I have to wax philosophical this time. One of my greatest challenges is that I have a difficult time staying “organized.” I have always found that once something is “filed,” as in a physical folder in a physical filing cabinet, for me it has “disappeared” forever. The same thing with anything stored, in drawers, shelves, closets. etc. That’s why I like the little kitchen in Maine. My son Philip and I put inexpensive shelving units between the stove and the refrigerator (yes, there is a buffer so the pvc plastic doesn’t get torched), and I can see everything! Well, almost. I got plastic baskets for smaller things, and if they are above eye-level, those are lost forever. But otherwise it is workable. I had someone come out to the house to plan cabinets, etc. and it was minutes before it dawned on me that it was going to cost big bucks, and completely take away my new found freedom of knowing what was there. And I like the table near the sink and stove, so I can reach in those directions without actually getting up. I know it reverts to bachelor days of being on my own. Never a mess, clean as you go, and set a mirror on the chair across from you if you needed company (I stole the idea from a Scrooge McDuck comic book, truthfully). State-of- the-art kitchens today scare the heck out of me…they are like the holy of holies where you could sacrifice to the idols of decadence and conspicuous consumption, and you need a staff to keep it as sterile as a decorator’s dream.
But, let’s move on to the making of art, and writing about it. I like to sketch and write on plain unlined copy paper, which has improved in quality since my younger days. I like to use pencils, because you can erase, rather than leaving hideous cross-outs. So far as writing, I favor the computer these days, what with spell-check and the visibility of typed material versus my sometimes illegible cursive/printing notes. And if you can remember what you named a file, you can find it without getting paper cuts and pulling out folders that papers slide out of onto the floor. So, yes, the electronic world has been a great help, but here’s where it goes wrong, sort of. Since the writing is so easy, I really wish it could translate into the actual creation of art work. There is no end to tools and materials that I use for my work, and like a kitchen there is a dire need of flat areas for working and drying water base paints (easels are great for touch up and details and viscous oils, but acrylics drip). Also, lighting is an issue, and enough physical space to stand back and look at work in an upright position, as the painting will ultimately be viewed.
Inevitably, there is an enormous amount of “things” that need to be out for work to progress. And my frugal New England penchant for frugality and economy dictates that I only squeeze out enough paint to use at that moment, so nothing (or very little) is ever wasted. I can’t believe what even earth colors cost today, and I buy jars rather than tubes, which are cumbersome unless you are doing large canvases or panels (sort of like making peanut butter sandwiches from a gallon pail of peanut butter). And if wood is used, there will be, in addition to a hair dryer, sandpaper or a power sander, vices for gluing, a miter saw,T-squares, hammers, pliers, and so forth. This is a lot of stuff!!! And I like to know, by feel, where each thing is, hopefully within easy reach. Add to all of these physical spatial needs the ventilation aspect, and we are getting complicated. Where do I lay things down for spraying paint on masked off areas? Where do I glue, or use really toxic materials? Incidentally, every artist knows turpentine is to be avoided in closed rooms, but the odorless is just as bad although you can’t smell it (like gas, which has that added odor so you know when it is present). But acrylics are fine! No, they are not…they contain formaldehyde, which is not so good. And read what warnings come on cans of varnish, spray paint, and such. So you need to have a ventilating system or work outside. And that means screening in Florida, unless you want mosquitoes embedded in the paint, or worse. That’s why I’ve gone to two studios in two climates 1600 miles apart. I can’t open windows in Florida in the summer, nor can I open windows in Maine in the winter.
Now, let’s face it. Our two boys have decided virtual reality has great benefits compared to the real thing. No bugs, no gates, no waiting in lines, no excessive weather conditions. Hey, it’s a perfect world, and you control what you get! And all you need is nimble fingers with a minimum of physical effort and discomfort. And best of all–yes, best of all–no clean up!!! It’s neat, tidy, and in the case of a laptop, totally portable. Even automobiles today are quite computerized. In traffic today, I saw a truck trying to back up at an intersection, and my first thought was, “I hope he’s using the camera screen to make sure he’s not going to run into me.” I’m still getting used to the trajectory that curves on the new car. What do you do in the middle of a parking lot when you need to back into a space? The camera only helps when you get between the lines. I wish there was one for the front, too, what with no hood ornament like the ” flying lady” on my old Rolls-Royces (that’s how I learned to parallel park,with the Ford “airplane” being centered, and at the end of the hood, indicating where the curb was). Soon, I suspect, you will be able to get an aerial view, like on the google maps. Of course, you will be looking at the screen when your car falls into a sinkhole that didn’t show up, or run over a pedestrian who is only 2 millimeters high on the screen.
Let’s face it, I just got distracted. Back in the studio, my problem is that clean-up never happens. Unlike the computer, I can’t close windows and then come back and find what I need. So the mess grows, spreads, and becomes menacing and otherwise inimical. A friend who owns a printing business likes to clear the decks, as he puts it, at the end of the day. Well, I don’t! What if I get up in the middle of the night? I rarely do, but, just say. If everything were to be put away, how could I work? Or the next day?.
Oh, if it could all be electronic! No muss, no fuss! Like as not, no art either. I chafe at the time that must be exacted for the mundane tasks of keeping things going, but that’s part of it. Thomas Edison talked about a huge percentage being “perspiration,” and the smallest “inspiration.” And who is to say that the “down” time isn’t part of reflecting and re-examination. My wife, Jill, doesn’t understand why I like to do dishes.. The acrylic paint peels off my hands in the warm soapy water, and I feel domestically useful. Thus far, this can’t be done on a computer. Not yet, anyway.
Now I think it is time to head back to work, and get my hands and fingers “painted” in the process, and try to clean out an area to work in. Recall the proverb: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the street” (especially if your neighbor’s septic tank is in the front yard) . The world of electronic virtuality beckons, like Washington Irving’s headless horseman!