MY NEW STUDIO: GIVING MYSELF SOME SPACE

Posted: October 5, 2013 in 2013, Step-by-Step in the Studio
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Newstudio header

October 3, 2013

CONTENTS


• Changes, Surprises and Going with the Flow
• The New Studio: Physical Dynamics
• The New Studio: Space for Enlightenment



CHANGES, SURPRISES AND GOING WITH THE FLOW


Okay, I’m still in Nebraska. I keep thinking I’m doing something wrong because I said I was going to be living on the road, and except for 5 weeks in the Dominican Republic last winter, I’ve been stuck in Nebraska for a year and a half.

But then I think about it and realize nothing’s wrong. I am following my plan; it’s just unfolding in unexpected ways. Wow, what a surprise!

My plan was to have a homebase in Nebraska which would make it easier for me to travel and live most of my life on the road. And it’s getting there.

When I moved to Lincoln from Hawaii in April 2012, I rented a duplex on Dakota Street, a few blocks from my sister Kelly’s house. It was great because I had a full basement and I was able to turn that into my studio and office. Living in Lincoln was not exactly my dream but it turned out to be exactly the right thing for my painting. As in, no social life and no beach = lots of focus on painting and lots of art produced.

Dakota studio 1

Here's what my Dakota street studio looked like.

The Dakota Street duplex worked fine for awhile, but for some reason I knew I wouldn’t be there that long. I had a strong feeling that things would be changing drastically sometime in the fall of 2013. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did. When you live your life like I do, watching the currents and adjusting to them and following them rather than trying to force things or plan too much, you start getting a sense for these things.

Another strong sense I had was that I wanted to be around other artists more. I had this vision, in fact, of a group of studios where I could go in and paint and be around other artists, also creating, every day. There’s a place in Lincoln called Parrish Studios which is kind of like that, and I started making regular inquiries there, hoping a studio space would open up.

Then in July, my sister Kelly decided that her live-in boyfriend had to go. Without going into details, let me just say that this was widely seen as a positive move. With Kelly’s extra bedroom becoming vacant, I began to think about moving my office there. Since she helps me with my business when I’m away traveling, it seemed like a good idea to both of us.

I knew that moving in with Kelly would mean I had to find studio space elsewhere. Nothing was happening with Parrish Studios, so one Saturday morning in early August I decided to look on Craigslist for artist’s studio spaces in Lincoln, Nebraska. Almost immediately—and against all odds—something very interesting popped up. It sounded so perfect that I called the number and within 45 minutes I was meeting with the owner to look at the space.

That’s how I found my ideal new studio.

The owner of a building in Lincoln’s Haymarket area (trendy, popular part of downtown Lincoln with lots of clubs, restaurants and galleries) had an unfinished basement space which he wanted to turn into artist’s studios. I was the first artist to look at the space and it was still mostly unfinished. The price was right, the feeling was right, the location was right, and because I was the first and the studios were still being constructed, I even got to help design my own studio space!

815 O emptybasement

This is the empty space before construction of individual studios. All the way down at the end are the kitchen and bathrooms. I got to choose which part of the area would become my 250-sq-ft studio. I chose the spot at the far end, of course.

That construction was completed pretty quickly, and by early September, I had moved my office (and home) into Kelly’s extra bedroom, and everything else into my new downtown studio.

Newstudio earlystages

Here's a look into my newly constructed studio space. This was early on, when I was still moving stuff in. You can see my trusty easel and corkboard already set up, and my new steel rolling cart painting workstation next to it. Leaning on the wall in the corner is a 4x8 sheet of Homasote.

Lots of big changes had happened in a very short time, but nothing was forced and everything just fell into place with perfect timing. Again I saw how well it works to just pay attention to the currents and follow your instincts on when to jump in and when to just chill.

The only thing I really didn’t like about the new setup was the fact that I had no parking space downtown, and that meant every time I went in to paint I had to feed a parking meter. But I decided I could live with that until I was able to find reasonable long-term parking.


THE NEW STUDIO: PHYSICAL DYNAMICS


Let me tell you about the physical aspects of my new studio. It’s in a space adjacent to a full kitchen with plenty of sinks, which is great for someone who paints in acrylics. It’s 250 square feet, which is just right. Best of all, it has 5 easels instead of just one! I’ll explain:

I’d seen a photo of an artist’s studio some time ago where there were paintings-in-progress tacked up on every wall. That struck me. What a great idea! Walls made of some kind of bulletin-board-like material where you could just tack up your piece of canvas and start a painting. You could have 4 or 5 paintings in progress in different areas of your studio! I’ve never painted this way—but without my realizing it, a year of focused painting in my one-easel studio had gotten me ready for this next step.

