Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Artist's Studio

some of my workspaces through the ages...

 I’m on the move again...with my studio space that is.

I have projects for 2011 that require much time input right now but won’t output anything in the way of income until sometime in the future, so it’s time to review the financial sense of having a space for which the rent is becoming a tiresome burden. Added to that, now that the kids have gone flatting, it seems ludicrous to have not one but two guest bedrooms, when in the past guests were happy enough to sleep on the lounge floor in our deluxe airbed. So, in the grand tradition of making your son’s bedroom into a sewing room, I am making his into my studio. It has a wooden floor (good for paint spills), great light and a view out to Lyall Bay where I can see the waves twinkling in the distance which is important for me because I hate feeling landlocked. Plus my espresso machine is at home, and my husband and I can share the phone and broadband as we keep each other company in our freelance work. The cat will be ecstatic; I’m far more generous with feline appreciation than my SO is.

So, I am given pause to think about my studios over the years, and how they reflect my stages of life and development in my career. So, if you are interested, read on, if not, just look at the pictures. This is a long post, so sit down with a coffee sometime when you aren’t too busy...

0- 20: The Formative Years
My bedroom: this included sharing with my sister who was more interested in outdoor adventures than arty farty things. When we moved to New Zealand (I was 8) I saved all my drawings and because we were renting at the time and weren’t allowed to stick things on the wall, I pinned my pictures to sticks of bamboo and stood them upright so I had a gallery of sorts. Later when we had a house, I had a huge wardrobe that I filled to the brim with bags of feathers, felt and saved packaging ready to transform into art and craft.
Later still as a design student and in yet another house, my father made me a fold down drawing board in my small bedroom so I could work on assignments on somewhere other than the dining table after tea. I also spent long hours at Polytech working late into the evening at the desk space allotted me. We each had our own and in the 3rd year were given partition walls each to make our desks into tiny studios. We were queens and kings of our own workspaces.

20-27: The Eager Years
My flat bedroom - not so good for bringing clients into. It was soon clear I would need something else. The first was a space in Christchurch’s Hereford St in an old building that was fairly deserted on my floor. I had small space at first then negotiated with the landlord for a larger one. My first celebration of it was to invite all the Advertising Agency creatives for a party so they could see where I was and use me. I possibly served Pink Chardon and chippies. Everyone came- it was a blast! I had fun times in that studio, gathering together other artists for life drawing sessions and creating theatre posters, brochures and mastering airbrushing skills which would become my main form of trade. I got tired after a while of being by myself on that lonely 3rd floor though and when Murray Freeth, an animator said the box room was available to rent in Salisbury St at Orly Productions, I moved in. It was the 80’s, and my husband was now working at Saatchi & Saatchi. We went out drinking and partying a lot. I wore huge shoulder pads, had more work than I could handle and was working in TV as craft presenter on What Now too. But human nature being what it is, and biological clocks ticking early, I embarked upon motherhood. Because having children wouldn’t change my life would it? No, a baby would gurgle and smile at me in the corner whilst I got on with my work.

27- 36: The Sleepless Years
If I thought I was busy before, I barely slept now. I tutored at Polytech, performed on TV, illustrated and became a committee member for everything from Plunket to illustration communities. I worked from home in the spare bedroom of our little cottage, until the lack of space for work and more babies necessitated a house move. Once again in the new house I worked in the spare bedroom until the babies; now children, needed rooms of their own. So we did a ridiculous thing. We purpose built a studio onto the house (not a shed in the back garden), spent a fortune on landscaping and redecorating...then moved to Wellington.

36- 40: The Juggling Years
Not knowing if I would find a community back in Wellington to ease into (how silly- Wellington is the best place to do this!) I took up an offer of a studio in Courtenay Place with fellow illustrators Debe Mansfield and Ruth Paul. We had fun! We gossiped, drank coffee, smoked illicit cigarettes out the window and generally behaved like schoolgirls, whilst churning out illustration for design, advertising and publishing. I had to rush off to pick up kids at the most inconvenient of moments; usually when the girls suggested drinks at one of the many bars round the corner. I formed a lasting attachment to those women and when babies arrived for them and I had itchy feet, the studio was waved farewell and I worked from home for a short while before our family headed off to England.

41-43: The Wandering Years
Packing up my studio and rationalising my art materials down to what would fit into a Pooh Bear lunchbox, I worked from the dining table in our basement flat in Bristol. I bought a portable drawing board on which I illustrated two books for Huia Publishing back home and my monthly column in Next magazine. I made wearable art. We travelled and I painted in visual diaries and on our return to NZ, my studio was wherever I could find space in the kitchen. 

44-47: The Dissatisfied Years
Fed up with battling the family for space to work, I took space at The Production Village in Mt Cook with a bunch of other illustrators. It was great until I was too distracted (I have a huge tendency to chat). So I moved into another studio in Tory St with a great and old friend. But the space was too ‘officy’ and the parking an issue. I finished writing a novel in there then moved back home; which drove me bananas.  If you think small children are distracting, try teenagers.

48-50: The Free at Last Years
The cottage at the Production Village came up for rent. So I took it. It cost me a comparative fortune but with at times 2 studio mates to ease the rent, made it possible. In that time and space I have made 2 WOW pieces (one award winning), created artworks for 3 solo exhibitions, run workshops, co- convened the planning for a highly successful conference, launched my last novel, made inroads on my new one, made dozens of plaster cupcakes for sale, created pieces for my regular spot on the Good Morning Show...then ran away and worked on The Hobbit Movie.

Ironically, the one time the studio rent was really affordable was when I wasn’t there, but in Miramar for a time. So back at home I am once again, with no distractions from children, my old wooden plan file and drawing board have come with me. It’s almost full circle, except that I’m not working out of my bedroom. Work spaces can be big or small; they can be purpose built or converted from a chook house. I’ve found after 30 years in the creative arts, it doesn’t really matter where you work from, because what counts is being excited about what you are doing. For me, that’s the large illustration project I am ready to start in the New Year, another piece of Wearable Art, the author visits to schools I do, the fun things I make on Good Morning, and the two novels I will finish writing; all from Hataitai, a very handy spot 5 minutes from town.

Sorry, we will not be renting out the house for the rugby World Cup.

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