Tuesday, September 8, 2020

In the studio



Just a few glimpses of my studio/office (a spare room in our house), where I am spending even more time now that I am also teaching remotely:

 1  |  I have four of these bamboo picture ledges in two rows on one wall, with finished canvases and paintings that are drying. On the wall opposite I put this one up behind my desk to keep pencils, pens, small brushes and other supplies I use frequently within reach, but where they don't clutter up my desk. This is currently the backdrop for the majority of my video calls and classes.

2  |  One of these skinny drawers (which are great for storing work on paper) holds an antique letterpress tray I got John as a gift, with the type pieces he had bought. We use these to make cards and similar and are going to create the text for our next picture book with them. The plan is to get a glass lid made for the tray and put it on a frame with legs, so it can be used as a side table, but for now it is stored away in this drawer.

3  |  I have a couple of desk easels for smaller canvases and one standing easel. I try to paint standing at the large easel as much as possible, and the desk easels are great for displaying work-in-progress, as I tend to have several paintings on the go at any one time and like being able to have them all in view.

4  |  For oil paintings I mainly use water-mixable oils, for environmental reasons and so I don't have to breathe in turpentine fumes and other toxic solvents. Cleaning up is much easier with these, too. I bought a Dyson purifying fan heater (with a cooling function and a detailed analysis of potential pollutants) a few months ago, as I was worried about the air quality in the room, but it tells me everything is in the green range, so that is reassuring. We also had the house tested for radon after I was diagnosed with lung cancer as a young non-smoker. I try not to worry too much about all the external factors that may contribute to cancer, and some, such as electromagnetic radiation, are beyond my control to a large extent, but it gives me peace of mind to have these tests done. 

5  |  Marion Milner's books have their own shelf (most of my art books are kept in this room). I have started using my ink pen (not pictured) and bottled ink more again. The beautiful glass pen was a present from my aunt - I had kept it at my mum's house for years and finally took it with me after my last visit. 

6. We have plants in every room of the house and I am trying to keep these two happy. The vegetation in the self-portrait is a field with thistles close to my childhood home in Germany.


The window is to the right of my desk and I can see a large part of the garden, including our three new hens and one of our bird feeders. There is a white horse in the field across the road, which offers some consolation in the wake of the departure of 'our' beloved donkeys that used to come to the wall in our back garden. They must have been moved to a different field, as that land was sold recently. We miss them a lot.

I have rituals around working from home that I have been using for years to mark some sort of division between work and home life (though the lines are blurred), but now they have taken on extra significance. At the moment I am recording videos for some of my classes, and I plan my outfits, jewellery and nail polish for those, whereas on days nobody will see me I put on my large painting jumper or apron (I am looking into sustainable boiler suits and dungarees for more coverage, even though I am not that messy a painter, but I still manage to get stains on unlikely areas of my clothes).

In any case I attempt to generate a 'going to work' feeling by getting ready as if I were leaving the house. This also involves a few morning routine clichés such as meditation, a yoga sequence, making celery juice and writing my morning pages. I air the room for a few minutes and clap to clear stagnant energy, and I mix essential oils for the diffuser that are stimulating and help with concentration or create an uplifting atmosphere, so a lot of peppermint, rosemary, clary sage, geranium, lemon, orange and lemongrass. There are endless mugs of (mostly herbal) tea and some of them get spoiled by accidentally dipping my brush in them, but I try not to eat in this room (as I want to eat mindfully - nothing to do with weight control; I am trying to put on weight!), though snacks will find their way in here.

I have my laughing Buddha on a bookshelf to the left of my desk and a stuffed elephant my younger sister made for me on my desk for a similar reason (or up on a shelf when I am recording videos for children and the elephant represents my audience - this was a tip we were given) - it keeps me in touch with my inner child and the playful side of life and is a reminder not to take anything too seriously.

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