown studio is a clean, efficient workspace . The basement is a messy, inefficient workspace.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 13, 2012
From: Denyse M. — Dec 14, 2012

What relief! My studio looks like it was picked up shaken then dropped most days, but I do know the general area where things are. The chaos in there was one of my ex-husband’s biggest pet peeves, and what he blamed most of my faults and inadequacies on. To try and get him off my back, I attempted to clean it up and organize everything. Then, I couldn’t find anything! Thanks for the validation, I continue to create without a domestic partner, and I wonder if other artists have similar experiences and made the choice to be single to avoid all the confrontation with a judgemental spouse; particularly the female artists. After all, a female artist’s work is just a hobby, and not her true vocation when she’s really only there to cater to her family’s needs and whims ;-)

From: Rae Smith — Dec 15, 2012

my studio get so cramped at times , that I have to tread carefully to get to my board, but once there ,nothing else matters, so no one gets in my studio.

From: Donna Marshall — Dec 17, 2012

My art shop was attacked by termites and had to be dismantled and salvaged for rebuilding. In the meantime working on some smaller pieces for when the new shop gets here. Now the wait is on sand and gravel for the leveling of the spot. So I got sidelined and started producing some wine for gifts and cellar. Well that’s an art in itself. My studio is waiting. New paints lined up ready. My muse is nowhere then … I’m at my favorite cafe and a couple drives up in their golf cart asking if we know of an artist to do a good size piece. Bingo. I did the interview/presentation at the site to look at the space requirements and I’m excited to say I got the job. This is out of the blue. The universe is trying to tell me something. Get busy.

From: Liz Reday, — Dec 17, 2012
    Featured Workshop: Doug Mays
121412_robert-genn Doug Mays workshops Held in Southern France   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Butterfly beach

oil painting by Laurel Mines, CA, USA

  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. That includes Margaret Stone of Panama City Beach, FL, USA, who wrote, “I will say, for me, that very often walking into a neatly arranged studio is like an eraser on the blackboard of my creative mind…” And also Jackie Knott of Fischer, TX, USA, who wrote, “Function is the only thing of importance. I saw this statement embroidered on a pillow once: ‘A tidy house is a sign of a misspent life.’ ”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.