Art/Author Blog

Gasp! You’re Giving up Your Studio?

Studio View 330 Ave G

If you’re going to be a serious artist you’ve got to have a studio!

That is one of the things I learned in art school along with things like theme, balance, architectonic strength and structure. It was by far the easiest thing to understand. If you’re going to do work you need a place to do it, and if you are going to take yourself seriously and expect others to take you seriously you need a place you can call a studio. Ideally, this place is not your parents basement. At least that’s what I thought.

Before I even got my degree I managed somehow to secure a studio spaces–sometimes shared–in various warehouses in my home city. The amenities were often far from optimal when ‘very cheap’ is all you can afford. One of these studio spaces was a shared accommodation over a coat factory. On a cold November day, when a New York critic was scheduled to visit and pass comment on my art, the furnace went out. It was as bitterly cold inside as it was outside. Thank goodness she’d worn her silk socks that day.

There were times when I couldn’t afford even the lowliest space, but whenever I could I tried to have a place outside my home as a studio.

But Do you really Need a Studio Space Outside your Home?

Yes and no. The question is akin to Virginia Wolf’s need for a room of her own. I know of writers who clamp on a pair of noise cancelling headphones, find a corner in their home and write award winning material. I know visual artists who work on the kitchen table in their smallish condo. If you’re doing digital work, do you really need to rent an extra place to house your desk and computer/tablet setup? Probably not, especially if the cost of the studio eats up monies you need for that new graphics tablet.

Still, it is a nice thing to have a place to go that has only one purpose–the place you go to create your art. It’s a physical thing and a mental thing. And if your work is very large, or if you use a medium that it would be unwise to expose your family to, like say welding or encaustic painting, then a space with proper ventilation outside of your home is a must. If you have children who could be harmed by your materials, or who demand your attention at all times, you need an outside studio.

Are you judged on your seriousness as an artist by the studio space you have? Maybe, but I’d say don’t let that worry stop you from creating in whatever circumstances you find yourself. It’s not about where you create, it’s about what you create.

As a writer and a visual artist I do think it’s helpful for you to have a space you can go to to shut out distractions in order to focus. it’s helpful, but by no means a prerequisite. Artists are very good at focusing. They wouldn’t have come to their art if they weren’t. It takes a lot of focus to find your talent and go after it.

So why did I give up my studio this week?

Well, to be honest I didn’t exactly. I gave up a very nice space I had in what used to be the preacher’s office on the second floor of an old church that has been converted to studios. I loved this space, but for various reason (including a long period of creative drought–everything I painted sucked) it made sense. This does not mean I’m giving it ALL up. Another thing most artists have lots of is grit. They just keep on, keeping on.

No, I haven’t given up on painting and writing, but I have decided to convert a space in my own home to a studio.

Here is is.

Studio View 3

Painting area

Studio View 4

Digital Workspace

I don’t have the kind ventilation, here, that I would need to continue with encaustic work, so a shift in materials is in order. All to the good. I loved working in encaustic (beeswax and pigment), but I appeared to be at the end of the line with it.

The nice part of this new studio that it can be do triple duty as analog artist studio, digital workstation and writing office.

But hey you, if you can’t afford an off-site studio space or don’t have a room in your home you can commandeer, use your kitchen table. If it works it’s a worthy place. The important thing is not where you work, but that you do.

Eeyore? Pollyanna?

Thoughtful 2016Worry, 2017, encaustic on canvas

It seems to me that young adults and old adult have something in common. Fearfulness. When we’re just emerging into adulthood, we have no idea how to negotiate all the pitfalls of taking care of ourselves, fending for ourselves, making a place for ourselves and being someone. It’s all flailing and floundering and fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and nobody special will like us. Ever.

In the middle years we kind of sort it out–at least a little. And if we haven’t sorted it out there is no time to do so now, because now we’re in it to the armpits and there’s not time to let fear hold us back. That career needs building and the family needs care. It’s a doing time.

Then comes later adulthood when somehow your back to not knowing quite how to get on in the world. Things swirl around and past you at such speed that you’re left standing slump-shouldered, mouth hanging open wondering what now. You have no idea how you got to this ridiculous place where it scary to go for a walk in case there is ice on the sidewalk, and you’re worried that your grand kids might think you smell funny.

These things can lead to many Eeyore moments for young adults and old adults alike.

I’m not going to suggest going all Pollyana,  but when life get shitty I would suggest finding something that makes you laugh, and then build on the things you know you are good at. There’s something you’re good at, always something, and if you push the limits on that thing you grow, and that is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. Immerse yourself in what you are good at, and when you’re feeling like you could just about handle something else, give it a try. Be optimistic. Optimism won’t kill you you know and if you lose, try again, or try something else and maybe put ice skates on when you go for a walk.

Writing in Times of Sorrow


I’ll tell you a story. It’s not a long story, and it is mostly not my story. It’s story about my kid sister Elenora who left this plane of existence this week. Above is a sketch I made of her. She was an eighteen-year-old beauty at the time. Her life has been rough and kind as are all our lives.

Elenora loved to come to the big city on day long shopping recursions with her big sister. It was a long day for me, I’d drive for most of an hour to an outlying town, pick her up, drive back into the city, spend the day shopping and lunching and then drive her home again before making my own way home.

On one long driving day we talked sporadically while we listened to the radio.

“Oh cool! Michael Jackson! I love him, don’t you?”

Maybe it was Thriller or Billy Jean, I don’t remember. I made some noises about not liking him all that much.

“Why?” she said.

I stumbled, not really knowing why. “Well, he had all that plastic surgery to change his face,” I said in an off-hand manner. It was a very foolish thing to say and if I didn’t know it then, I did a few minutes later.

