Variations & Boundaries

Small space, small tools, do it over and over

At the moment my studio goal is to work for 1.5 hours on Monday and Friday mornings before work, and at least a couple hours on the weekend. This feels doable, and it breaks up the week nicely. On Tuesday through Thursday mornings I work at my responsibilities as the director of an art space. Starting my week in the studio helps make it a priority.

I don’t like mornings. Historically I’m a night-owl. As I creep through my forties, my sleep has suffered more and more from insane amounts of time spent locked to a screen. So I’m trying to change things by using screens less and night, getting better sleep, and getting up earlier. My wife gets up at 5:30am to run or do yoga. After a while you start to feel like a giant baby with that kind of discipline happening next to you every day.

Anyway, my studio is still a bit trashed. I’ve carved out a little space to work - enough to avoid any real cleaning or organizing work. But enough to actually make new images again. This small space has forced me to stick to drawing and mostly dry media. Having recently started going back through past work and studio habits, I’m struck how I default to a single idea and repetition as a way to get my footing.    

The images here are made from a basic set of plastic letter stencils and a pencil. They don’t take very long to complete - maybe 15 to 20 minutes. But the amount of variation that can be achieved is reassuring and encouraging. It’s an easy way to “start” every morning without having to worry about the first move.

I made a few pieces similar to this approach, but with spray paint and stencils on canvas, back in 2017. At the time it was unclear to me how these related to anything else I was doing. Letter forms had always felt more related to my graphic design work, and less connected to my abstract paintings or drawings. But looking back at my work, from a conceptual standpoint, these are definitely inline with my interests in architectural objects, the decay of language and ideas, and working in a serial process. 

The Tip Jar

On more basic level, the boundaries remove the dull anxiety of restarting a practice. I don’t need to know where these will lead, or what ideas they may generate for larger work (although ideas are forming). I don’t want to be bothered with any of that anyway. I don’t want to be bothered with any of that right now. I just want to look forward to the next morning, hovering in the cold garage with a coffee, listening to weirdo music, before a day of zoom meetings and adulting.

Do me a solid and share this post with someone you know. Unless it hurts your reputation. We wouldn’t want that.