Virginia Woolf was on the money when she declared that a woman needs a room of her own - a thought echoed by the poet, Mary Oliver, who died only a few days ago:
Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But even solitude demands working space. Well, let's have a peek at my studio. It is 7 by 10. I’m sure we can agree this is a really really small studio, especially for someone who often paints big. That issue can be solved, if only by hauling the work outside every so often to get a good look at it from a distance. (Most of my large paintings are therefore done from April to October.) As they say, no biggee. And it is all mine.
But there is another greater challenge. In a word, storage. As in, there isn’t any. So I have an elaborate system of stacked wooden paint boxes which are more picturesque than convenient but which house every pigment known to woman. And while two full walls of casement windows above exposed stone may sound like a romantic’s dream, only those windows’ stone ledges are available there to hold the myriad objects that artsy flesh is heir to. At the moment that 17 feet of ledges house two lamps, an electric pencil sharpener, gazillions of pencils and pens, Jewell’s photo as well as her collar and a lock of hair, 8 scissors (ever notice how they congregate?), a large Tang horse, last year’s dried hydrangea heads, a phone, last year’s geraniums clinging grimly to life, a dead rosemary (when will I learn?), the ever-necessary aloe for emergencies, classical cd’s, a hole-punch, and…..well, you get the picture. The wee room also contains my desk and the gigantic Mac I am composing this on. Should also mention the rocking Mission love seat with footstool, two easels - one enormous, the other not , plus an office chair and my old piano stool which I can spin on when bored. Packed, but purposeful, the room works. Biggee-er but manageable.
So why could I neither paint nor write this month? It took me a few days to figure out and the answer was ridiculously obvious: A LACK OF FILING???
Okay, so I hate and avoid filing. But I have an equal and opposite need to find whatever I’m looking for. Failing that, it’s too easy to get side-tracked and then I get overwhelmed. It’s official: I have the soul of a librarian. So there went the week but by Friday every piece of post-Christmas detritus — bills, financial reports, cards, canvases (pristine or not), photos - was stored logically, the brushes were clean and sorted, replacement supplies bought and canvases toned. Thus was order re-established in my tiny domain and ka-zaam I could focus again. When I climbed on my horse, I no longer rode off in all directions, like Leacock's colonel. Phew.
This handsome setter was a sociable guy who hung around a country road we frequented on Salt Spring in 1995. Other than feeling wistful to realize that he must have died years ago, it was a joy to renew our friendship. I’ll let today's value underpainting dry thoroughly before deciding whether to do a full glaze oil painting or leave him in sepia-tone heaven. You will be the first to know.