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.
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.
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.
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.
All I want to do now is add the final polish.
(And of course: do all this as quickly as possible.)