The studio

The first painting I ever did that I gave a darn about was painted in the entryway of my childhood home, with the canvas board laying flat on a stool. I was using fabric paints, because they were cheap, and because I had just seen a gimmicky PBS special about painting featuring a woman painting flowers by putting dark paint on one side of a flat brush and light paint on the other, for a cheater’s gradient effect.

While the light in the entryway was heavenly, it wasn’t the most practical of places, so the next place I painted seriously was out in the garage. For at least two summers during high school I would pull the car out of the garage, give it a sweep, and then take over.

I don't have a lot of pictures of this, we were afraid of the internet in those days. I don’t have a lot of pictures of this, we were afraid of the internet in those days.

In the dorms I didn’t really paint outside of class, save for a couple canvases on my bed. I moved out Sophomore year to escape roommates and moved into a hotel-turned-apartment building downtown. It was a cheap building, and so I got a two bedroom with the intent of using the other room as a studio. That room was a cluttered, unorganized disaster area, and in it nothing of any consequence was ever painted. I barely remember spending any time in there. I got much closer in my next apartment — a condo — which was better organized but still wasn’t prolific.

(Or tidy.) (Or tidy.)

When I found out that I was confirmed for the studio apartment in Portland, I got the rough floor plan and set to work planning what would be my first built-to-the-space art studio — in the living room. I thought about my process, what I spent most of my time doing (drawing, at that point), and decided to build up everything from scratch. I priced stuff out from ikea, saved my money, and not long after landing I was able to build the workstation where my life has really taken off.

Gradually of course, things improve. Redundant elements are removed, more permanent fixtures replace milk crates and cardboard.

More landing areas for ideas emerge.

And it seems those ideas keep coming, and coming, so long as you can accommodate them.

In 2012, in addition to this paradise, I subletted Jennifer Mercedes’ studio while she was on vacation, and then we shared the space for a few months.

The illustrator's version of the monastic cell. The illustrator’s version of the monastic cell.

That was my first experience of really going somewhere else to paint, and while I loved the idea of having a studio (well, having access to a studio,) a lot of the logistics made it difficult. The studio was across town and even at non-trafficy times it took nearly half an hour to get over there, and I don’t know anyone who drives during their day job that thinks, gosh what I want to do is spend more time in my car.

We also kept the space fairly spartan — intentionally, as it was meant to reduce distraction — but for me in the end it just meant I would have to defer tasks until I could get home. To an internet connection, to my scanner, to the paper-cabinet to see what that color looks like with that other color. Or to the colored pencils, to sketch out alternate versions to make sure I’m on the right track. So it didn’t make for a smooth work process for me, and in the end I couldn’t afford it anyway, so I let it go.

Somehow, since then, the work-at-home has become more distracted. Anthony finished grad school and moved in, putting an end to our long-distance toil but also unintentionally putting an end to the sanctity of my office hours. And he is a very generous, wonderful soul. He understands my best creative work is made when I am alone, and has often — at my bidding — happily quit the place to go on walks lasting hours just so I can work a little longer before resuming regular personhood.

This apartment was rented knowing this was my last bachelor pad, of sorts. So sooner or later I knew we’d have to find some place else, that wouldn’t just be my-place-he-moved-into, but OUR place. It was just a matter of when, and how.

Well, that “when” is August. And that “how” is into shared housing, so it still won’t be OUR place — just the two of us — but more like OUR place, everyone. And in such a place, the prospect of a living room studio is laughable, impractical and impossible. As I was crunching the numbers on the viability of this move, it occurred to me that we could solve this problem very easily. After all, in this world of sharing, the introvert doubtless requires some sort of quiet solitary place to work and be.

And once I get my key tomorrow, that is precisely what I will have.

It is not in the cherished zone my area — which is the central eastside industrial district, with its old buildings and doors with lovely frosted glass windows — but it is a mere five minute walk from my house. It has twenty-four hour access, an east-facing window, and a door. And it is all mine.

I began to start fitfully picking through things at the end of last week, but my friend-with-a-truck will be here Sunday afternoon so it’s time to excavate and — Lord help us — disassemble this masterpiece, that something better might be built. The workspace has slowly evolved and improved over the last six years, but the bones have remained fairly constant.

2008 2008 2014 2014

All I want to do now is add the final polish.

(And of course: do all this as quickly as possible.)

