All images shot by Evan McGinnis, https://www.evanmcginnis.com/.
I cleaned out my studio and did a big organization for the photoshoots scheduled this week, hoping to give off a vibe of having my ish together because someone seeing your studio is really vulnerable and intimate. This is where thoughts get put into action and when it's a mess and people visit it's like they're seeing just how unorganized and unkempt my inner life can actually get. But for that reason I always love looking at photos of other people's studios- I know for sure once they get working their space turns into chaos too. When there are no photoshoots there are usually leave tubes of paint in random places, like on top of the mini fridge or inside the pencil drawer. Half the time I don't remember why I left something in the wrong place, I just go back after and put things back my past self was too absent minded to take care of.
I spend most of my days here in solitude save for the occasional interaction with studio neighbors. Those small "hellos" and 5-minute catch up conversations save me from feeling totally isolated, but I thrive in solitude where words gets quiet and ideas get loud. Colors are associated to sounds in my brain, so when I'm painting or collaging a particularly colorful piece it's like the space fills with noise. There are notes and chords, it feels busy. I can't really work that well if a friend is here and there is too much conversation, but I don't really know how to kindly tell my friends to stop talking so I just start cleaning and organizing- putting paint tubes back on the cart where they belong so I can still be productive with out being a douche and kicking people out. Later me thanks current me for tidying up, cleaning is always worth it. The space is a ten minute drive from my house, I usually stop by a cafe before getting here in the late morning. I've been trying my hardest to wake up earlier and spend more day light hours in the studio, but it's hard when there's no boss or schedule to tell me when to wake up. A lot of times I stay late into the night, but I just lock all the doors and keep a knife on me when walking to the car. I don't feel safe sometimes, consequence of being a woman in this cold world, but I keep a mental list of which chemicals in here would blind someone if anyone tried to break in.
Having a studio is like being able to walk into your mind, if your mind was a room. Every legitimate artist needs a space that no other person has influence over. Every aesthetic decision is yours, there's no reason besides your own creative process to make any kind of decision. Having a studio really taught me a lot about what it looks like to love yourself through how you organize a space only you occupy. I'm a messy person, but I can't concentrate when there is a mess. Taking care of this space is like telling myself "I care about you and your well being, I'm going to organize this random pile of scrap papers because I don't want future you to look at it and be stressed out." Sometimes you have to be your own caretaker.
For this series of paintings I'll be working on all the pieces at the same time. This way is great because it lets me orchestrate how the paintings all speak to each other, like a conductor. I really want to make sure the theme is consistent, the imagery clear. It takes months to finish a painting. A lot of time is spent staring, adjusting, making decisions and fixing past ones. If I'm able to work on more pieces at once then the whole series won't take 5 years to finish, I can just jump around from one piece to other. This series is about the human brain and how all its parts work together to create the human experience- and how a major aspect of that experience is spiritual. I started getting really interested in the parts of the brain after a particularly chaotic span of months dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. I had no idea what was going on with my brain, but was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and given some helpful tools for coming down from panic attacks. Through out the process I learned that my amygdala was malfunctioning and doing way too much at the sight of a threat, but it was doing that because I had previously not protected myself from overwork and unhealthy life rhythms. I thought stress and anxiety were great fuel for getting work done, but my brain was trying to tell me stop/slow down for years. I feel bad for not being kind to my body for the sake of achievement, so I'm spending a ton of time in a peaceful zone inside my studio.
Oil paint is expensive if you want the good stuff, and a friend recently challenged me on making my studio practice more sustainable. When I'm making all the pieces at the same time, I can use left over on my palette for another piece. For that reason, you'll see a lot of mauve-y "leftovers" colors. That's when you mix whatever is left over on your palette, which usually creates a muddy grey but since I use so much red, it turns into mauve. Mauve is a very rich color disguised as a muted on. To get it you add red, blue, a ton of white and a little bit of green. Those colors are allover the place, it gives Mauve an interesting back story.
This sounds kind of corny, but you really have to listen to a painting as much as you have to tell it what to do. I used to stress out a lot about coming up with an elaborate plan for each piece, but I've let go a lot and now rely more on intuition and listening to what the piece is trying to say. Colors and shapes have structured relationships with one another- they'll "ask" to be placed next to complimentary colors, softer shapes, balanced compositions, I just have to look and listen.
A painting is a reflection of how a person makes their choices. Looking at someone's painting is like seeing how they live their life- are they disciplined, conscientious, have they gone deep into a skill or do they still have only surface level understanding. Are they reckless in some areas and intentional in others. Do you they operate mainly from intuition, do they trust their gut, to they go back and edit mistakes, do they let mistakes lead the way, do they follow patterns. You can tell when someone hasn't thought through paint as a material and let all the flaws of paint lead the way. Their colors blend awkwardly and it looks like they didn't wait for certain layers to dry before jumping onto another element. But you can also tell when someone doesn't have control of paint but they understand it- they've figured out how to take what the paint does and organize it in a way that's mesmerizing and has conceptual substance. I know that my paintings say that I struggle with being too controlling, fearful, and have often relied on extreme self discipline to communicate my own worth-- but that I'm learning how to let life just do what it does and embracing the harmony of things, even the things we perceive as bad.
All images shot by Evan McGinnis, https://www.evanmcginnis.com/.