But where to find those bulletin-board walls? Corkboard was pretty expensive–there must be something else. Some time and online research eventually led me to a material called Homasote. It’s used mostly for soundproofing, but it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. I bought 4 panels (4 feet by 8 feet, 1/2-inch thick, about $25 each) and nailed them up on the walls of my studio. Now I had easels everywhere!

Newstudio toward door

Here's an interior shot of my studio showing two Homasote panels on the walls at right, and another on the far left. Each of these panels constitutes an easel and painting work area.

The other big innovation was a rolling workstation.

Rolling workstation

ROLLING PAINTING WORKSTATION: This stainless-steel rolling cart is 49 inches high, tall enough that I can easily stand and mix my paints. And with enough surface area to easily hold all my painting equipment.

Online, I found and purchased exactly what I was looking for: a stainless-steel rolling cart which was tall enough that I could mix my paints standing up. Plus, it had enough surface area for all my painting equipment—paints, palettes, palette knives, rags, brushes, everything. So now I could roll my painting workstation from easel to easel anytime I wanted to switch from one painting to another, with almost zero set-up required.


THE NEW STUDIO: SPACE FOR ENLIGHTENMENT


I was excited about this new studio set-up but didn’t really know how it would work in practice.

However, after a few days of painting in the new space and with some minor adjustments, I have to say, it’s brilliant! The new set-up works like a dream. What a joy it is to come to a stopping place on one painting and be able to simply roll your cart to the next one and continue painting with no setup required!

Newstudio cart between2spaces

Here you see the rolling painting workstation between two homasote-panel painting areas. Moving physically to a new painting area becomes quick and easy. However, the mental/emotional trip from one area to another can be more of a challenge…

I make it sound easy and smooth, and physical-equipment-wise, it was. But there is also a whole other dynamic going on, and that’s what I’m talking about when I call this section “Space for Enlightenment.”

I’ve often referred to my love-hate relationship with painting. That’s just a dramatic way of saying that it’s really easy to talk yourself out of actually doing some painting, because painting is HARD. Well, actually it’s not the painting that’s hard: it’s what your mind does with the painting that makes it hard! The mind tends to think that every painting will probably fail and then you’ll feel awful, so let’s go catch up on e-mail instead, okay? It’s easy to talk yourself out of dealing with all the stuff that goes with painting.

When your studio is in your home it’s REALLY easy to distract yourself this way.

But having a studio I have to drive to changes everything. Even the fact that I have to feed a parking meter constantly to use my studio turns out to be a helpful aid in focusing. Now, when I’m in my studio, it’s very clear I’m there to paint, and if I don’t paint, I’m wasting the quarters I just fed into the meter.

So now when I have a thought like, That painting is too hard, let’s update the website instead, I am much better at just saying, Thank you for sharing, Mind. Then I get up, move away from the computer, roll my workstation over to the painting that’s calling me at the moment, and start painting.

I make it sound easy. It’s not. It can be incredibly hard to just move over to the painting and pick up a brush and start applying paint. Once you’re doing it, you get into the flow and it’s fine. But wow, getting started can be a bitch.

I define enlightenment as finding that space within yourself where you feel completely at peace, and realizing (and FEELING) that you are much bigger than this body and mind. Believing your own thoughts is NOT the way to enlightenment. Allowing your thoughts to flow but not attaching to them is.

So my new studio really is helping me move toward enlightenment. Because it’s so obvious I’m there to paint, it becomes much easier to see those distracting, negative thoughts for what they are, and to just let them go. It’s time to paint NOW, not later. Not just because that parking meter is ticking, but because I need to produce a lot of paintings before I leave for the winter!

That’s the other part of all this. As soon as all the changes began to reveal themselves and fall into place, it became time to make my travel reservations. I’m off to spend a month in Brazil in November-December.

The rest of the winter remains to be seen. I’ll be back in Nebraska for short spurts of painting, then back to the tropics.

Newstudio newart 6up

Here are the first few paintings produced in my new studio. It's been a busy couple of weeks.

So I’ve got a lot of painting to do between now and early November when I leave. And I am in just the enlightened and enlightening space to do it.

Comments
  1. Lisa says:

    is that from a photo of rachel? the combination of the texture of her hair and the yellow shirt make me think of french fries…

    • Douglas Simonson says:

      yes, it’s from a photo…click on the image and you’ll be taken to my paintings gallery where you can see the whole painting.

  2. Lisa says:

    exciting stuff!

  3. Sounds like “God’s in his Heaven; all’s right with the world.” Now all you need is to find off-street parking.

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