Oaks Bottom: Amusement Park or Wildlife Refuge?

It’s both, really. Or at least, both use the name Oaks Bottom. (It’s also a Lompoc pub not far from here.)

I’m not sure how many of the amusement park patrons partake in the wildlife refuge — I know that when I come down here I’m usually much more interested in the nature scene than I am in carnival rides.

Prime tadpole habitat -- both frog and salamander.

Prime tadpole habitat — both frog and salamander.

Pacific chorus frog, the color of spring.

Pacific chorus frog, the color of spring.

So, the proximity seems strange, but you can’t argue with geography. The pond (which will be all dried up by high summer) is almost all that remains of what used to be a series of wetlands and seasonal ponds, fed by tributaries feeding into the main river. There are several signs along the Springwater Corridor that show sobering aerial photographs — first of the original flood plane, and then of the urbanization and cementing over a lot of that habitat. It’s not a story unique to Portland, but it’s rare that you are made aware of this so bluntly, standing on the very concrete slabs that choked Johnson’s Creek.

Nor can you argue with the oldest continually run amusement park in the country. This was one of those parks built by trolley companies — to lure city folks to use the lines on the weekends. So there’s a delightful old-timey feel to the place. It’s not big on rides (there are some, but none of the glossy vomit-o-matics you get with a larger establishment), but it has a dance hall — resevable for events but just a gorgeous building in its own right — as well as picnic pavilions and innumerable picnic tables dotting the walkway by the river. And you can’t argue with the view.

Painted from the picnic tables of Oaks Bottom Amusement Park, in a moment of non-rain in late spring. Painted from the picnic tables of Oaks Bottom Amusement Park, in a moment of non-rain in late spring.

It also has a skating rink, gloriously kept, with the original pipe organ. Occasionally on Sundays an old man will play it intermittently for one of the afternoon sessions. (This is NOT TO BE MISSED. Check their calendar to find out when and go, if you are near enough.)

Summer’s gearing up and now when you go down to look for ospreys and bald eagles you can usually hear carnival sounds echoing through the valley. Sometimes you can even hear the heritage train, chugging along what used to be trolley tracks to bring happy patrons from OMSI on the eastern waterfront down to the amusement park just as they might have back in the 1920s. It’s a lively little area.

The Big Fat Moving Sale

I’ve mentioned this on twitter, but it looks like we are moving this summer. Not out of Portland — in fact barely a mile away from where we are now — but into a shared house (with a yard! and chickens!) that will have both more space to stretch out in and yet less space to squirrel away the various things I’ve been squirreling away. Notebooks from way too long ago, very old paintings, little collages that I made for the blog, that sort of thing.

I haven’t moved in six years. That isn’t a lifetime, but it’s long enough to get pretty settled in and end up with a lot of nonsense that you really have no business hanging onto — not just the art-related stuff, but too many mason jars, flower pots, all sorts of things. I have been writing craigslist ads for the weirdest things (150g of Rowan Aran Tweed in a discontinued dye lot, any one?) and am trying to secure a replacement tenant that will be happy to also accept our dining room furniture.

We are moving only a few weeks after ICON:8 — thus preparing for it roughly between now and late July. Obviously this is not ideal, and if we had been planning this move from the beginning we would have structured things much more neatly. But life isn’t a neat and tidy package at any time, and the place we are going was too good to say no to. 

One of the happy results of this move will be the inauguration of an off-site, all to myself art studio (!), which I am trying to get set up long before the household is packed into boxes so I can have a place to calm down and paint — and hopefully have a place where I can resume my planning and excitement for ICON.

So the art space will become a slightly bigger satellite of the house — no longer a place where the cat will jump up and endanger wet paintings — but the autonomous house space will in many ways be much smaller. So a lot of the artwork I have on my walls and stored away in closets has no place anymore, and therefore really needs to find a new home. This is where you come in.

There are TONS of new listings. Tons. Most everything in the shop is discounted to some degree.  I’m on the thrifty “20 listings only” plan here at Grand Central, so a lot of the true odds and ends will be listed on etsy, in a new shop section called Odds and Ends. Nothing in there will be over $40. 

For further savings, keep an eye on my facebook page, as there will be a coupon code for the etsy store here at the end of the week. Good for anything there — which is chiefly prints and ‘odds and ends’ right now.

Everything you buy is a thing I don’t have to pack.