I often write for the web with an audience in mind. Maybe this one can be me writing for myself like I normally do, and you can be a witness, as you normally are.
Toward the end of 2019, I felt like I was crawling out from under a rock. A few months after my big dog passed, and just after my 35th birthday in October, I started giving the living and dining areas of my home a facelift. I may go into detail about that on a different blog, but a friend helped me remove the popcorn ceiling that was original to the house, almost as old as I am. I painted the ceiling and walls and replaced the trashed carpeting with interlocking vinyl planks. This was a satisfying project and this is now the part of the post that I address the title.
My studio is in my small living room. It’s a long table with a couple shelves under it for my light pad measuring tools and cutting mat, on top is my desktop computer, a bookcase that holds my materials and reference books, and some wire shelves that house my printer, my typewriter (thanks Mom!) and the client work that comes in and out of the studio. I do keep larger pieces in my garage for redoing or renting, but what I described above is essentially the studio space.
I have a long table because I like elbow room as I work. (I also like elbow room as I eat). And, formerly, I would often leave my desk with work on it to dry or to come back to later. I would also leave my tools out. I’d clean the nibs or brushes, but leave them on the desk. Where I knew they would be.
And then I would come back and need to move the work in order to make progress on a different piece. So I would move it off to the side. And I would do this all the time. I could have countless projects on my desk at any time, and I felt that as long as they were on the desk, I would get to them. Yeah, you guessed it. I would forget about the pieces and projects as they got positively buried under other projects, sketches, books, school papers from my kids, and I can’t even remember what else. Some pages would get damaged, as would my tools, if I could find them.
This all fed into this “Worry Practice” I am crawling my way out of in favor of deliberate practice. A long time ago, I started to schedule my commissions in advance so I wouldn’t get lost behind them. But when the time came to start new pieces, I wasn’t finished with the previous pieces. I was really good at worrying about them for a long time first, waiting to be inspired, then feeling guilty about the looming deadline. I would return to my sketches and notes and finally finish and deliver the completed project.
Doesn’t sound very joyful, does it. Which is strange, because I regularly check in with myself to make sure I’m content with being a freelance calligrapher and artist, and I always answer yes. Yet the above is how I treated it.
So when the time came to begin moving furniture and studio items back into the house, I knew that not only could I not bring every thing I had back into this space, but also that I could not continue to treat my work as I’ve been treating it.
Old unfinished projects are gone. I recycled plenty of practice pages. Downsized my book collection. Tossed old supplies that I can’t use. Rather than keeping my cups with tools on the desk, I keep them in the bookcase. Still within arm’s reach, but out of the way of harm and dust.
I really, really love my work. Most of my clients ask me to create something as a gift they can give to someone else. Sometimes it’s an envelope addressed to family or friends, sometimes a painting of loved ones, sometimes comforting words to remind the reader that they are loved and supported. I am always honored that anyone would ask me to pen the words that carry their gentle messages. I am so glad that my studio space and my practices now reflect this.