Work space: new studio syndrome

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Dungeness series. Small mixed media on paper.

How perverse the creative mind can be. If we’re lucky, we may get to a stage we’ve worked for, strived and hoped for for some time (with me it’s my ‘new’ larger studio), but then frustratingly we can find it difficult to accept the new (improved) situation without a sometimes lengthy period of mixed emotions: imposter syndrome; guilt (‘I’m not making the most of the new whatever-it-is’); bewilderment (‘where do I go from here?’); ‘I’m supposed to produce great stuff now… what if I can’t?’. And did you notice that word ‘lucky‘ near the start of this paragraph? Of course, there’s an element of luck in everything, but still… giving ourselves some credit is never easy.

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Dungeness series. Small mixed media on paper.

I’ve been working in my large new 1930s airbase studio for a few days a week, for the past month and, when not actively engaged in painting (a few examples here in this post), I find myself floundering a bit – the space, the extra storage (where do I put stuff… and then find it again?), the light’s different (it’s often very good, great natural light, but it’s late in the year and I don’t have my daylight tubes in yet, so when daylight fades the lighting is a bit ‘yellow’). I feel like one of those rescue hens which, when first put out into lovely open space, huddle close to their hut for safety, as I seem to have gathered my easel and paints etc around me in the middle of the room, a bit like a wagon train under siege. I’m not looking for sympathy. I know many artists would give their right arm for a space like this. But it’s still disconcerting.

I’ve read that artists can often take quite some time to get used to a new space, and that it can inevitably affect their work. So I was anticipating this stage somewhat before I moved in. And I’m fairly sure a big part of it is my usual S.A.D. syndrome kicking in with the shorter days and the current murky wet and windy weather.

The answer, I know, is to go to the studio as often as possible and get working, and keep working until it becomes second nature – here, working, in this strange new studio, with its different light, different sounds, different surroundings.

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Dungeness series. Small mixed media on paper.

8 thoughts on “Work space: new studio syndrome

  1. It’s good to read I am not alone. Over 2 years I rebuilt various outbuildings so I have a studio and editing suite. Out went the old and in with the new. It gleamed with opportunity but I wasn’t sure. I missed the struggle and hard work. It became too easy and I lost interest. I’ve used the editing suite but it’s only now that Ime beginning to enjoy work in the studio. Strange.

    • Thanks for your interesting observation Nigel and pleased you enjoyed the post. it’s always useful to hear of other artists’ experiences. Best wishes, Mari.

  2. Still enjoy reading your blog, Mari, and can understand everything you say about your new space. I admire your honesty too – many artists would not admit to those feelings you acknowledge. Good luck in your new surroundings, once it’s messed up you’ll feel more at home!
    Incidentally, I’ve been quoting your words on abstraction, and attributing it to you of course, which people find very helpful.
    Best wishes
    Annie Monk

    • Hi Annie, nice to hear from you again and thanks for commenting on my latest post. I try to air these dilemmas, as well as work, from time to time as it always emerges that plenty of other artists have similar experiences. It’s hard enough making a living as an artist without bottling stuff up! Glad my stuff on abstraction is still helpful to you. Best wishes, Mari.

  3. I can empathise fully with this. My “wet” studio is currently crammed with a lifetime of work(since about 1972 when I first got a space of my own, the damp poorly lit basement of our Victorian terraced first house). Fortunately I can still work on small pieces in it, and move into the “public” places at the Rooftop if I want to work on a larger piece. I also bring a “mobile” studio home sometimes to my equally crammed music studio or to the dining area of the house and work in there at dead of night.

    • Sounds like you’ve got your space/s sorted Martin! Glad I’m not the only one with a mass of work hanging around. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject, much appreciated.

  4. Try to forget it is a new space as far as possible. It doesn’t matter if you are making a nest in the middle of the studio – you will spread out sooner or later and then probably want to reorganise the space. When I came to Italy I went from a studio in a spare bedroom to a reconstructed hayloft which is enormous. When it was ready for me to work in I thought “omg people will expect masterpieces” but after spending a lot of time thinking about where/how to store pastels/ oils/ acrylics/ canvases etc, I carried on pretty much as I had before – in the middle of the room. Now I am wondering how there can’t be enough room for all the things I want to do. I don’t know when that happened but it will happen to you – don’t worry about it and don’t put pressure on yourself just because you have a new space. It’s what’s in your head that makes your art – not the space you do it in.

    • Thanks so much for your interesting and supportive comments Joy. I’ll allow myself to make a nest then (even if my hubby laughs! Mind you, he renovated the space so no wonder!). Best wishes, Mari

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