A perch no longer fit for the Studio Prince!

The young prince,  Studio Pup,  has his nose out of joint these days.  For years he’s been able to lounge on the hand-me-down sofa in a corner of my studio, one of the few places that he can stare out the window and doze in the afternoon sun.

But my productivity and organizational system enhancements this year have ruined his royal lifestyle.  For months now I’ve chipped away at the “project” of enhancing certain aspects of my studio that I’d been tolerating, like the broken keyboard tray on my otherwise wonderful computer workstation.  And then came the loveseat.

It was the perfect size, and great quality.  The upholstery however was once nice . . . “back in the day.”  A trip to the local home decorating store,  a few weeks of patience, and more than a little cash and now I have a nearly new loveseat in a beautiful deep-eggplant color to complement the valances made by my dear friend Jan.

Fortunately the Studio Pup is well-behaved, and understands the words “no, not for dogs . . .” He is sure that I’ve lost my mind however, given that it really is the same loveseat in the same place that now he’s no longer welcome to use.  So this is why I’ll be spending the afternoon sewing a new dog bed rather than doing something artistic!

Submersion © MJ Russell 2012 13.5″x20″

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Silver Linings

Today I am thankful for first-class upgrades, mechanics, moving walkways, in-flight internet access – and moleskine.  It’s been many, many years since I used moleskine on my ballet slippers and I still harbor less-than-fond memories of those after-school lessons.  I’ve been enduring blisters for the past five days from walking several hours after not having worn my running shoes for months, so I picked up some moleskine at the drugstore last night.  Today, that moleskine and those running shoes helped me to make my connecting flight after mechanical problems delayed my first flight over an hour. With two minutes to spare, I was seated in my original seat on my original flight after having been temporarily rebooked by the gate agent (which I confirmed online during my first flight – ahh, the wonders of technology!)  The very short mechanical delay on my second flight gave me just enough time to make the flight after all, with a few minutes extra to settle in and count my blessings.

I’ll confess that I spent a few minutes on the first flight being a pessimist – just sure that the next flight home wouldn’t be for eight hours or more, that I would run out of cash and starve to death in the airport, etc.  I was grumbling about my sore heels, the mechanics that hadn’t done their job last night, and so on. But in the worst case, my rebooked flight would have been only a 2.5 hour layover, and I had my tablet pc, I touch, cell phone, printed task list, sketchbook and notebook handy.  There was actually a lot I could get done in the airport if I approached this as “found time.”

The events of the day reaffirmed my relatively new commitment to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” systematic approach.  Having my task list (printed, and also available on my tablet) and internet access gave me focus for the two-hour flight, when I was able to complete most of my weekly review and clean up my email in-box.  Once the minutiae were under control, I had time for sketching a few new art quilt designs, and planning my studio time for tomorrow.  April is transition time in my studio, when I wrap up quilting and mixed media/ acrylic painting projects and begin setting up my open air studio for fabric dyeing/ surface design and encaustic painting.  David Allen tells us the ability to shift focus quickly and seamlessly is critical to success in today’s world, and today I’m pleased to say I’ve demonstrated that principle.

I’m not sure how my husband felt about the barrage of “honey do” emails that I was able to send from 30,000 feet when he’d assumed I was offline for the day, but time will tell.  If he’s there to pick me up at the airport, I’ll know I’ve been forgiven.  If not, maybe my trusty running shoes and moleskine-wrapped heels will have to save the day again!

Take Back the View!

Last fall I noticed a small tree had seeded itself among the shrubs outside my studio windows.  Thinking it was a wild apple tree, I left it alone.  By this summer, it had revealed its true self — invasive Buckthorn — and had invited a grove of Sumac to join it.  I included “overgrown shrubs outside my studio windows” on a list of things I was tolerating (and that just might be blocking my creative process) during a recent class with Alyson Stanfield, but hadn’t made any progress with asking my husband or the local landscapers to deal with the situation.

I should have known today would be the day when I tossed Ted Orland’s The View from the Studio Door in my bag as I headed off to an appointment.    With real fall weather threatening after an extra month of summer, and rain storms moving in for the rest of the week . . . I came home from my trip into town and realized the time had come to take back my view!