Elenora was very quiet for a moment, then she turned to me, her eyebrows drawn together like they sometimes were when she had something important to say and she wasn’t sure how it would be taken.

“Didn’t you ever want to change something about yourself?”

“Ah, erm…I suppose so.” I was still floundering and I already knew how wrong I was, because of course I wished I could change things. Maybe a stronger chin, a less strong nose, maybe some get rid of some quirk that harmed more than it helped.

She picked at the hem of her coat for a moment, and then she said, “If I could change anything about me, I’d change it so I didn’t have Down Syndrome.”

We were both quiet for a long time then. I wanted to say, “you’re fine just the way you are,” but this wasn’t that kind of moment. This was a moment where the big sister had a lot to learn, and just maybe she did.

It is extra hard to write or paint when there is sorrow in your life. To all those struggling, hang in there. Know that you make a difference, and one day soon, you’ll create again. And Michael Jackson? I was wrong. Plain wrong about the music and the man who was trying to live in this world.

Calming the Storm

Sax Player

I am slowly going crazy, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Switch.


When I was in art school we were taught almost nothing about the business of/around producing art. This was university. This was art. Business didn’t come into it. You created and if you were any good someone would notice.


But that’s a topic for another week.

When I began to write I went to a class, then I joined a writers group and checked out all the blogs on writing I could find. Correction. You cannot possibly go through all the writing blogs on the internet in one lifetime. Writers write and they love to write about writing. And writers write about the business of writing. In fact, they are very vocal about this topic, and the number one go-to seems to be social media. You must build a platform on social media.

Dutifully, I joined all the social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, Pinterest and later, Instagram.

At first, I liked Facebook. My children and their families, who I adore, live far away from me and this was a way to keep in touch with them. It was wonderful to see how the grandchildren were growing and the things they were doing.

Something unfortunate began to happen.

Let me say that I tend toward the naive, and I’m sure others would have caught what was happening much sooner than I did. I noticed it first during the last American election. The screaming and calling out, the unfriending. The writer community really got caught up in it. And I did too.

Then bit by bit I realized that everything had become a POLARIZING issue. I also realized that often in the slavering rants the facts had gone missing.

I find this beyond stressful and have had to step away.

So, what do you do when the world becomes too much? Too miserable? Too Awful?

Writer Chuck Wendig writes about it on his blog Terribleminds. He has his way and I have mine. I research. I make as sure as I can to have the facts. I do my best to be thoughtful and moderate, I listen to alternate points of view and I look for reason, and most of all I step away from the screen. I draw, I paint, I write, I read, and I listen to music. (right now, Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer. I know, stupid lyrics but I like the rhythm.)

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of interviews and reviews of Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now. It might not be your thing, but something positive is nice for a change.

Tracking Your Creative Production


Shortly before the end of 2017 I was feeling dissatisfied with my creative output. We, as creatives often make these fuzzy goals in our heads, and then when somehow those fuzzy goals don’t magically become reality we get down on ourselves.


I decided to do two things.

  • Get a calendar and set more concrete goals.
  • Give myself a red star every time I met a writing goal, and a blue star every time I met a visual art goal.

Now, you can do all this on a Google Calendar–well, if you don’t care about the sparkly stars. I decided I needed both. I use the Google Calendar to set goals. When I’ve done a particular item I cross it off. But even better is my old-timey paper monthly calendar. I don’t set any goals there or write in any appointments. Instead, I write down what I did, and if it’s writing I get a red star and when it’s painting I get a blue star.


Shiny! Shiny! I’m astonished at how many shiny stars appeared on my calendar. Maybe I did more work because I was keeping track of it or maybe I’ve been working hard all along and didn’t give myself credit.

Even last week when I was laid low by that nasty flu, I managed the three digital pieces above and the analog drawing of a “rocker”, as well as revision of four chapters in my comedic boomer novella, entitled Hannah’s Hearing.

What about you? Do you give yourself the credit you deserve? Go ahead. Give yourself a gold star!


Third Time the Charm


Painting by Marie Lyons, Welcome Summer, acrylic, 13.5″ x 13.5″

On January 31, 2018 I retired for the third time.

When you’re an artist you often can’t wait to lose the day job and do what you really want to do, but I can tell you there are perils to having all that free ‘alone’ time. It’s much harder to keep yourself going and organized than you might think, and it’s especially difficult if you are energized by social interactions.

Work is not the problem here.

Most creatives can’t help but work, but the isolation, and the fear that you’ve missed the boat–that the world has moved on in your creative field and left you behind–is a pretty miserable thing to contemplate.

I think young artists experience this too and I know only one answer to that kind of misery.

Keep on keeping on.

It might sound like the definition of madness, but you’re not going to let that bother you, are you?

The painting above is by Marie Lyon who began her art study when she was 53. She’s now, 88 and continues to work. Read all about her at Debra Eve’s Later Bloomers. She sounds like a fun lady.

Believe in Your Art


A few days ago I posted a drawing on Instagram, and a lovely artist, Laureen Marchand made kind remarks on my drawing ability. Laureen is a fine artist. Make sure you check out the beautiful art on her website.

A Caution to Mentors and Mentees

There was a time, during my studies, when my fellow students thought perhaps I relied to heavily on my drawing virtuosity. A stunning concept for me because I knew nothing of such virtuosity. The criticism was kindly meant, but I have to admit it left me floundering for some time. I didn’t, however, let it end my love of drawing, and my intuitive belief that some of the work I was creating was quite good.

A little warning to Mentors, take care with your words. Speak kindly and make sure your mentee understands. And you who have the good luck to have a mentor, remember no one knows everything, and you must not blindly believe everything you’re told.

Love drawing? Go for it. Love figurative work? Do it. Love the swirl of colour? Create it. You have a gift. Use it.