Back in the Saddle

Back in the Studio I'm in the studio today and am I ever glad to be back in it. It's a perfectly horrible day to marble--high temps, no humidity, and breezy--but you know what, I don't care. I just needed to get back to my slimy carragheenan, paint splatters, bamboo-skewer stylus, and Paynes Gray. After having the studio up and marbling every day for just over a month, I had to tear it down a few weeks ago because I was going to be gone for a significant amount of time on this trip and then this trip.

I was sort of shocked by how sad I was when I tore down my studio. I mean, a genuine loss-sadness seeped into my heart. Even on my trip to the beautiful central coast of California with my hubby, doing what I love to do up there with the person I love the most, I kept saying to Emmett, "I miss my studio." And I truly did. Nearly as much as my cat.

Earlier this year, when I was brainstorming about marbling projects, I promised myself I'd keep the studio set up for one solid month and marble every day. This is a departure from the way I usually marble where I set up the studio and marble three or four days straight, morning to evening, cranking out 50 or more sheets a day in my big tank, until both my bath and I are completely spent. Then I take a two-month break before setting it up and doing it all over again. I had been doing it this way for the past three years. Why? Because my general feeling was that there is so much prep and tear-down work involved in marbling that it is the most efficient way to do it. I also believed that once I get on a creative roll, I shouldn't interrupt it. You never know when the Marbling Muse will tire of you so you might as well use her up while she's there.

I had a very specific goal in mind when I decided to marble every day for a month: to nail down 50 or so traditional patterns so I could execute them perfectly at a moment's notice. I also wanted to become better at troubleshooting, which is a constant in the studio since there are so many variables in marbling. At the time, marbling every day seemed like an exhaustive idea, especially considering my typical studio experience described above, but a necessary one in order for me to up my level of play in the art form. So I just told myself I was going to have to suck it up, be brave, and go for it.

The reality was I didn't have to suck it up or be brave. Instead, something magical happened...and rather organically (paradox intended). Instead of getting into the studio first thing in the morning and staying until the sun set, I only spent a few hours a day in it. And they were not consecutive hours. They were spread throughout the day. I may have popped in there in the morning, done a few sheets to see how the bath and paints were reacting, and then covered the tank and left the studio to do life stuff like grocery shop or pay bills. Then I'd go back in there and spend an hour or two executing an idea before heading out to go for my daily walk or catching up on emails. Then before it was time to start making dinner, I'd hit the studio again, take a look at what I'd done in there for the day, and marble some more...sometimes tweaking an idea, sometimes just practicing a pattern.

The result was that I was much more relaxed. And definitely more creative. I was more willing to take risks and I was very okay with mistakes. I went into the studio every day fresh and clear minded. I may have produced FEWER papers overall (compared to my marathon marbling sessions) but what I did produce was MORE interesting. Even more fascinating to me was that when I was physically away from the studio, I was still mentally there, always thinking about my next move. It wasn't an obsessive thinking--it was more intuitive, but not distracting...they way your heart is always working in the background without you knowing it until you go for your run or hike or swim.

I didn't expect any of that to happen during my little month-long experiment. But it did and it has changed the way I view my studio. It's not a place I HAVE to go to. It's a place I GET TO go to. And I want that feeling every day--so I will make it happen. My studio is back up and it will stay that way for the foreseeable future...or at least until I'm "forced" to take it down again for another long vacation.

I couldn't be happier at this moment: paint stains on my fingers, ideas swirling in my head, even a little carragheenan in my hair (note to self: put your hair up when in the studio). Well, if the temps were cooler and the humidity higher I could be...but for now it's all good. Really, really good.