I could have called my neighbor for help — at age 14 he’s already “tractor certified.”  Either that or exceptionally good at marketing his lawn mowing/landscaping services for someone who has yet to earn his driver’s license.  My husband also owns a tractor — he’s not officially “certified,” but certainly very competent — however, he wasn’t at home.  We have a chainsaw too, but after telling my 85-year old father he was not allowed to use his chainsaw while he was home alone, I thought better of trying ours for the first time.  Hell knows no wrath like a woman with a swiss army knife.  OK, it was a small landscapers’ pruning saw, but the view of the fall foliage from my southwest studio is now much improved — or at least it will be once I get back out there to wash the windows!

Take Back the View day, October 2010

What are some of the seemingly unrelated things that block your creative process?  And what are the first steps toward resolving them?  Tell us below …

Studio 50

For years I’ve toyed with the idea of a name for my studio.  The the list of ideas was long, but the need was never urgent.  I’d even thought about adopting a pseudonym to use for “the artistic me”  and using that in my studio name.  But the perfect name came to me recently as I prepared an art quilt for an upcoming exhibition.   The name, while perfect, has been a long time in the making . . . much like my life as an artist.  Here’s the full scoop:

Several years ago I had lunch with my colleague Billie, who remarked that I had an enviable life because I made a little time for a hobby or two on the side.   “A hobby???” I exclaimed.  “I’m overwhelmed — I’ll bet I have 50 hobbies and no time to do any of them.”  Given that challenge, I sat down that evening and began listing all my hobbies and interests.  I got to about 46 before resorting to a modest amount of creative license to complete the challenge. My “50 hobbies” became an inside joke among friends at my day job.

These “whims,” as my husband calls them, have ebbed and flowed over the years; some are abandoned relatively quickly, others linger, and abandoned interests sometimes return, but all serve as threads in my mixed media artistic life.  Gardening and cooking certainly blend well with my love of wine; but the real synergy is in my visual arts history.   In cleaning my studio recently I came across an essay from a writing class in graduate school, which gives further detail about this meandering path to my current artistic life.

With that background, and with advance apologies to the yoga studio with a similar name,  I’ll use Studio 50 as my informal studio name as I venture to new levels in my life as an artist.  Of course not all 50 interests will work themselves into my artwork, but they do shape who I am.  The symbolism of beginning to take my artwork more seriously as I approach 50 only reaffirms the appropriateness of this choice.

When did you first begin to call yourself an artist? I’d love to hear your comments!

Fall Equinox

There’s nothing like a full moon on the Fall equinox to signal a major transition, but this year seems more exciting than ever!  For the past year or so I’ve slotted my activities and hobbies into seasonal time blocks.  Some  loosely follow the calendar seasons; none follow the strict fiscal quarters that govern my day-job in finance.  But in this way, with rough timeframes and selected focal points for each season, I stand a better chance of fitting everything in.  I don’t feel guilty about not making quilts during the summer — summer is for gardening and fabric dyeing.  The fall/winter focal points include quilting and other “indoor” pastimes.

I’m a perpetual student, in that “back to school” is still a time of fresh beginnings for me. So September is the time to tidy up the garden, harvest & can the last tomatoes, put away the fiber reactive dyes and close down my back porch “wet studio,’ and clean up my main indoor studio in preparation for the fall/winter indoor quilting season.

This August I spontaneously enrolled in Alyson Stanfield’s “Get Organized” online class, which caused me to find clutter (physical, mental, psychic, and even electronic) that I never noticed before.  So, while I’m still chipping away at the task list I created in that class, I now boast a newly reorganized studio — even the closets!

Studio closet – after!

I put up a new design wall, relocated the business/computer, painting/collage, and quilting areas, and purged/revamped my filing system.  Whew!  There’s nothing like having systems, and creating the routines and habits that make them continue to work after the newness wears off.  I’ll share more on these new habits and routines in future posts, but for now I’m off to enjoy a roast chicken dinner — the perfect way to welcome autumn!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the changing seasons?