The Mess Behind the Art
Guess what I did over the weekend. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t glamorous.
I cleaned my studio!
Big deal right? Well it’s fairly easy to keep things tidy but it is another thing to clean it. Everything gets wiped down, dusted, put back into place, vacuumed, etc. It’s a big job that usually takes a few hours – I have 100 square feet to worry about so yes, a few hours IS a longtime.
As I was cleaning, as usual, my mind was wandering and so I thought I would sit down for a few and write my thoughts down.
So… As I was cleaning and my bucket of soapy water was getting muddier and muddier I was laughing at myself for letting the studio get so dirty. I have heard from other artists – you are so organized, your space is so clean, I can’t believe you produce so much in such a small space, do you ever work in the garage, etc… I think these questions originate from the typical artist studio pictures we have all seen where the studio looks pristine with all of their paints hanging within reach, nice big art tables with just a few things on top. Seems like the studios are always clean but the artists are always dirty. Many artists are shown wearing rubber gloves with paint smeared all over them– common, you’d have paint smeared all over everythingif you were that messy. Their pants are always layered with drips and swipes of paint – don’t they ever change clothes? And then we have the smocks or aprons that are crusted over with paint – but not usually as bad as the pants – why is this? Shouldn’t the pants be changed out more that the apron? Isn’t the apron there to help protect the pants? Well, this is what got me think’n in the studio and what got me laughing at myself. I thought it would be fun to try and dispel this myth of the overly clean studio and messy artists.
Let’s start with the clothes. Did you all know I got in trouble on my wedding day because I was caught downstairs painting in my suit just before the wedding? This has got to be my ultimate testimony. I will paint in anything! From boxers to a tuxedo. And yes, I do have a few pieces of clothes with the occasional spot of paint on it but you want to know a secret? It’s usually white – from when I’m gesso-ing my canvases. When I paint - paint, I don’t throw it, I don’t waste it, but I do control it and put it on my canvas with purpose – so why should get any where else but the canvas? I'll admit, I do drop the wet paint brush from time to time but I've got moves like spider man to avoid getting that crap on me! I do have an apron hanging in my studio and I try and wear it when I gesso but I always forget. It’s hangs there almost unsoiled. See the long image of my studio? It's hanging on the door in the middle of the picture. Been there for months!
And about the studio – I deep clean my studio about 4 times a year. This might sound gross if your a neat freek, but it really doesn’t get too bad. In fact, I would do it less often but I keep my door open a lot and I have a dog that goes in and out all day long so it does need the cleaning. I think what helps is that I do keep the studio tidy. I go through periods where things get out of hand and there’s papers, sketches, and piles of stuff about as I am creating ideas for the next painting.
But this only last a few days and then it gets tidied up again. I do this so I can create another mess. Like at the first of the month as I'm planning my goals and tasks out for the entire month. That business sort of stuff you need to do to run a business.
As for being spot clean like in the other photos I’ve seen or the one at the top of my post - this only lasts about three days - maybe less. Let's be real, my studio is no different than your office space at work with one exception – I’m the janitorial staff too.
So the next time you see an artist in their paint crusted pants or sparkling clean studio, think of me. I'm clean enough to hug but don't drop that candy bar on the studio floor, call out the three second rule and stick it in your mouth!